Five Critical Factors of Team Success
Critical team success factors consist of specific elements that are particularly valued for obtaining the best results possible. These tend to reflect five major key areas that include team leadership, shared vision, attitudes and commitment, mutual trust, and team collaboration.
If team critical success factors are not addressed or implemented correctly it will result in a failed team project. They are considered required and necessary for successful team project execution and improved team communication, focus and energy.
If applied and monitored consistently and judiciously, the critical factors of success will allow any team to achieve a high level of capability. Each has an impact on the major processes of: innovation, problem solving, decision-making, and implementation. These processes are the way the team applies its capabilities to get product results.
The First Critical Factor of Success: Leadership
Every team needs a leader who is able to focus its members on a project’s mission, purpose and goals. This individual must be committed to the team’s results and must be willing to be held accountable by the team’s sponsor and other stakeholders for leading the team through processes that ensure its goals are attained. The job of the team leader is to get team members to successfully evolve through each successive phase of a project life cycle. This implies that a keen awareness of the state of the team must be monitored and maintained. In addition, the milestones and long-term goals must be consistently reviewed with the team as a whole. A good leader makes sure that progress becomes the “property” of the group.
Effective team leadership is one of the most important factors for team success and positive results. This is because it tends to have the strongest impact on all aspects of team performance. Team leaders are responsible for engaging each team member in the processes of the team and building a platform of mutual trust that leads to: open debate, collaboration, individual commitment, and personal accountability.
Team leaders set the tone of the team and create the environment within which team members interact and do their work. In addition, they also support and influence key success factors that shape the team’s internal environment and structure. This in turn determines the team’s capability or capacity.
Some key success factors may be beyond the control of the team or the team leader. Such as, higher authority may select the team leader. Or, senior management may determine: team size, arrangement, and perhaps technology and resource support. However, most of the success factors fall under the team’s control and can be developed by it.
The Second Critical Factor of Success: Shared Vision
A shared vision is held together by a sense of passionate interest and value. At the same time it needs to focus on practical aspects such as:
- Everyday problems
- New tools
- Developments in the field
- Things that work and other things that don’t
The first step in establishing a shared vision is to identify a related goal that makes a strong impact for and on change. This goal must be more complex than a simple definition and contain:
- A challenge;
- An appeal to personal pride;
- A sense of needed comradery;
- A call to action that provides an opportunity for the team to make a real difference, and know it.
Only if this can be done effectively will the goal become a powerful vision.
The Third Critical Factor of Success: Attitudes and Commitment
Attitudes and commitment are what make a significant difference in the eventual success of an assigned team project. It is the collective membership of a team that literally decides to succeed. This takes a positive attitude and a strong sense of commitment on the part of all team participants. However, once this mindset is attained it becomes a self-directed impetus for forward movement and goal attainment.
A genuine desire on the part of the team to be successful comes through the evolution of a shared attitude and commitment among the team members that the project will succeed no matter what. This attitude is both powerful and sustaining. An example of this belief comes from Mary Kay Ash, founder of Mary Kay Cosmetics, who stresses: “If you think you can, you can. And if you think you can’t, you’re right.”
Teams that think they can are able to sustain their levels of commitment and positive attitudes by actually visualizing the project at its successful state of completion. In essence, team members are able to create the frame of mind necessary to get them through the inevitable obstacles that can be expected to emerge during every complex development stage and effort. Conversely, teams that lack positive attitudes and commitment effort will be stopped dead by seemingly impenetrable obstacles. It all comes down to the difference between doing difficult, creative thinking when it is necessary, or to simply accept defeat because the solution tends to require too much effort.
In some cases, a team literally decides to fail as in the book Peopleware, where Tom DeMarco and Timothy Lister coined the term “teamacide.” This is where team participants plainly make a conscience decision, without openly addressing it, to cause the project to fail. This may be the result of personal conflicts, technical or departmental frustrations, or a lack of support.
Whatever the reason, the team undertakes a major negative shift in attitude, which becomes devastating to the team process as well as to the project itself.
Oftentimes even if only one individual develops a negative attitude, other team members become exposed and follow along. Before long, everyone on the team “catches” varying degrees of negativity and a loss of enthusiasm and commitment. The only truly effective remedy to overcome this is the attitude of the team leader, who must remain disciplined enough to guide the team through its various drops in morale.
The Fourth Critical Factor of Success: Mutual Trust
Mutual trust is considered to be the most important element of successful teamwork. As part of a team’s self direction, it is trust that enables the team to engage in open debate and decision making that leads to “a commitment of action” on the part of individual members of the team.
At times it is easier to instill and establish trust than it is to sustain it. Building high levels of trust requires an openness that allows team members to know and understand the beliefs and behaviors of all members of the team, so that team actions can be structured to take advantage of each member’s uniqueness and talents. As part of the process it is important for team participants to develop an understanding of how individual members of the team view themselves and how each responds to others within the team.
Teams thrive on trust. One of the main dynamics of a self-directed team is that part of its structure, practice and principles require that members ask for and offer help to one another to initiate and maintain mutual caring and sharing. Having open, frank and supportive discussions generates a strong bond and a sense of connection and trust among members.
Sometimes elements of trust become formalized within team guidelines and standards, which helps to sustain it. But often these elements simply remain “what everyone knows” about good and positive team practice. In the course of helping each other and sharing ideas, and collectively solving problems, “everybody” tends to become a trusted group of equal peers.
The Fifth Critical Factor of Success: Team Collaboration
An effective team consists of team members who are actively involved and engaged in the work and focus of the team. This requires all team members emotionally commit to actively and openly participating in the team’s processes and in the pursuit of the team’s goals. Each separate team member must willingly commit to carry out action plans that are necessary for the team to reach its defined goals. Each must also be dependable and willing to carry the full weight of personal responsibility to complete his or her individual commitments according to deadline.
An actively engaged team member tends to enthusiastically support others, which adds greater value to the team itself. When enthusiasm becomes combined into a high level of synergy, it is much easier to prepare and implement team processes. Because of the team’s ability to engage everyone in a positive manner, it also becomes part of the team’s self-directed focus to find solutions to issues and challenges both from an individual and team standpoint. All members will constantly seek to improve themselves for the benefit of the team and will refuse to quit or give up until the goal is attained.
The power of teamwork dynamics is engaged when team members come together to focus collectively on goals, issues, challenges, and problems. Team leaders must carefully manage the processes of team meetings in order to maximize the power of the collective knowledge and skills of the team members. As part of the collaboration process, more effective teams tend to follow a meeting methodology that both focuses on dealing with issues requiring the team’s attention and maximizes the power of collective knowledge and the skills of the team members.
Collaboration works to help establish personal accountability. Team goals will usually not be realized until individual commitments are completed and team members embrace a discipline to complete their commitments as scheduled. Through personal collaboration team members must agree to hold each other personally accountable for completing the commitments each person has made to the team.
Barriers to team and individual progress will occur in every team effort. However, collaboration works to effectively remove barriers and hurdles to ensure progress toward team goals and keep the team running smoothly and proactively. A highly collaborative team will make certain that each team member continuously reports the status of their open commitments to the team, so that barriers to completion can be identified early on. This allows the team leader and other team members the opportunity to deal with certain issues before overall milestones, timelines and deadlines are impacted.
Excerpt: Developing & Planning for Team Results: Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series (Majorium Business Press, 2011)
If you would like to learn more about effective team building techniques that produce results, refer to Developing & Planning for Team Results: Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series. This training skill-pack features eight key interrelated concepts, each with their own discussion points and training activity. It is ideal as an informal training tool for coaching or personal development. It can also be used as a handbook and guide for group training discussions. Click here to learn more.
Copyright © 2011 Timothy F. Bednarz, All Rights Reserved