Team Effectiveness

With much of the work in organizations accomplished through teams it is important to determine the factors that lead to effective as well as ineffective team processes and to better specify how, why, and when they contribute. It doesn’t matter if the team is brought together for a specific project and then disbands, or if it is a fairly permanent part of the organization, similar principles are at work.

Input-Process-Output model

The input-process-output model of teams is a great place to start. While simplistic, it can offer a good model of what makes teams works and is applicable to the different types of teams.

Input factors are the organizational context, team composition, task design that influence the team. Process factors are what mediates between the inputs and desired outputs.

  • Leadership:  The leadership style(s) (participative, facilitative, transformational, directive, etc) of the team leader influences the team toward the achievement of goals.
  • Management support refers to the help or effort provided by senior management to assist the project team, including managerial involvement and resource support.
  • Rewards are the recompense that the organization gives in return for good work.
  • Knowledge/skills are the knowledge, experience and capability of team members to process, interpret, manipulate and use information.
  • Team diversity includes functional diversity as well as overall diversity.
  • Goal clarity is the degree to which the goals of the project are well defined and the importance of the goals to the organization is clearly communicated to all team members.
  • Cooperation is the measure of how well team members work with each other and with other groups.
  • Communication is the exchange of knowledge and information related to tasks with the team (internal) or between team members and external stakeholders (external).
  • Learning activities are the process by which a team takes action, contains feedback and makes changes to improve. Under this fits the PDCA lifecycle, including Lean, SixSigma and similar problem solving methodologies..
  • Cohesion is the spirit of togetherness and support for other team members that helps team members quickly resolve conflicts without residual hard feelings, also referred to as team trust, team spirit, team member support or team member involvement.
  • Effort includes the amount of time that team members devote to the project.
  • Commitment refers to the condition where team members are bound emotionally or intellectually to the project and to each other during the team process.

Process Factors are usually the focus on team excellence frameworks, such as the ASQ or the PMI.

Outputs, or outcomes, are the consequences of the team’s actions or activities:

  • Effectiveness is the extent a project achieves the performance expectations of key project stakeholders. Expectations are usually different for different projects and across different stake-holders; thus, various measures have been used to evaluate effectiveness, usually quality, functionality, or reliability. Effectiveness can be meeting customer/user requirements, meeting project goals or some other related set of measures.
  • Efficiency is the ability of the project team to meet its budget and schedule goals and utilize resources within constraints Measures include: adherence to budget, adherence to schedule, resource utilization within constraints, etc.
  • Innovation is the creative accomplishment of teams in generating new ideas, methods, approaches, inventions, or applications and the degree to which the project outputs were novel.

Under this model we can find a various levers to improve out outcomes and enhance the culture of our teams.

Creative teams

The secret to unlocking creativity is not to look for more creative people, but to unlock more creativity from the people who already work for you. The same body of creativity research that finds no distinct “creative personality” is incredibly consistent about what leads to creative work, and they are all things you can implement within your team. Here’s what you need to do:

Greg Satell “Set the Conditions for Anyone on Your Team to Be Creative”  05Dec2018 Harvard Business Review

In this great article Greg Satell lays out what an organization that drives creativity looks like. Facilitating creativity is crucial for continuous improvement and thus a fundamental part of a culture of quality. So let’s break it down.

Cultivate Expertise

In order to build expertise our organizations need to be apply to provide deliberate practice: identify the components of a skill, offer coaching, and encourage employees to work on weak areas.

Bring knowledge management to bear to ensure the knowledge behind a skill has been appropriately captured and published. To do this you need to identify who the expert performers currently are.

It is crucial when thinking about deliberate practice to recognize that this is not shallow work, those tasks we can do in our sleep. Unlike chess or weight-lifting you really do not get anything from the 100th validation protocol or batch record reviewed. For work to be of value for deliberate practice it needs to stretch us, to go a little further than before, and give the opportunity for reflection.

Geoff Colvin in Talent is Overrated gave six traits for deliberate practice:

  • It’s designed to improve performance. “The essence of deliberate practice is continually stretching an individual just beyond his or her current abilities. That may sound obvious, but most of us don’t do it in the activities we think of as practice.”
  • It’s repeated a lot. “High repetition is the most important difference between deliberate practice of a task and performing the task for real, when it counts.”
  • Feedback on results is continuously available. “You may think that your rehearsal of a job interview was flawless, but your opinion isn’t what counts.”
  • It’s highly demanding mentally. “Deliberate practice is above all an effort of focus and concentration. That is what makes it ‘deliberate,’ as distinct from the mindless playing of scales or hitting of tennis balls that most people engage in.”
  • It’s hard. “Doing things we know how to do well is enjoyable, and that’s exactly the opposite of what deliberate practice demands.”
  • It requires (good) goals. “The best performers set goals that are not about the outcome but rather about the process of reaching the outcome.”

Encourage Exploration

The Innovators DNA by Dyer, Gregersen, and Christensen state that creativity is a function of five key behaviours

  • Associating: drawing connections between questions, problems, or ideas from unrelated fields
  • Questioning: posing queries that challenge common wisdom
  • Observing: scrutinizing the behavior of customers, suppliers, and competitors to identify new ways of doing things
  • Networking: meeting people with different ideas and perspectives
  • Experimenting: constructing interactive experiences and provoking unorthodox responses to see what insights emerge

Exploration can be seen as observing outside your sphere of knowledge, networking and experimenting.

Empower with Technology

Sure, I guess. Call me a luddite but I still think a big wall, lots of post-its, markers and some string work fine for me.

Reward Persistance

Remember this, we are always in this for the long haul. I think remembering the twelve levers can help give perspective.