Teams exist in all walks of life, not only at work but in our personal lives. At work we have departmental teams, management teams, project teams and Improvement teams amongst others. Outside there are sports teams, entertainments teams, political teams and other working teams. Some of these teams are formal, others informal. However, some of them do not really operate as teams. Not every group is a team and not every team is effective.

A team is a group of people who are working together to achieve a common goal or task that they would not otherwise be able to achieve. Therefore a group of marathon runners, although having the same aim, are not a team because they are not dependent upon each other but a relay team is a team because of their common goal and the need to work together to achieve ft. In applying this definition to work, one can see that various groups who claim to be teams are not, whereas other groups will not realize that they are in fact real teams. Indeed the ultimate team, which is not always recognized, is the company Itself.

The realization that one is a member of a team, or maybe several teams, is not enough in Itself to ensure that the team is effective. It must be worked at, but why is ft necessary in the first place?


Effective teams can achieve far more than the sum of the individual contributions of the team members. The effect of this synergy has several advantages.

Pitfalls to Avoid

But Teamwork is not just about selecting a group of people and calling them a team, it has to be worked at, otherwise there are potential pitfalls.


There is a lot of discussion but nothing is ever achieved.


Decisions are not taken.


Everybody tries to do too much at once and in the end nothing significant is achieved.



Effective Teamwork needs to be worked at. All of the team members need to know what makes an effective team and then have a responsibility in achieving ft.

There are three important elements, the team members, the relationship between the members and the framework in which they operate.


Within a team the members will be required to fill various roles. The most obvious is that of the leader but there are others which the team need to be aware of. These can be categorized into 4 areas, it is important that each is represented to give a balanced group.


Balanced Roles


The specialist whose expertise is required for the team to meet a specific objective.


The person who keeps the team goal directed and ensures that the appropriate steps are taken to reach that goal.


The process orientated person who is concerned about how the team operates, particularly the inter personal relationships.


The team member who challenges how the team is operating and indeed what the team is working on.

No team member will have strengths that are exclusive to one area, but most exhibit characteristics of one type in particular. It is important for any team to have a balance of these roles, if this is to be achieved members must be aware of where their strengths lie.

As well as balanced roles, there is a need to share responsibilities amongst the team. Everyone should join in, action assignments can encourage this and prevent people sitting back.

The Role of the Team Leader

The role of the Team Leader is one of the most Important and can be looked at as having three parts.


Planning and organizing the team process and players.


Developing both the team and individuals to achieve the skills and knowledge required.


Provide support and enthusiasm to encourage everyone to be involved and generate commitment.


Leadership Styles

There are various leadership styles of which there is no one right type but it is important that a leader can adapt his style to match the circumstances. The following characterizes the various leadership styles that can be progressed as the followers develop.


Providing specific instructions of what to do and then supervising the task.


Directing and supervising but explaining decisions and asking for suggestions whilst supporting progress.


Facilitating efforts, sharing responsibility for decision making.


Turning over responsibility for decision making.

Initially, the team development process requires a strong effective leader but as the team and its members matures, responsibilities should be given to members for their own leadership development. Indeed within an experienced team, although there may be a recognized leader, leadership will alternate between members depending upon the task at that time. Ultimately the development process should enable members to become recognized leaders of their own teams.

As the team develops, the leader should find his style moving through the four phases as follows:

An analysis of leadership has identified four common characteristics of effective leaders.


Team Dynamics

Internal Team Dynamics

The relationship between team members impacts on the overall team effectiveness. The following are all important issues.


Team members should discuss issues and express their opinions. They should not feel inhibited neither should they be working to a hidden agenda.


Members should be committed to working together to achieve the team's objectives.


Opinions are important but members should not be so single minded that they are not willing to listen to what others have to say.


Conflict should not be avoided just because it is uncomfortable but R is important that R is constructive conflict. Personal attacks and subjective views should be avoided and the conflict resolved with open, objective discussion.


Members are encouraged to listen and build upon individual ideas. If this is to be successful members must be honest, realistic, consistent and loyal.


Effective communication is a two way process between members. People must listen as well as talk to each other.

External Team Dynamics

The team must also be aware of its relationships with other teams.


All teams need a framework in which to work, an essential element of which is the objectives.

Objectives - The objectives must be:


The members will not contribute effectively to something that they do not feel is worthwhile.


There must be no scope for misunderstanding between team members or those dealing with the team.


The objectives need to be measurable to identify whether they have been met.


Unless the team members feel the objectives are achievable they will not be motivated to try, however they should not be so easy that they do not provide a challenge.

Once the objectives have been established, the team need a structured approach to their task.


The team considers how they are going to approach their task and plan the general outline. They should consider key steps and identify the resources required to achieve the plan, this may include co opting a part time member on to the team. An Important element of the plan should also be time scales, the task should not be open ended, and even if time scales have not been given to the team, they should decide on their own.


There will be many decisions that the team will have to make and there will not always be immediate full agreement so within the framework the team must agree how decisions will be taken.


Having developed a plan the team need to continually review progress against ft. This may require the plan to be changed but should primarily ensure that the team are following the structured approach originally decided. Part of the review should focus on the team process itself.


Structured Approach to Problem Solving

Many teams will be expected to generate improvement. A structured approach to problem solving is essential to maximize the improvement potential of the team. The following Is such an approach that improvement teams may find useful as the basis of a plan to tackle their objective.

Problem Solving Cycle

Step 1 - Define the Problem

The first step is to clearly define the problem. The temptation is often to jump to conclusions without ever really studying the problem in the first place.

Step 2 - Analyze the Problem to find the root cause

The second step is to analyze the problem and establish the root cause or causes of the problem.

Step 3 - Correct the Problem

The third step is to solve the problem by applying a corrective action, which meets the immediate requirement.

Step 4 - Prevent the Problem re occurring

The fourth step is to take action to ensure that the problem can never occur again.



When reviewing the team process, the leader and team members should be aware of the signs of effective teamwork.


There should be an open, friendly atmosphere with a certain amount of humor.


Everyone should get involved participating fully in the team task, although some will "join in' more than others. This is acceptable as long as everybody feels there is the opportunity to take pan.


People should be effectively listening to each other not just waiting for others to be quiet so that they can have their say. Two or three conversations going on at the same time is not a sign of effective listening.


Disagreement is a healthy sign, it is a fact of life, and consequently if it does not appear from time to time it is probably being suppressed or issues are being covered up.


It is vital that decisions are taken not ignored because they are sometimes uncomfortable.


There is always the risk that a team will do a lot of talking and maybe even take decisions, but not actually do anything. A good sign is individuals taking actions outside meetings or indeed volunteering for such actions.


A good sign is the leadership of the team changing to suit the task at the time, whilst still recognizing that there is an 'official' leader. The leader should not feel that he has to do everything for the others.


It is essential that the team continually assesses Its ability to work effectively as a team. Questions should be regularly asked such as 'How are we performing as a team?' and 'How well did we work together today?'



All of the team members have a responsibility in achieving effective teamwork, but the team leader in particular has to work at creating the right conditions. These are some very practical guidelines that can be applied when the team is first formed.


The ideal group size is 5/6 members. Members should be chosen with the appropriate range of skills and experience but there must also be a balance of the various team roles. During the early stages of formation time should be spent getting acquainted. Members need to get to know each other particularly their attitudes and special skills.


All team members should know what the role of the team is and what is expected of it.


Each team will have a different way of operating. This is not a problem as long as everyone on the team knows what that is. It is a very good idea for the team to discuss and agree the operating rules at a very early stage.

The following is an example of a 'code of conduct' that an improvement team established at their first meeting:

Everyone join in.
Majority rules.
No personal criticism.
Listen to all ideas.
Be on time.
Everyone is equal.
Enjoy yourselves.
Unexcused absences will be fined.
Last one takes minutes.
Be responsible for your actions.
Meetings are 1 1/2 hours maximum.


The team discuss and agree the approach they will take to achieve their objectives. This should provide a direction for the team and a base to return to should the team get sidetracked.


The thought of team meetings very often concerns people where there is a tradition of unproductive meetings. It is vital that team meetings achieve something, this can be done by following some simple guidelines.




Set meeting objectives.
Decide and inform who is to attend.
Issue an agenda in advance.
Allocate timings for each agenda topic.
Book room and communicate time and location to attendees.
Ensure all required facilities are available e.g. flipchart, OHP.
Arrange for no interruptions.
Research relevant topics.


Stick to agenda.
Introduce items.
Don't go back over old ground.
Curtail noisy members.
Involve quiet members.
Record minutes in concise manner.
Use minutes to identify actions and those responsible.
Issue agreed minutes at meeting end.


How did we perform?
Agenda covered?
Objectives met?


Use action sheet to ensure actions taken. Prepare for next meeting.


Fines for lateness.
Last in takes the minutes Schedule meetings before lunch.
Use paired comparisons to help decision making.
Use Brainstorming to get everyone involved and encourage creative thinking.
End on a positive note.
Selecting team members for actions - count 3 and point.
Use copies of flip charts in minutes e.g. Brainstorm lists.
Regular meeting time and place.
Changing Chairmanship.
Rotating leadership.
Do it standing up.
Be creative, innovative and different.


Team members should feel comfortable in their surroundings. They should be free from distractions and able to concentrate on their task.


The team will expect external recognition for achievements but it is also important to remember the need for internal recognition. The team leader should acknowledge publicly amongst members both team and individual achievements, team members should also not be reticent in recognizing colleagues' achievements within the team.

It is important to recognize that teams rarely immediately generate highly effective teamwork, indeed all teams should look for continuous improvement. Teams pass through various stages of development at varying speeds, this must be realized. Teams should identify their weaknesses and act accordingly eventually exhibiting a mature level of teamwork that achieves a level of synergy that far outweighs the sum of the individual's contributions.





The following notes are meant as guidelines for people who are asked to facilitate (or 'help out') teams with projects.

  what went well

  what could be improved

  criticism should be constructive, look for the good points.



The following is an illustration of a typical T.Q. project. Most T.Q. projects will take at least 3 months of elapsed time with meetings every 1 to 2 weeks.

1. Define the Problem

2. Analyze Root Cause

3. Correct - Generate and Choose Solutions

4. Correct - Plan and Implement

5. Prevent - Standardize and Fix Permanently

6. Continuous Improvement