M & M Associates
by Matt Minahan, Ed.D. and Cherita Fayton
Many major organizational change programs rely heavily upon the successful implementation of effective team development programs. The purpose of using teams to do work is to create synergies that serve clients better than individual contributors might, to improve continuity, to build individual capacity, to improve product quality and customer service, and to provide work opportunities that are interesting and satisfying to staff.
High performing teams can deliver these benefits but the mere creation of teams does not assure high performance or a successful change program.
But What Is a Team, Really?
In any complex organizations, there are likely to be multiple and different kinds of teams, each with a different task, purpose, membership, modus operandi, leadership etc. That very variety can possibly contribute to the success of the organization and its change program, however, it also creates confusion about what a "team" really is in that specific environment, and what each "team" is being asked to do.
For that reason, we strongly recommend that a change program that is heavily dependent upon teams begin with a "Teams team," whose worwould be to develop complete and clear definitions of the teams, their membership, accountabilities for tasks, individual accountability in the teamwork frame, and leadership requirements. The following questions need answerig:
How are team members chosen and by whom?
Often the leaders just pick the people they want, but large change programs are such good development opportunities for emerging talent that it can be very beneficial to coordinate the selection of team members within and among the team leaders, and with significant input from the HR function;
Establishing Team Processes and Preparation
The work of the Teams team, then, would be to determine what teams need to be high performance teams at the point of start up, and in so far as possible, facilitate meeting those needs. Issues to address include:
Ongoing Support Systems for Teams
High performing teams need strong linkages and support from the whole enterprise to assure that communications stay open and that the infrastructure is an enabler rather than an impediment to performance. The inclusion of virtual teams adds some unique challenges for the change effort in this area.
As a result, the Teams team should be thinking about:
Building Individual Team Members
Team members need skills beyond team membership. Each team member will bring personal competencies and undeveloped areas to the team that will both enhance and detract from team functioning. Raising the skill levels of team members in certain key areas will improve overall performance of the team. Some individuals will need this kind of training, others will not.
The work of Teams team could include:
Since teams are not generally new to most organizations, but are likely operating in different modes across the organization, it is feasible and makes sense to test out any new ways of operating with existing or new start teams in advance of implementation. These experiments will provide insight and opportunities to fine tune teamwork thinking across the organization. If the Teams team recommends using pilots, their work could include:
Obviously, everyone has a referent for the word "team," but unfortunately, not all people have the same referent. Even though the same word is used, because of the variety of ways to apply the concept to the variety of different organizations, the names will be familiar but operating will differ. All groups will have leaders, members, communication patterns, business processes, decision processes, etc. The challenge that organizations face when they decide to support their change program with a "teams" based approach is to provide enough of a common framework and adequate support to the broad array of teams to support them in their work.