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Diagnostic Tool for Teams: What type of team do you have?

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Diagnostic Tool for Teams: 
What type of team do you have?

thewisdomofteamsFor your back pocket.

As a team leader or a team member it’s always good to have some models in your back pocket either as a diagnostic tool or as a prescriptive advice. 

Way back in 1993 a book was published that served as sort of a primer on building high performance teams.  It is still in print and the advice is still good 16 years later.

Everyone works on a team at one time or another.  If you are a team leader or a team member it’s always good to make a self-assessment of where your team stands on the performance and effectiveness curve

All Teams are not what they seem.  Some teams that call themselves teams may be Working Groups, or Pseudo Teams, or Potential Teams – but not Teams in the true sense where they, according to the authors,  are able to deliver  high performance and high effectiveness to the organization in which they are embedded.

Jon Katzenbach and Douglas Smith, after a couple of decades of on-the-ground consulting experience put together a taxonomy of 5 types of groups working together –  from Working Group to High Performance Team.  They plotted each of these type of “assemblies” of people onto a grid of Performance Impact and Team effectiveness.

Here are the five types

1. Working Group

As defined by the authors, a working group assembles primarily to benefit the individuals in the working group.  These individuals assemble to share information, best practices, or perspectives that help the members of the working group act within their own areas of responsibility.

A Working Group is not a Team as the authors formally define it,  There is no common work product that will be delivered by the group and no mutual accountability.  Working Groups do not contribute to an incremental performance gain for an organization.  These groups remain focused on group members interaction to the benefit of those members.

2. Pseudo Team

This is a group of individuals that assemble with the intention of of seizing an opportunity or performance improvement for the organization but, unfortunately,  do not attain this. 

This group of people may call themselves a team but it has not focused on collective performance, shaping a common purpose, or a set of performance goals – although it has the appearance of these objectives. 

This is the weakest of all teams insofar as the individuals on the team detract from each team members individual performance without delivering any joint benefit.  In Pseudo Teams, the sum of the whole is less than the the potential of the individual parts.

3. Potential Team

These are individuals that assemble with the intention of incrementally improving the organization but do not achieve it.  This assembly of individuals fail as a team since they lack a clear purpose, set of goals, defined set of work products to be delivered, and they lack the discipline to work out a common working approach.  It has no established collective accountability.

4. Real Team

This is a small group of people with complementary skills who are equally committed to a common purpose, goals, and working approach for which they hold themselves mutually accountable.

So what specifically makes up a real team?  Here are six points

  1. Small number of team members
  2. Adequate levels of complementary skills
  3. Clear and meaningful purpose
  4. Specific goals and deliverables
  5. Clear working approach and methodology
  6. Sense of mutual accountability

 Here is a further elaboration

  1. There should be a small number of team members – between two and twenty-five people.  An effective team size is about 10 people.  If a team is too large the team risks the ability of team members to effectively interact with each other. Large teams face logistical issues of meetings and schedules.  Large team may face a problem of shared values and work ethic.  Large teams may end up breaking into subgroups.
  2. You need the right mix of complementary skills.  Based on the purpose of the team you obviously need the right people with the right skills.  You need people with Problem-solving and decision-making skills.  You need people with interpersonal skills.  You need people with functional or technical expertise.
  3. The team must have a common purpose and shared goals.  Best tool for this is a team charter.  The Team Charter lays out the mission of the team, the stakeholders for which the team will make a decision or deliverable, what inputs the team will use, and what the team will deliver.
  4. Teams and performance need to be inextricably connected.  That is, there are specific results for which the team is collectively responsible and the performance ethic of the team demands those results.  The team must be clear as to what it will deliver
  5. The team must be committed to a common approach.  This is the methodology or the approach by which the team will achive its goals.  Who has what roles; What skills are required; What is the process whereby decisions will be made?
  6. Mutual Accountability. Ask the critical question.  “Who holds me accountable?”  There are two possible answers: a) The leader holds me accountable.  b) I hold myself accountable.  There is no team if any of the team members give the first answer.

5. High Performance Team

This has all the attributes of real teams with one significant and important difference.  Each individual team member is also deeply committed to each others personal growth and success. And, this commitment transcends the team.

The “Get”

That last item is the real crucial difference

Each individual team member is also deeply committed to each others personal growth and success. And, this commitment transcends the team.

Watch again the six minute video of Jack Welch former CEO of GE that we snagged off of YouTube and embedded in the posting – Good to Great Part III: Building the Team.  What does Jack Welch say about success?  Success is about growing others.  To see other people win is rewarding.

Some people treat success as a zero-sum game.  They see other people’s success as diminishing their own – “if they look good, then I look bad – If they win, I lose”.  These people will horde information, be tangentially committed to team goals,  sabotage the efforts of other individuals or of the team.  This is a sign of insecurity.

Are the six points so much common sense?  Sure they are.  But look around your own organization and see how many teams are really High Performance teams.  The idea and desire may be there, but teams often fail in execution.  You may have people with the right technical and/or functional skills but these same people may lack the interpersonal skills to work as part of a team.  Do you have an explicit, open, transparent, and shared decision-making process?  If not, then you have an ad hoc process lacking traceability.

So, use the 6 points above as a diagnostic tool and see where your team stands. Then use the points again as prescriptive advice to fill any gaps to get your team back on track.

Resources

The Wisdom of Teams: Creating the High-Performance Organization

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Written by frrl

January 15, 2009 at 3:44 am

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