WHAT IS A TEAM?
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
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?
ADVANTAGES OF TEAMS
Effective teams can achieve far more than the sum of the individual
contributions of the team members. The effect of this synergy has several
MORE TALENT, KNOWLEDGE AND EXPERIENCE
Better cover and skill leads to better decisions.
HANDLE WIDER VARIETY OF PROBLEMS
More skills available and workload can be shared.
CROSS FUNCTIONAL LINES
Creates a better understanding of other peoples'
views, problems and requirements, improves horizontal communication.
The group provides more people with an opportunity
to have a say and is more difficult to ignore.
Individuals will learn new skills and have a better
understanding of how the rest of the organization
SATISFYING, MORALE BUILDING
It is enjoyable working in an effective team environment
and satisfying to be pan of a team's success.
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
ELEMENT OF EFFECTIVE TEAMWORK
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
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.
The specialist whose expertise is required for the team to meet a specific
GOAL DIRECTED PERSON
The person who keeps the team goal directed and ensures that the appropriate
steps are taken to reach that goal.
TEAM PROCESS ORIENTED PERSON
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
Provide support and enthusiasm to encourage everyone to be involved
and generate commitment.
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
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.
They use their talents to get the best out of
They have a balance of ambition, values and expertise.
They never accept failure, problems are seen as
opportunities for improvement.
They provide a catalyst with their energy, optimism,
hope and encouragement.
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
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
SUPPORT AND TRUST
Members are encouraged to listen and build upon individual ideas. If
this is to be successful members must be honest, realistic, consistent
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.
A system of 2 way communication must be established.
The boundaries and links between the teams should
be clearly defined and understood.
The teams should think of how the other team will
react and feel towards its actions.
The teams must achieve a result which benefits
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
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
Step 2 - Analyze the Problem to find the
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
SIGNS OF EFFECTIVE TEAMWORK
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
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
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.
LEADER DOES NOT DOMINATE
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?'
BUILDING AN EFFECTIVE TEAM
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.
ESTABLISH OPERATING RULES
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
The following is an example of a 'code of conduct' that an improvement
team established at their first meeting:
Everyone join in.
No personal criticism.
Listen to all ideas.
Be on time.
Everyone is equal.
will be fined.
Last one takes minutes.
Be responsible for your actions.
Meetings are 1 1/2
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.
GOOD MEETING PRACTICE
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.
SOME GOOD MEETING PRACTICE 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,
Arrange for no interruptions.
Research relevant topics.
Stick to agenda.
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?
POST MEETING ACTIVITY
Use action sheet to ensure actions taken. Prepare for next meeting.
SOME HANDY TIPS
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.
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
GUIDELINES FOR TEAM FACILITATORS
The following notes are meant as guidelines for people who are asked
to facilitate (or 'help out') teams with projects.
You are there to facilitate - not to lead.
The project owner (leader) has task responsibility
for the satisfactory completion of the project.
Do not take away actions or tasks from meetings
are there to help the team achieve its objectives by advising them on
how they should approach problems, not doing the work for them.
You should not take minutes, you must be watching
and evaluating how the team is working.
Observe team interactions and help out when appropriate
You do not need to attend every meeting.
You should not advise the team whether they have
reached the correct conclusions, but you can check whether they have considered
all the options properly and chosen the best by using a rigorous technique.
You should assist the team in their use of the
TO tools and techniques.
Help select the most appropriate. Help
them to use them.
You could well end up with the flip chart pen,
but do not give any of your own suggestions, nor take the chairman's role.
If all is going well keep
Remember, there will be times with the best of
teams when they need to struggle a little to work things out.
Lead an evaluation at the end of each meeting
the 3 areas of teamworking
as a framework
could be improved
should be constructive, look for the good points.
A TYPICAL PROJECT PROCESS
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
First meeting - introduce team, rough definition
jump to solutions!
Gather some data to check scale of problem.
Second meeting - Pareto, flow diagram, final problem
Objectives sent to Steering Group for approval.
2. Analyze Root Cause
Use Fishbone Diagrams and/or brainstorming.
Use check sheets, scatter diagrams, concentration
diagrams, run charts etc.
Check that the real root cause(s) has been identified
Check that if this cause (or causes) is solved
the original objectives of the project will be fulfilled look
back to your problem definition sheet.
3. Correct - Generate and Choose Solutions
Brainstorm for all possible solutions.
Choose the best one weighted
Check the effect of the chosen solution - solution
Put proposal to Steering Group for approval.
4. Correct - Plan and Implement
Draw up detailed plans.
Consider all requirements (including training,
Use a Gantt chart or Critical Path Analysis.
5. Prevent - Standardize and Fix Permanently
Measure the improvement over a reasonable period
Standardize the improvement (sell the benefits).
Make sure it will always stay fixed (procedures,
6. Continuous Improvement