Saturday, October 25, 2008

Notes on high performing teams

An MBA provides numerous opportunities to exercise teamwork. Having the time to reflect on all these team experiences is very gratifying and has given me a new perspective on what makes for an outstanding team.

The problem with teamwork is that we all think we know it all. Who does not consider himself an excellent team worker? So before sharing my personal views, let me lay out the basics as they were enunciated by Jane Creech in one of our New Product Development classes:

A team is a group of people who are committed to a common purpose, whose interdependence requires coordinated effort, and who hold themselves mutually accountable for results.

This is a team. In fact, the "A team"

There are four critical ingredients... (which by the way remind me of the congruence model of organizational behavior: people, tasks, formal and informal organization)
  1. Goals - Individual and collective goals | Metrics
  2. Roles - Deliverables | Accountabilities | Norms | Expectations
  3. Procedures - Meeting effectiveness | Decision Making | Communication and Confidentiality inside/outside the team
  4. Relationships - Interpersonal effectiveness skills
...and six characteristics of high performing teams
  1. Alignment - A deep sense of vision or purpose that is shared among team members
  2. Team Effectiveness - Strong internal processes that allow coordinated efforts, such as shared values, trust, open communication, flexibility, and decision making
  3. Empowerment - Feeling empowered to do what is necessary; personal and collective power
  4. Passion - High and sustained levels of energy, enthusiasm, excitement, and confidence
  5. Commitment - Deep allegiance to the purpose of the team and to each other
  6. Results - Accomplishing outstanding results based on high standards
Now, what does make a difference for me?
  • Clarity of goals and alignment rely heavily in setting expectations amongst the team members with complete transparency from day one. Open communication ensures transparency moving forward.
  • Team effectiveness. Given the time constraints and different projects my classmates and I are enrolled in, feeling that the team is getting stuff done is key. Having a well-defined facilitator role, someone able to integrate points of view, to get people to speak out and share their opinions helps boosting performance. I am personally making use of different group productivity tools (specifically online shared documents, calendars and sites / wikis), that reduce the amount of time the team devotes to "non-core" activities.
  • Accountable flexibility. All team members are held accountable for their responsibilities. When there is trust and good communication I enjoy allowing for some wiggle room to keep things fresh and open to change.
  • This is quite personal too, but achieving quality outputs along the way is for me a perfect excuse for celebration, reinforcing team spirit and the commitment to pursue the common vision.
the "listening component"

I have mentioned communication several times. I could never stress enough the importance of communication. The world is full of unknown or ill-communicated good intentions. Nevertheless communication is a two-way road and often times we forget the listening component.

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