Leaders to Leader

Lessons from the Great American Leaders & How They Apply Now

Posts Tagged ‘teams

When Performance Lags, Look to the Team Culture

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When team results lag, leaders must closely examine the team culture. The culture is established when the team is initiated and is defined by its charter, mission, norms, roles, responsibilities and performance goals. An effective team will define: specific performance goals, a work-product and a set of challenges to overcome and milestones to meet.

The team culture will define how and what the team will produce. Poor performance can be attributed to many areas including team:

  • Leadership
  • Norms
  • Roles
  • Responsibilities

However, most often a lack of team performance is the result of poorly conceived performance goals or a lack of clear understanding of what the team is to accomplish. Both are closely interrelated and will create a faulty team structure, which will lead to either a lack of results or ill-defined results that have little or no value to the organization.

A well-defined and performing team should be producing an output that has identifiable value to and for the organization. In other words, the output of the team is greater than the sum of the individual contributions of the team members. To achieve this, teams must be focused on the attainment of specific performance goals.

Effective team results and reliable outcomes are the result of the establishment of a firm team foundation from the outset of the team’s creation. When teams develop their charter and mission they are also setting the performance goals that establish the tone and aspirations of the team. In this fashion teams develop their direction, momentum and commitment by working to shape a meaningful purpose. Part of that purpose is defined by the results and outcomes the team is expected to produce when its work is completed.

If team performance lags or is ineffective, one must review the initiation points of the team, how it defined itself, and the work it planned to produce. The areas that need to be explored include:

Specific Performance Goals

The establishment of specific performance goals is an integral part of the team process. This assists the team to shape a common purpose that is meaningful to all of the team members. Performance goals should be compelling and challenge teams to make a difference. In addition, they should be linked to the charter and mission of the team and achieve its purpose in a meaningful way.

Upon its creation the team should immediately establish a few challenging yet achievable goals early on to build confidence and feelings of success. These goals should be both measurable and capable of assessment.

The Team Work-Product

The team work-product is different from both the organizational mission and individual job objectives. It requires equivalent contributions from all of the members of the team. This process should not be minimized or it will result in future problems for the team.

Assigned tasks and assignments that make up the contributions of the team should be completed by the team members and not delegated or reviewed by them. While staff support may be required, team members should perform the majority of the assignment, so that they acquire firsthand knowledge of the output that they produce. This develops respect, trust and accountability between team members.

The use of delegated work limits both the commitment of team members and their appreciation for its content and contribution. It also minimizes the insights and the innovative potential of the team. If team output lags, this may be a critical point of investigation.

Performance Goals

Performance goals should be clearly stated and understood by team members. When this happens discussions focus on how to pursue the goals or if they should be changed. When goals are ambiguous or non-existent, discussions are less productive. Teams will spend time revisiting issues and problems without making meaningful progress.

Attainment of Performance Goals

The attainment of specific performance goals assist teams to maintain their focus on getting results. If a team doesn’t attain its desired results and outcomes it can often be attributable to the team’s failure to establish specific performance goals. Further, the establishment of specific performance goals allows teams to create a series of small team wins that builds the commitment of team members.

Performance Objectives

Teams should establish specific performance objectives. In so doing they will allow for clear communication between team members and create constructive conflict to discuss issues and develop solutions.

Summary

As the reader can clearly see, many of the performance failures experienced by teams are the result of inadequate planning and preparation at the time the team is initiated. Proper performance goals, objectives and work-related outcomes must be clearly defined and understood if they are to be realistically attained. Any attempt to short-circuit this process will only create future problems. This will result in the team having to revisit their foundations in order to successfully accomplish their mission.

Excerpt: Developing & Planning for Team Results: Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series.(Majorium Business Press , Stevens Point, WI 2011) $ 19.95 USD

Related:

How Personal Agendas Can Destroy a Team

The Use of Teams Requires Self-Discipline

Five Pitfalls Teams Need to Avoid

Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D. | Author | Publisher | Majorium Business Press
Author of Great! What Makes Leaders Great: What They Did, How They Did It and What You Can Learn From It (Finalist – 2011 Foreword Reviews‘ Book of the Year)
Linkedin | Facebook | Twitter | Web| Blog | Catalog |800.654.4935 | 715.342.1018

Copyright © 2013 Timothy F. Bednarz, All Rights Reserved

Five Pitfalls Teams Need to Avoid

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Problems can arise throughout team development and management, but leaders must pay particular attention to the structure and focus of the team. There are many potential pitfalls associated with establishing a team’s mission and focus. These foundational problems can linger and hinder the team’s performance.

Teams can encounter many problem areas during their tenure, but most challenges arise during the establishment of the team. Without a strong foundation that includes a focus, a mission, rules, boundaries and objectives, teams will encounter chronic problems.

It is important for leaders to understand that team productivity will be diminished without a firm foundation. From the outset leaders must invest time and effort in team development to ensure long-term success. This process includes establishing a clear understanding of what to avoid to prevent future problems.

Quality improvement is a common task given to teams. Organizations with teams in this area often stumble into pitfalls and produce poor outcomes. The selection of the wrong process for a team to work on is the main cause of inappropriately focused teams.

Selection of a Project No One Is Interested in

As organizations assign and develop teams for various projects, one common problem stems from selecting projects neither managers nor team members are concerned about. Consequently, the project will likely die from inattention. Often individual team members are assigned to several teams, and will only focus their attention on the projects they are interested in.

Often the only motive that sustains the effort of the team is the commitment of its members. If uninterested in a project, individuals will resist it, hampering the team’s ability to meet and work together effectively. When leaders develop new teams, the projects they assign should be meaningful to the active team members.

Selecting a Desired Solution

Leaders tend to think they already know which improvements need to be made before a team meets to study a problem, analyze it and make recommendations. Consequently, they pick a solution for the team to consider rather than have it look at the larger quality improvement process. This tendency does not empower teams to come up with changes and improvements, and their creativity is held back. As a result, the most creative and effective solutions may not be brainstormed, recommended, analyzed, studied and considered, and the team’s effectiveness and productivity are diminished.

While the leader’s predetermined changes may in fact turn out to be the best way to proceed, teams should be allowed to arrive at their own conclusions, and be free to recommend actions they determine will yield the greatest success.

Projects in Transition

As companies evolve, many processes and projects are in transition. It is wasteful to assign a team a project or process that is undergoing transition or is scheduled for change. The exception here is if changes occur in a process because of the team. In such a case, the team’s resources can be effectively used to study and evaluate the process and determine the best changes.

Selecting a System

Managers often delegate projects that are too ambitious and that should be broken down into smaller components. Properly focusing teams on particular elements of a project facilitates a better chance of success. In this manner they can concentrate their efforts and make recommendations that are easily implemented. Once improvements are made in one small area, teams can methodically move on to other areas. This method allows them to build on their successes and, ultimately, to impact the entire system.

Improper Framing of the Problem

When problems are properly framed, team operational boundaries are defined. But teams can frame a problem too narrowly or broadly.

Broadly defined problems can create projects that are too vague or difficult to label. Consequently, teams quickly find they have neither the time nor resources to deal with such projects. Potential solutions also become broadly defined, ineffective and difficult to implement.

Narrowly defined problems create ineffective solutions. Tight parameters prevent teams from exploring all aspects of the problem and its possible solutions. The final solution can result in issues and concerns that are ignored but should have been considered.

Excerpt: A Team’s Purpose, Function & Use: Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series (Majorium Business Press, Stevens Point, WI 2011) $ 17.95 USD

Related:

How Personal Agendas Can Destroy a Team

The Use of Teams Requires Self-Discipline

When Performance Lags, Look to the Team Culture

Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D. | Author | Publisher | Majorium Business Press
Author of Great! What Makes Leaders Great: What They Did, How They Did It and What You Can Learn From It (Finalist – 2011 Foreword Reviews‘ Book of the Year)
Linkedin | Facebook | Twitter | Web| Blog | Catalog |800.654.4935 | 715.342.1018

Copyright © 2013 Timothy F. Bednarz, All Rights Reserved

Using Change to Increase Performance

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The impact of change can often seem overwhelming to leaders, as most problems associated with it require the complete cooperation and participation of employees. This is especially true of problems occurring during the incremental phases comprising major changes, requiring countless decisions before effective solutions and methods can be implemented.

A single event or person does not control change. Change is often brought about by a series of internal and external forces that impact all within the organization. The forces that bring about change are too dynamic for any single individual to oversee and direct. Consequently, for change to be managed and controlled effectively, the willing participation and input of an organization’s entire workforce must be harnessed.

Change demands that all employees become actively involved, not only in the process of change itself, but also in the many decisions that change requires if a successful transformation is to occur.

Decision-making and leadership is a dynamic process in the face of change. Rather than passively dealing with change, leaders must become proactive in their decision-making, using the dynamics of change to increase performance and improve overall results.

The elements that enhance overall decision-making in a dynamic atmosphere include:

Freely Empowered Employees

There is no set formula or pattern for implementing or dealing with change. As an organization transforms itself, change is implemented by countless daily decisions made at all levels of the organization, which are solely guided by the leader’s vision. Unless employees, teams and workgroups are freely and fully empowered to make these decisions, a centralized decision making process remains in effect. This only works to hamper the organization’s ability to readily adapt to change. Centralized decision making quickly bogs leaders down, greatly reducing their effectiveness and motivation.

Leaders must ensure their employees are free to make operational decisions on issues impacting their jobs and performance. Even reluctant employees will be swept into the waves of change, compelling them to be full, active participants in the process, regardless of their feelings or apprehensions.

Free-Flow of Information

The facilitation of effective decision-making demands an open exchange of information. In the past, managers controlled information as a means of holding power and influence. In the face of change and transformation, all parties must be free to share all useful information and data so that more informed and lower-risk decisions can be consistently and expediently made.

A free-flow of information is not channeled into a single direction. It demands progression openly and in all directions, so that all parties are fully informed regarding the progress and impact of change at any given point in time. This gives the organization the ability to react quickly, and also allows it to readily adapt to changes on a needed basis.

Open Communication

Leaders must facilitate open channels of communication. Open communication encourages otherwise reluctant employees to report bad news or poor results free of fear of retaliation or punishment. If change is to be effectively managed, employees must feel free to openly communicate their feelings, observations, criticisms and findings with confidence that what they have to say will be fully respected and considered.
Encourage Experimentation

Change incorporates countless new ideas and concepts. Employees must be encouraged to take risks and try new methods and experiments. Not every idea will be successful or even feasible. Because of the pioneering nature of change, it is imperative employees understand they will be awarded the necessary freedom to experiment and tinker with new ideas, trial-and-error methods and creative concepts in order to isolate what works does and does not work.

The fact that many ideas might fail should be emphasized to help reduce frustration levels. In the midst of change transformation, failure is not as important as the lessons gained from it. Employees need to be encouraged to share their findings with others in the organization. The key is to test quickly and frequently in order to move the organization forward as expeditiously as possible.

Frequent Assessment

Leaders should hold frequent meetings with their employees to assess the progress of change within the organization. Their primary purpose is to share information and results based on the successes and failures of various ideas, trials and approaches.

Meetings should be used as a tool to tap the power of the group and provide realistic feedback and suggestions from astute observations. A successful meeting generates multiple employee perspectives and insights in order to disclose and detail what is working or not working within the organization.

Drive Down Decision Making

Leaders must drive decision making down deep within their organization. They must allow employees, teams and workgroups to make the daily tactical and operational decisions directly affecting their individual jobs.

Allowing members of the organization to generate decisions and solutions does not mean the leader shuns the responsibility of remaining actively involved in their decision making process. Rather, the decisions are guided by the leader’s vision and direction, and many will necessitate his or her input. However, to get the most out of their employees on a consistent basis, leaders empower them to make group and individual decisions having a direct impact upon their individual performance.

Close the Decision Making Loop

Leaders must ensure all decision-making loops are closed by closely monitoring the results of the collective decisions of their employees, teams and workgroups. Leaders must then share these findings with their employees so they can make any necessary adjustments, improvements or modifications based upon their feedback. Readjustment and the quest for improvement will naturally channel the process back to the starting point of the free-flow of information.

Excerpt: Facilitating Change: Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series (Majorium Business Press, 2011) $ 17.95 USD

Related:

Dealing With the Challenges of Change

Anticipating and Handling Employee Fears of Change

Use These Seven Strategies to Respond to Change

Communication Has to Start With Telling the Truth

For Additional Information the Author Recommends the Following Books:

Facilitating Change: Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series

Impact of Change on Individuals: Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series

Dealing with the Challenges of Leadership: Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series

Improving Workplace Interaction: Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series

Strengthening Leadership Performance: Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series

Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D. | Author | Publisher | Majorium Business Press
Author of Great! What Makes Leaders Great: What They Did, How They Did It and What You Can Learn From It (Finalist – 2011 Foreword Reviews‘ Book of the Year)
Linkedin | Facebook | Twitter | Web| Blog | Catalog |800.654.4935 | 715.342.1018

Copyright © 2013 Timothy F. Bednarz, All Rights Reserved

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Apprehend, Think, Learn and Innovate – The Building Blocks of Knowledge-Based Work

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The knowledge revolution has rendered many conventional management methods obsolete. Unprecedented and rapid advancements in information technology, telecommunications and artificial intelligence are transforming both the content and context of work.

Those on the leading edge of these changes have created virtual organizations that have obliterated what has been considered the raw materials of the traditional bureaucracy—the office and files. These traditional elements have been replaced by intranets, electronic databases and groupware as well as web and teleconferencing.

Organizations are increasingly devoting their resources to apprehend, think, learn and innovate—the building blocks of knowledge-based work.

The changes organizations are experiencing are causing them to employ more individuals who use and apply their thinking skills rather than simply follow directions.

Under conditions of uncertainty, bureaucratic organizations do not possess the requisite learning and information processing capacity to cope with the accelerating rate of both technological and social change.

It is important for leaders to understand that they are working within a dynamic and changing environment. As such, their individual actions are not conducted in a void, but in this environment. Likewise, teams are structured and developed in the same atmosphere, where they must relate and work together to accomplish organizational goals.

Many organizations have experimented with the use of teams in the development of various management fads, such as re-engineering and TQM, with mixed or poor results. As teams are structured, leaders must explore the self-directing team structure as one that is capable of producing more desirable and satisfactory results.

The key feature of self-directing teams is the underlying structure that places the responsibility for control and coordination where the work is actually performed. These teams are also held responsible for managing their work process and are held accountable for the results.

Once considered a radical shift in management thinking, many organizations have discovered that self-directed teams are dynamic in nature, and the dynamism of these teams closely lines up with the changes in the business. This shift gives organizations the ability to create continuous self-renewing learning functions that are manifested in the following team structural features:

  • Employees have the knowledge, information and skills to make all of the decisions that concern them.
  • The authority and responsibility for control and coordination are located as closely as possible to the individuals actually involved in the work process and those who deal with customers.
  • Authority is not based upon hierarchical position or status, but upon competence and expertise.
  • Management and leadership are shared functions widely distributed across levels and departments.
  • Access to information and feedback is both transparent and instantaneous.
  • All organizational support systems are congruent and synergistic with the requirements of a self-directed work structure.
  • The overall role of management is redesigned to focus on the creation of value for key organizational stakeholders including shareholders, customers and employees.

It should be obvious that self-directing teams are structured to more efficiently organize work. They display the properties of complex adaptive systems. The elements of such a system are capable of a high degree of cooperative behavior, where the group is capable of producing more complex results than any single individual could.

Additionally, self-directing teams have a superior competitive advantage because they create a redundancy by extending the skills and functions of individual members and by relocating the responsibility for the control and coordination of work to the specific level that work is performed at. Self-directing teams absorb the function of management since they have the direct responsibility for achieving and measuring results.

Overall, the structure of self-directed teams provides organizations with the flexibility to quickly adapt to meet the challenges facing them, all the while possessing a strong sense of confidence in their success.

Related:

The Use of Teams Requires Self-Discipline

Five Critical Factors of Team Success

Seven Negative Roles & Behaviors Which Undermine Team Performance

Excerpt: Developing a Team Approach: Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series (Majorium Business Press, Stevens Point, WI 2011) $ 17.95 USD

Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D. | Author | Publisher | Majorium Business Press
Author of Great! What Makes Leaders Great: What They Did, How They Did It and What You Can Learn From It (Finalist – 2011 Foreword Reviews‘ Book of the Year)
Linkedin | Facebook | Twitter | Web| Blog | Catalog |800.654.4935 | 715.342.1018

Copyright © 2013 Timothy F. Bednarz, All Rights Reserved

 

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Empowerment Is Not Synonymous With Surrender

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The maintenance of team strength requires ongoing leadership diligence and interaction. If leaders fail to pay attention to what is happening within the team culture and environment, it is easy to stumble into several pitfalls. Many major problems can be avoided by structured attentiveness.

It is easy for leaders to begin surrendering their personal authority as they actively work to empower team members. Many assume that individual teams are automatically able to meet the responsibilities assigned to them – thus making their jobs and workloads much lighter. When this belief takes hold, it is easy for leaders to assume that their responsibilities are being effectively handled. Because of it, they generally tend to miss the undercurrents and interactions that work to undermine team strength and productivity.

Because leaders understand that empowerment is not synonymous with surrender, they play an active, ongoing role in guiding and directing the actions of their individual teams. The roles and responsibilities of individual leaders are not subjugated to their teams. Rather, teams become a mechanism for leaders to be more effective within their organization and more productive in what they need to achieve within shorter periods of time.

There are a number of common pitfalls leaders can stumble into as they develop and build their teams.

Lack of Solid Team Structure

Leaders must ensure that their teams have a solid structure in place. This includes all team members having a clear and concise understanding of their roles and responsibilities. It also includes development of and adherence to the norms, rules and boundaries established during the team’s formation. Once a particular team has been established, a primary leadership responsibility is to make sure that the team adheres to its overall structure.

Not Being Observant

Within the team structure, leaders need to take a hands-off stance in regard to team matters and discussions in order to actively and impartially observe what is occurring. This enables them to be vigilant concerning internal team conflict, dominant personalities and other issues that can impact an individual team’s productivity, strength and performance. Leaders cannot assume that effective team management occurs automatically within the team growth and development process. Specific attention needs to be paid to all details when any negative occurrences take place.

Allowing or Minimizing Disruptive Team Behaviors

Leaders must understand that the team culture has a specific structure that guides and directs its progress and functioning. Specific roles must be assigned to maintain this structure for an adherence to the rules, boundaries and regulations that a particular team collectively develops.

One common pitfall many leaders stumble into involves allowing individual disruptive behaviors to continue to the point where they actively hamper the team’s progress. The acceptance of disruptive behaviors by leaders and other members can undermine overall team strength, as they have a tendency to intimidate less assertive participants into silence. Leaders must be vigilant for specific behaviors that inhibit the free-flow of ideas, thoughts and feedback within the team culture.

A Failure to Intervene

One of the team leader’s major responsibilities is to intervene whenever required to eliminate disruptive behaviors or any other barriers that negatively impact the entire team process. When they tend to overlook specific performance-inhibiting behaviors, they are ultimately undermining team strength. It is up to team leaders to take increasingly stern measures when intervening within the team environment. These measures often start with intervention in the group setting itself; if this proves ineffective, personal intervention with the offending member(s) must be undertaken.

Displaying Bias or Favoritism

It is easy for leaders familiar with the capabilities of individual team members to display favoritism toward one member over another. However, any open display of bias will automatically cause other team members to be less open in expressing their concerns, feedback and input. Biases and favoritism have the tendency to create a situation where specific team members become dominant, which, because of their power and influence, can result in the assertion of personal agendas and overall conflict.

Not Allowing Teams to Adequately Develop and Police Themselves

It is easy for leaders, especially within a new team environment, to assume total control over the team process. They feel that it is faster and more productive to “tell and instruct” the team in what to do than allow it to develop and chart its own course.

A team learns best when it grows through its mistakes and through problems it must solve on its own. It needs to be given the room to brainstorm and create solutions, while having the freedom to police itself when internal problems and conflicts surface due to disruptive behaviors or dominant personalities.

Team strength is developed when members are allowed to work collectively through specific challenging situations and arrive at effective solutions as a result of them.

Excerpt: Building Strong Teams: Pinpoint Management Skill Development Training Series (Majorium Business Press, Stevens Point, WI 2011) $ 17.95 USD

Related:

How Do Know If Your Teams Are Remaining Strong & Productive

Five Reasons Why Team Communications Can Deteriorate

Eight Strategies for Handling Disruptive Situations

Five Pitfalls Teams Need to Avoid

For Additional Information the Author Recommends the Following Books:

A Team’s Purpose, Function & Use: Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series

Boosting Team Communication:  Pinpoint Leadership Skills Development Training Series

Building Team Roles & Direction: Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series

Developing a Team Approach: Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series

Developing & Planning for Team Results: Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series

Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D. | Author | Publisher | Majorium Business Press
Author of Great! What Makes Leaders Great: What They Did, How They Did It and What You Can Learn From It (Finalist – 2011 Foreword Reviews‘ Book of the Year)
Linkedin | Facebook | Twitter | Web| Blog | Catalog |800.654.4935 | 715.342.1018

Copyright © 2013 Timothy F. Bednarz, All Rights Reserved

Team Members Support One Another, Collaborate Freely and Communicate Openly

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The formation of teams creates substantial and sustainable long-term benefits for the organization, including the fostering of a self-managing environment where employees are fully empowered to make decisions that increase their efficiency, effectiveness and overall productivity.

Many organizations will transition from groups and committees to formally structured teams with specific goals and objectives that are chartered by the organization to fulfill a specific purpose. Within the company, the transition can be either smooth from one environment to another, or sudden, resulting in traumatic organizational changes.

It is important for leaders to understand that the nature of a team is based upon a discipline that the team structure imposes on itself. Teams create a fully empowered environment that allows organizations to become more efficient, effective and productive. This shift provides companies with the flexibility to become more adaptive to the forces of change, and as a result the world has witnessed an overall increase in global competition in virtually every industry.

Many organizations purport to have so-called team environments, but some standard working groups are mislabeled or misidentified as teams. Some of the most common groups to be mislabeled as teams are discussed below.

Committees

Organizational committees usually serve as an investigative or advisory body reporting to an appointed person or to the one who organized them.

Task Forces

Organizational task forces are temporary problem solving groups formed to deal with issues that overlap lines of authority. A task force may, for its duration, be full or part time.

Quality Circles

Quality circles consist of groups of employees and supervisors who are seeking ways to increase the effectiveness of workgroups through higher productivity and improved quality.

Project Groups

Project groups are organized to work specifically on a project such as a new product or a new facility. Like the task force, the project group may have a temporary existence. When its mission is accomplished, the group disbands.

Teams have many traits that distinguish them from groups. They are normally chartered to fulfill a specific organizational purpose. The most distinguishing characteristic of a team is that its members have as their highest priority the accomplishment of team goals.

The most important business at hand is the success of the team in reaching the collective goals set by its members. Members support one another, collaborate freely and communicate openly and clearly with one another. Effective teams are able to accomplish their organizational purpose within specific areas, as outlined below.

Information

Within the effective team environment, information flows freely—horizontally, vertically and to the entire team. There is a full sharing of information among team members, and individuals are open and honest about what they are communicating with each other.

Personal Relationships

As the team environment develops and is fostered, nurtured and sustained, relationships on the team become more trusting, respectful, collaborative and supportive. Individuals learn to work together and respect one another’s input, perspective and opinions.

Conflict

Within a healthy team environment, conflict is regarded as natural and helpful when it centers around examining issues and key points that need to be addressed and is confined to issues, not personalities. In most group environments conflict is often rooted in personal traits, motives and agendas that tend to be destructive to everyone involved. Once the team environment is fostered and developed, most team members will use conflict constructively to address issues, solve problems and make decisions by examining all aspects of each element.

Team Atmosphere

As team members learn to work with each other in an effective team environment, they become more trusting, respectful, collaborative and supportive, creating an open and nonthreatening environment in which to operate.

Decisions

Decisions in the team environment are arrived at by consensus rather than by a majority vote or by forcing members to agree with the decision of the group. By arriving at a consensus, each team member is fully committed to a full and efficient use of the resources available to the team. In this manner each team member is fully responsible for the decision of the entire team.

Creativity

Within many organizational groups, the emphasis is on activity and end input, rather than output and solutions. Within an effective team environment, the team members create more solution-oriented outcomes. The focus of the group is on results, not activity.

Power Base

Within many organizational groups, it is not uncommon to see power hoarded by individuals or small groups based on internal politics and personal agendas. However, in an effective team environment the power of the team is shared by all of its members. It is based on the competence of each member and the contributions that each makes to the team.

Motivation

Within many organizational environments individual achievement is valued without concern for the group. Individuals and groups place their personal interests over and above the interests of the organization. However, on a team, the individual members set the environment for a commitment to group goals. Rather than being coerced and pressured to go along with imposed goals, members find that there is more chance for achievement through the advancement of the team.

Reward

Within many organizational groups the basis for rewards is often unclear. They can be based on subjective and often arbitrary appraisals of performance, favoring specific individuals over others. However, within an effective team environment the rewards are based on the contribution that the group provides to the organization. The team, rather than individuals within the team, is rewarded for its performance.

Excerpt: A Team’s Purpose, Function & Use: Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series (Majorium Business Press, Stevens Point, WI 2011) $ 17.95 USD

Related:

There are Only Three Reasons to Form a Team

Seven Characteristics of Strong Teams

Seven Negative Roles & Behaviors Which Undermine Team Performance

Five Critical Factors of Team Success

Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D. | Author | Publisher | Majorium Business Press
Author of Great! What Makes Leaders Great: What They Did, How They Did It and What You Can Learn From It (Finalist – 2011 Foreword Reviews‘ Book of the Year)
Linkedin | Facebook | Twitter | Web| Blog | Catalog |800.654.4935 | 715.342.1018

Copyright © 2013 Timothy F. Bednarz, All Rights Reserved

Self-Directing Teams Place Responsibility Where Work is Performed

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smallteam

The knowledge revolution has rendered many conventional management methods obsolete. Unprecedented and rapid advancements in information technology, telecommunications and artificial intelligence are transforming both the content and context of work.

Those on the leading edge of these changes have created virtual organizations that have obliterated what has been considered the raw materials of the traditional bureaucracy—the office and files. These traditional elements have been replaced by intranets, electronic databases and groupware as well as web and teleconferencing.

Organizations are increasingly devoting their resources to apprehend, think, learn and innovate—the building blocks of knowledge-based work.

The changes organizations are experiencing are causing them to employ more individuals who use and apply their thinking skills rather than simply follow directions.

Under conditions of uncertainty, bureaucratic organizations do not possess the requisite learning and information processing capacity to cope with the accelerating rate of both technological and social change.

It is important for leaders to understand that they are working within a dynamic and changing environment. As such, their individual actions are not conducted in a void, but in this environment. Likewise, teams are structured and developed in the same atmosphere, where they must relate and work together to accomplish organizational goals.

Many organizations have experimented with the use of teams in the development of various management fads, such as re-engineering and TQM, with mixed or poor results. As teams are structured, leaders must explore the self-directing team structure as one that is capable of producing more desirable and satisfactory results.

The key feature of self-directing teams is the underlying structure that places the responsibility for control and coordination where the work is actually performed. These teams are also held responsible for managing their work process and are held accountable for the results.

Once considered a radical shift in management thinking, many organizations have discovered that self-directed teams are dynamic in nature, and the dynamism of these teams closely lines up with the changes in the business. This shift gives organizations the ability to create continuous self-renewing learning functions that are manifested in the following team structural features:

  • Employees have the knowledge, information and skills to make all of the decisions that concern them.
  • The authority and responsibility for control and coordination are located as closely as possible to the individuals actually involved in the work process and those who deal with customers.
  • Authority is not based upon hierarchical position or status, but upon competence and expertise.
  • Management and leadership are shared functions widely distributed across levels and departments.
  • Access to information and feedback is both transparent and instantaneous.
  • All organizational support systems are congruent and synergistic with the requirements of a self-directed work structure.
  • The overall role of management is redesigned to focus on the creation of value for key organizational stakeholders including shareholders, customers and employees.

It should be obvious that self-directing teams are structured to more efficiently organize work. They display the properties of complex adaptive systems. The elements of such a system are capable of a high degree of cooperative behavior, where the group is capable of producing more complex results than any single individual could.

Additionally, self-directing teams have a superior competitive advantage because they create a redundancy by extending the skills and functions of individual members and by relocating the responsibility for the control and coordination of work to the specific level that work is performed at. Self-directing teams absorb the function of management since they have the direct responsibility for achieving and measuring results.

Overall, the structure of self-directed teams provides organizations with the flexibility to quickly adapt to meet the challenges facing them, all the while possessing a strong sense of confidence in their success.

Related:

The Use of Teams Requires Self-Discipline

Five Critical Factors of Team Success

Seven Negative Roles & Behaviors Which Undermine Team Performance

Excerpt: Developing a Team Approach: Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series(Majorium Business Press, Stevens Point, WI 2011) $ 17.95 USD

Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D. | Author | Publisher | Majorium Business Press
Author of Great! What Makes Leaders Great: What They Did, How They Did It and What You Can Learn From It (Finalist – 2011 Foreword Reviews‘ Book of the Year)
Linkedin | Facebook | Twitter | Web| Blog | Catalog |800.654.4935 | 715.342.1018

Copyright © 2013 Timothy F. Bednarz, All Rights Reserved

A Systematic Approach is Required to Structure Your Teams

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Leaders should be cognizant of the fact that teams do not evolve automatically, and that the only things that do in the organizational environment are disorder, friction and poor performance. Effective team design and structure require thinking, analysis and a systematic approach to their development.

Organizational and team structures are not mechanical, but organic, as both organizations and the teams that work within them are comprised of people, not machines.

Additionally, designs and structures are unique to the organization, matched to meet its particular needs and objectives. Leaders should note that some of the worst team development mistakes were made when a mechanical model of an ideal team structure was imposed upon a living and organic business.

It is important for leaders to understand that strategy determines the structure of a team. The basic questions, “What is our business?” “What should it be?” and “What will it be?” define the purpose of any team and organizational structure.

The answers to these questions identify the key tasks and activities for which specific teams are formed. It is this effective structure that makes these activities get off the ground, function and produce results. Therefore team structure needs to be primarily concerned with these key activities; all other purposes are secondary.

Team structure demands self-discipline from every member. All individuals must take responsibility for the work of the entire team and its performance. It is the combined efforts of organizational teams that allow them to accomplish all of the key goals and activities.

Teams need to be designed and structured to integrate three distinct forms of work:

Operating Task – responsible for producing the results and output of the team.

Innovative Task – enables the team to approach its assignment with a view toward the possibilities the team can attain.

Management Task – directs the work of the team, creates and monitors its vision and sets its course.

All of these distinct forms of work are integrated into the team’s structure and approach. The specific blend of these tasks is determined by the responsibility, assignment and makeup of the team.

The structure and approach of the team is created to satisfy specific organizational needs, including:

Clarity

Clarity should not be confused with simplicity. Teams can be working on complex problems and issues that require complex solutions. They are not expected to simplify these solutions for the sake of the organization, but they should clarify them so they are understood and implemented.

Economy

Teams must employ an economy of effort to maintain control over the group and to minimize friction between team members. Excessive time devoted to the resolution of internal problems wastes the team’s resources and is uneconomical.

Direction

The direction of the team must be geared toward results rather than the team process. This means that teams should be concerned with the reasons why they were created rather than with the techniques they need to employ. The focus should be placed on output over form.

Understanding

Teams need to be structured so that team members clearly understand their specific roles, tasks and assignments and how each contributes to the accomplishment of individual team goals.

Decision Making

Decision making must be structured to focus on the right issues; it must be action- and results-oriented.

Stability

Teams must be structured for stability rather than rigidity. This allows them to survive turmoil and to adapt to the changing circumstances and environment that they are operating within.

Perpetuation and Self-Renewal

The team structure should be conducive to producing new leaders for the organization, and further be instrumental in helping these new leaders continually grow and develop their skills. It is this self-renewal of leadership that allows teams and organizations to develop and incorporate new ideas. Only with self-renewal can businesses maintain their competitive edge.

Related:

There are Only Three Reasons to Form a Team

The Use of Teams Requires Self-Discipline

Five Critical Factors of Team Success

How Do Know If Your Teams Are Remaining Strong & Productive

Excerpt: Developing a Team Approach (Majorium Business Press, Stevens Point, WI 2011) $ 17.95 USD

Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D. | Author | Publisher | Majorium Business Press
Author of Great! What Makes Leaders Great: What They Did, How They Did It and What You Can Learn From It (Finalist – 2011 Foreword Reviews‘ Book of the Year)
Linkedin | Facebook | Twitter | Web| Blog | Catalog |800.654.4935 | 715.342.1018

Copyright © 2013 Timothy F. Bednarz, All Rights Reserved

A Team’s Foundation is Built Upon Structure and Focus

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Problems can arise throughout team development and management, but leaders must pay particular attention to the structure and focus of the team. There are many potential pitfalls associated with establishing a team’s mission and focus. These foundational problems can linger and hinder the team’s performance.

Teams can encounter many problem areas during their tenure, but most challenges arise during the establishment of the team. Without a strong foundation that includes a focus, a mission, rules, boundaries and objectives, teams will encounter chronic problems.

It is important for leaders to understand that team productivity will be diminished without a firm foundation. From the outset leaders must invest time and effort in team development to ensure long-term success. This process includes establishing a clear understanding of what to avoid to prevent future problems.

Quality improvement is a common task given to teams. Organizations with teams in this area often stumble into pitfalls and produce poor outcomes. The selection of the wrong process for a team to work on is the main cause of inappropriately focused teams.

Selection of a Project No One Is Interested in

As organizations assign and develop teams for various projects, one common problem stems from selecting projects neither managers nor team members are concerned about. Consequently, the project will likely die from inattention. Often individual team members are assigned to several teams, and will only focus their attention on the projects they are interested in.

Often the only motive that sustains the effort of the team is the commitment of its members. If uninterested in a project, individuals will resist it, hampering the team’s ability to meet and work together effectively. When leaders develop new teams, the projects they assign should be meaningful to the active team members.

Selecting a Desired Solution

Leaders tend to think they already know which improvements need to be made before a team meets to study a problem, analyze it and make recommendations. Consequently, they pick a solution for the team to consider rather than have it look at the larger quality improvement process. This tendency does not empower teams to come up with changes and improvements, and their creativity is held back. As a result, the most creative and effective solutions may not be brainstormed, recommended, analyzed, studied and considered, and the team’s effectiveness and productivity are diminished.

While the leader’s predetermined changes may in fact turn out to be the best way to proceed, teams should be allowed to arrive at their own conclusions, and be free to recommend actions they determine will yield the greatest success.

Projects in Transition

As companies evolve, many processes and projects are in transition. It is wasteful to assign a team a project or process that is undergoing transition or is scheduled for change. The exception here is if changes occur in a process because of the team. In such a case, the team’s resources can be effectively used to study and evaluate the process and determine the best changes.

Selecting a System

Managers often delegate projects that are too ambitious and that should be broken down into smaller components. Properly focusing teams on particular elements of a project facilitates a better chance of success. In this manner they can concentrate their efforts and make recommendations that are easily implemented. Once improvements are made in one small area, teams can methodically move on to other areas. This method allows them to build on their successes and, ultimately, to impact the entire system.

Improper Framing of the Problem

When problems are properly framed, team operational boundaries are defined. But teams can frame a problem too narrowly or broadly.

Broadly defined problems can create projects that are too vague or difficult to label. Consequently, teams quickly find they have neither the time nor resources to deal with such projects. Potential solutions also become broadly defined, ineffective and difficult to implement.

Narrowly defined problems create ineffective solutions. Tight parameters prevent teams from exploring all aspects of the problem and its possible solutions. The final solution can result in issues and concerns that are ignored but should have been considered.

Related:

Are Your Teams Really Working Groups?

There are Only Three Reasons to Form a Team

How Do Know If Your Teams Are Remaining Strong & Productive

Excerpt: A Team’s Purpose, Function & Use: Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series (Majorium Business Press, Stevens Point, WI 2011) $ 17.95 USD

Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D. | Author | Publisher | Majorium Business Press
Author of Great! What Makes Leaders Great: What They Did, How They Did It and What You Can Learn From It (Finalist – 2011 Foreword Reviews‘ Book of the Year)
Linkedin | Facebook | Twitter | Web| Blog | Catalog |800.654.4935 | 715.342.1018

Copyright © 2013 Timothy F. Bednarz, All Rights Reserved

Written by Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D.

January 3, 2013 at 12:50 pm

Are Your Teams Really Working Groups?

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Teams are a critical component of every organization as the predominant vehicle for decision-making and accomplishing tasks. A team is defined as a group of people who need each other to accomplish specific results.

Teamwork represents a set of values that encourages listening, responds constructively to views expressed by others, gives others the benefit of the doubt, provides support and recognizes the interests and achievements of others. These values help teams, their individual members, and the entire organization perform.

In many organizational environments, working groups and teams are both essentially used in the same way despite there being a measurable difference between the two. Working groups are simply a loose combination of individuals working toward a common goal. These groups’ structures will vary according to the makeup and personalities of the members. Teams, on the other hand, are governed by a specific team structure that takes into account member roles, responsibilities, rules and boundaries.

It is important for leaders to understand the distinctions between groups and teams. Most individuals who work within groups perform as individuals. Teams require a common commitment to which members hold themselves mutually accountable. They are committed to a common purpose and a set of performance goals and approaches.

Related: There are Only Three Reasons to Form a Team

Teams differ fundamentally from working groups because they require both individual and mutual accountability. Teams go beyond group discussion, debate and decision-making and do more than simply share information and best practice performance standards.

To understand how teams deliver extra performance, it is important for leaders to distinguish between teams and other forms of working groups.

Results and Accountability

A key distinction between groups and teams is found in performance results. A group’s performance is a function of what its individual members do as individuals: members don’t take responsibility for results other than their own, nor do they attempt to develop incremental performance contributions requiring the combined work of two or more members.

A team’s performance includes both individual results and the collective results of the team. The collective results reflect the joint and real contributions of team members.

Leadership

A strong and clearly focused leader typically directs working groups. Due to the nature of the group’s leadership, the individual leader has the ability to influence the work and results the group produces.

Teams, on the other hand, develop shared leadership roles that are established by team members. This reduces the influence of a single team member on the results of the team.

Related: Seven Characteristics of Strong Teams

Purpose

Working groups focus on a purpose that is the same as the broader organizational mission, whereas teams focus on a specific team purpose for which they are established to address. The team focuses on a specific purpose, and the results are focused to particularly fulfill that established purpose.

Output

Teams produce discrete work products through the joint contributions of their members. Possible performance levels are greater than the sum of the individual contributions of its members. Working group performance, however, is simply the product of the results of individual members.

Meetings

Working groups perform their work in efficiently run meetings. Teams encourage open-ended discussions and active problem solving throughout their meetings. The team meeting is specifically structured to encourage these activities. Within this structure, meetings are guided and directed by the roles and responsibilities of team members and are defined by the boundaries and framework established by the team to govern its activities.

Related: Five Critical Factors of Team Success

Measurement

Working groups measure their effectiveness indirectly by their influence on others. Teams measure performance by directly assessing the collective results of the team and its ability to fulfill its purpose and mission. The results of the team make something specific happen, and that adds real value to the results. By contrast, gathering as a working group from time to time does not sustain the group’s performance.

Methodology

Working groups discuss, decide and delegate the work of the group to individual members or committees. Teams discuss, decide and then complete the real work required together as a team. Within teams, performance goals are compelling; they challenge individuals to commit themselves as a team to make a difference within the organization. Since goals are challenging, the onus is on the team alone to make it happen.

Excerpt: A Team’s Purpose, Function & Use: Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series (Majorium Business Press, Stevens Point, WI 2011) $ 17.95 USD

Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D. | Author | Publisher | Majorium Business Press
Author of Great! What Makes Leaders Great: What They Did, How They Did It and What You Can Learn From It (Finalist – 2011 Foreword Reviews‘ Book of the Year)
Linkedin | Facebook | Twitter | Web| Blog | Catalog |800.654.4935 | 715.342.1018

Copyright © 2012 Timothy F. Bednarz, All Rights Reserved

Written by Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D.

October 18, 2012 at 11:22 am

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