Friday, December 17, 2004

Teamwork and Teams

One of my favorite reads of last year was Teamwork: What Must Go Right/What Can Go Wrong. In a nutshell, they found that effective teams share the same characteristics:
  1. clear, elevating goal;
  2. a results-driven structure;
  3. competent members;
  4. unified commitment;
  5. a collaborative climate;
  6. standards of excellence;
  7. external support and recognition;
  8. principled leadership.

The two things that most often screw up effective teamwork are personal agendas that conflict with group goals and politics. Trust is a big issue as well; trust lost is hard to regain, if it ever can be.

I just looked around for a good review of this book, since I seem to have lost the one I wrote for my previous company newsletter, and I hit instead some interesting pages on group behavior in developing teams. Big Dog's Amusingly Titled Leadership Page pretty accurately describes the meetings of a group I'm in now as it tries to organize to solve a problem together. It even characterizes the personalities in my meetings!

The team's transition from the "As-Is" to the "To-Be" is called the Storming phase. All members have their own ideas as to how the process should look, and personal agendas are rampant. Storming is probably the most difficult stage for the team. They begin to realize the tasks that are ahead are different and more difficult than they imagined. Impatient about the lack of progress, members argue about just what actions the team should take. They try to rely solely on their personal and professional experience, and resist collaborating with most of the other team members. Storming includes these feelings and behaviors:

  • Resisting the tasks.
  • Resisting quality improvement approaches suggested by other members.
  • Sharp fluctuations in attitude about the team and the project's chance of success.
  • Arguing among members even when they agree on the real issues.
  • Defensiveness, competition, and choosing sides.
  • Questioning the wisdom of those who selected this project and appointed the other members of the team.
  • Establishing unrealistic goals.
  • Disunity, increased tension, and jealousy.
I think Someone inviting all members of the group to lunch instead of just some of them might have helped with that last bullet, but hey-- I'm just playing my role in the evolving team process with a little tension and jealousy!

Luckily, one of the group is a "Driver or Controller, a take-charge person, who exerts strong influence to get things done, focuses on results"; so we might get to the accomplishment phases soon. And the textbook strengths and weaknesses apply here: "Gets things done. Determined, requiring, thorough, decisive, efficient, direct. In-attentative behavior when listening to others. Dominating, unsympathetic, demanding, critical, impatient."

And no, I'm not going to tell you which group role I'm playing.

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