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Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Team Tips - 5 {Trust me!}

We're having a snow day; first of the season.

So it's a good time to tackle this challenge for teams from Jose R.:
"How can you recover trust inside a team that has lost it?"
Trust between team members and between the team and their boss is critical for great teams. In fact it is a deciding factor, we have learned, between great teams and those other groups. When we see individuals on the team trusting each other to uphold their commitments and decisions, then we know the team has moved into that “sweet spot” or the “greatness zone”. This is because the energy freed up from dealing with the emotional drama of lack-of-trust issues can be directly applied to producing a great product on time. It is the difference between team energy being wasted in a downward spiral, and having that energy provide creative ideas, the perfecting and execution of those ideas, and the upward spiral of success.

Additionally, that trust releases everyone from managing each interactive transaction as if there were a high risk of misunderstanding, mistakes, waste, and allows that time and energy to be spent where it is most productive.

We call this model “Trust versus Control”.

This becomes very obvious with a boss that is “micro-managing”. If the boss believes he or she has to be involved in everything the team does, then the team can almost be replaced with machinery. They end up doing each task under close supervision like robots. Alternatively, if the boss has confidence in the team's ability to perform the basic tasks, that can be extended to the team determining their own workflow, quality, deadlines, etc. In the ideal case, for example after attending a Great Teams BootCamp*, the team is proficient in managing their own affairs. All the boss need do then is accept the team's status reports, confirm to his or her satisfaction that the product is on time and will be great, and... take the rest of the day off.

Whenever that level of trust is lost then we are back to the more common case of groups in organizations everywhere.

So to Jose's question: What can we do to build or recover trust?

What we have observed over 15 years in the Simple Rules and Tools for Great Team Immersion* – a.k.a. BootCamp – is that the adoption of the Rules – the Core Commitments – and the use of the Tools - the Core Protocols – is a great starting point. These provide a foundation for the desired end result which is a persistent track record between team members, and between the team and the boss, of successful personal interactions. That is: commitments kept, ideas shared, support provided, results delivered, etc., all of which indicate that trust has been earned, like deposits in a bank account.

A significant starting point is the team agreeing on a shared vision. The ideal method to get to this state is the development of personal goals, or wants, by each individual on the team that each team member agrees to support. The sharing of these personal alignments leads to a state of shared vision – people in alignment with each other – and enables the development of a shared vision statement. What we have experienced is that individuals in a state of shared vision have the basis of trust between themselves which can then be amplified across everything they do.

By individuals keeping their Core Commitments, supporting each other's Personal Alignments, and going further to engage each other regularly by Asking for Help, Investigating, sharing and Perfecting ideas, etc., the team members keep making trust deposits. The nature of these deposits is: I can be counted on to act responsibly as an adult, to avoid emotional drama, to meet my promises, to engage with others in every question of product delivery and quality.

If trust needs to be recaptured, these same tools are effective. Particularly Ask for Help.

Individuals following the Core Commitments can be depended upon for adult, engaged behaviour. Asking these individuals for help, on any question, develops a relationship with him or her based on respect and inclusion. This exercise supersedes just getting information. This is an act of connection which starts to rebuild trust. Keeping promises, being open to diversity of ideas, including others in gathering information, sharing ideas are all positive influences for regaining trust.

And based on our experiences with great teams you can trust me on that. :)

Click here for your own copy of the Core Protocols – the Simple Rules and Tools of Great Teams.

To add your team challenges to the list add a comment below or message me @ReevesResults on Twitter.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Team Tips - 4 {Is this for me?}

Another challenge for teams comes from Jose R.:
“Can everybody work in teams?”
I am so very tempted to reply with a sarcastic answer, except that wouldn't be helpful, and this is a really tough challenge.

Some people I have observed over the years just don't seem suited to work with others at all. I leave it to psychologists to analyze and guess why. But most of us have encountered those who simply like to work independently or even have a difficult time making conversation with one other person, let alone a team.

In fact, some people, like myself, chose to work in fields like computer science to reduce the amount of time needed to deal with other humans, their emotional states, their foibles, etc., and maximize their time dealing with the pure, rational, logic of computing.

And some, like myself (again! ?), find themselves so disappointed and de-motivated working in organizational groups where there is no clear vision, objective, approach, sharing of ideas, focus on results, etc. that they can't function effectively. In those kinds of organizations I am un-employable (and have the severance packages to show for it.)

So if we view the challenge as “Can teams provide a work environment for everyone?” we can see why team building, team work, team success is difficult for lots of organizations and anyone who is stuck on those teams.

For those teams that can demonstrate success through the delivery of great results on time every time*, we can revert back to the original question and ask: “Can anyone at all become part of that team?”

And unless the product or service that your organization delivers to its customers can be built by one person only, never interacting with anyone else, we need to address this challenge.

What we have found in our work with teams using the Simple Rules and Tools of Great Teams* is that no, not everyone will want to be part of a given team's shared vision, and adopt the rules and tools to deliver great results. Some just aren't ready to step out of their comfort zone, give up their previously learned models and behaviours for mediocre results, accept the responsibility and accountability to be their best. This isn't a judgemental statement; it's just fact.

We all become ready to be our best in our own time, at our own pace. Unfortunately, in my opinion, some run out of time before they get to a decision.

What we have also found so far is that the best way to know if one IS ready to be part of a team is to attend the team building session known as BootCamp from McCarthy Technologies. There one is immersed in the Simple Rules and Tools of Great Teams and can discover for themselves if they are ready, and what it means to be part of a great team. As covered in the previous posts, this also allows the boss to recognize which people are creating which team, and for an existing team to determine their members.

Another choice is to join a great team for a probationary period to see if one is up to the challenge. An important team work practice is prototyping: building versions of the required product or service to be “perfected” (using the Perfection Game tool). Similarly, a probationary period for a new member is a use of prototyping.

Being part of a team isn't about group hugs or being in constant agreement with the rest of the team. Sometimes independent behaviour by a team member is the best choice for the team in a particular situation. Further, if the team's shared vision isn't shared by someone, then it is best that they leave the team – to possibly form their own team.

So if you are one of those extremely rare people who never needs to work with anyone else, you don't have to concern yourself with team work. Happily for the rest of us there are really excellent options.

Click here for your own copy of the Core Protocols – the Simple Rules and Tools of Great Teams.

To add your team challenges to the list please add a comment below or message me @ReevesResults on Twitter.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Team Tips - 3 {Who gets to play?}

The next challenge for teams I have chosen is from Ben N.:
New member ?
“How to select members for a great team?”
The smartest way we have seen people get selected for a team is to have all potential team members attend the team building workshop: Simple Rules and Tools for Great Teams. This session is also known as BootCamp by the originators of the event, Jim and Michele McCarthy, and is based on their book Software for Your Head.

By inviting potential team members to participate in this workshop the boss* is setting some initial conditions which help define the basis for the team. (* see Team Tips - 1)
  1. The workshop is NOT mandatory. Accordingly, the people who attend are only those who want to be there; hence, want to be part of the team
  2. By participating in the session attendees are immersed in the Core Protocols – the Simple Rules and Tools. This helps everyone involved get to experience and practice these foundational behaviours for great teamwork, and some will invest energy in this learning and thrive in it, and some may choose not to
  3. During the session, the team members develop a Shared Vision for that team. If someone doesn't wish to share that vision they are free to follow their own dream and so move out of the original team
  4. The team members that find that the Core Protocols as used by the team deliver on the promise of high band-with communication, fast decision making, the development of trust, a focus on results of high quality, etc. become their own self organized team. Any attendees who don't are again free to not participate, possibly forming their own team working in other ways
The boss gets the result: a self organized team, following Simple Rules and Tools that are repeatable in any situation, scaleable for any size of group, reliably working to produce the best results on time every time. Any attendee who chooses not to be part of this, effectively self-selects themselves off the team.

Our experience with this approach is that:
   a) bosses have used the session to “do the hiring”. That is the immersion becomes the hiring process, and the check for personality chemistry, and the probation period, and any other scrutiny one wishes for in a hiring process. (And the cost of a “normal” personnel search, interview and hire, and possible failure after three months of probation more than pays for the session.)
   b) or alternatively, they have seen after the session who should be, or remain, “on the bus” [Good to Great, Harper Collins, Jim Collins] and can identify those who don't wish to work on the team using the Core Protocols. (Again this saves considerable energy and cost dealing with employees who have turned out not to be a good fit.)

The quick answer then is: Have the team select their own members.
If the team already exists, then they are the best people to determine who will fit well on that team, who can aspire to the team's shared vision, will use the team's commitments to responsible behaviour, and follow the team's protocols for information sharing, decision making, self improvement, development of great products or services, etc.

And just as the great teams work with a bias toward action instead of discussion, and incrementally building prototypes, and perfecting them, they can do the same thing in confirming new members. That is, work with them over a probationary period for everyone to confirm that the newly expanded team is functioning as well or better, and similarly the team is a good fit for the new member.

Great teams learn to let ideas go, and similarly can accept that their world isn't perfect for everyone. Sometimes the shiniest, prettiest, smartest new hire just shouldn't be on this team. The Core Protocols provide the tools to deal with that.

Again, the underlying premise in all these answers is that the team is using the Simple Rules – the Core Commitments in the Core Protocols – and the Tools – the Protocols themselves for their day to day operation. This is simply the smartest approach for any team that we have found.

So here is the “catch”. If what I am suggesting doesn't seem workable in your situation, then you need to use the Simple Rules and Tools for Great Teams (or something better).

To add your questions to the list add a comment below or tweet me @ReevesResults.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Team Tips – 2 {Where's the Boss?}

Assuming you've read the previous post – Team Tips - 1 – you know the definitions I'm using for “teams”, “boss”, etc. and can guess that I will be relying on the Simple Rules and Tools for Great Teams – the Core Protocols – in my answers.

Indeed, the underlying premise in all these answers is that the team is using the Simple Rules – the Core Commitments in the Core Protocols – and the Tools – the Protocols themselves, for their day to day operation. This is simply the smartest approach for any team that we have found.

So here is the “catch”. If what I am suggesting doesn't seem workable in your situation, then the organization needs to use the Core Commitments and Protocols (or something better).

Let's start with one of the most complicated situations Vickie and I have had to work on with a team, the question Jose R. asked:
“Does the boss belong to the team, or he just must work for it?” (I believe for the last part Jose meant “or does the team just work for the boss?”)
(Remember: “boss” as used here is defined in the prior post Team Tips - 1).

The simplest rule is NOT to have the boss be part of the team. The team works for the boss, and delivers the product or service the boss requires, in the timeframe the boss requires, with the quality the boss requires. And in large enough organizations the boss is on his or her own team with other bosses of other teams.

In fact the teams working for a boss ARE THE PRODUCTS of the boss, and the teams across the organization are the products of the team of bosses. In the purest arrangement the bosses don't produce any final product or service for sale to their retail customers – their teams do.

And to get even more precise, the boss sets the initial conditions for the team – what must be produced and delivered by the team, and when, and within what constraints (resources, values, legislation, policies, etc.). The most experienced and mature teams can take responsibility for deciding what can be produced and delivered against a given deadline, or alternatively, what deadline they can meet for a given product requirement.

All of this works smoothly when there is a high level of trust and a high level of communication both ways between the team and the boss. And, of course, individual commitment and responsibility from each team member. (We'll explore trust and commitment more in future posts.) These elements are all comprehended and provided for in the Core Protocols.

But the situation gets trickier when the organization is smaller and, for example, the owners of the business are the bosses AND are also contributors to the team and its products.

In this special case the boss or bosses have to operate in two modes: explicitly as the boss, and explicitly as a team member. The modes have to be crystal clear at each moment in each transaction between all parties – that is why I emphasize “explicitly”.

In all cases, the boss's job is to have the team produce a result on time that is great in the opinion of the team and the boss. The boss does not have to be concerned with how that is done, what tools or methods are used, etc. as long as the initial conditions – the non-negotiable items – are met. If the result exceeds expectation or is finished early – fantastic. If there is any doubt that this will happen, the team should be reworking their methods, their focus on deadlines, their quality, etc., without expecting the boss to intervene or rescue them, unless they specifically ask the boss for help.

Similarly, in daily operation, the team relies on the merit of the best ideas from any team member at any time to proceed to producing the team result. The boss as a team member cannot have any special standing or influence, otherwise the other team members will eventually stand back and wait for the boss to propose all ideas and make all the decisions, and the huge opportunity for individual leadership, innovation, and energy is lost.

Accordingly, as the boss the business owner states the end result required or the deadline, then steps aside to let the team get on with it. As a team member, the owner acts as an equal with all the other team members to determine how best to produce a high quality result, or when the result will be completed as appropriate.

To be crystal clear about what mode the business owner is in – boss or team member – he or she may use a special name, put on a particular hat, etc. or simply say: “As the boss I need...” or “As a team member I propose...”

Needless to say, this special case can add a layer of extra effort and confusion, and so we recommend the simplest scenario for teams that are just getting accustomed to using the Core Protocols for team building and operation. But if there is no choice, we have a number of ways of accomplishing the special case.

If you already are knowledgeable about the Simple Rules and Tools of Great Teams – the Core Protocols – then you can see how this boss / team model works.

If not, then you will probably have many more questions on how this model can possibly work! So please send in your questions via the comments section below or @ReevesResults on Twitter.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Team Tips – 1 {Some challenges}

Since my partner, Vickie Gray, and I have been working with Jim and Michelle McCarthy on developing Great Teams over the last 8 or so years, it occurred to me to collect the things we have learned observing successful teams and create a series of blog posts.

These observations might be called Team Tips.
(They are actually recommendations for team members collected over the 15 years that the Simple Rules and Tools for Great Teams – the Core Protocols – have been gathered and used. But “Team Tips” is more catchy. :-) )

And then I thought: Why not ask my Twitter world for suggestions for posts – what are the challenges that people have about team work?

Here are some replies so far:
From Jose R.: 
“Can everybody work in teams?”
“Which is the best road to high performance teams?”
“Does the boss belong to the team, or he just must work for it?”
"How can you recover trust inside a team that has lost it?"
From Ben N.:
“How to select members for a great team?”
Nothing like starting off with some really important questions!

So while I am working on the answers to these questions (and setting aside all the other recommendations I have for the moment) it seems worthwhile to get some terminology straight so we are all clear on the words.

Here are some definitions we use:
Team”: A team is a group of two or more people working on a common goal. Immediately that moves us beyond groups at work into any situation: sports obviously, community groups, church groups, families, couples, etc. There shouldn't be any circumstance where the team practices we use – the Core Protocols – won't work. Nor have we found culture, language, arbitrary social class rankings, etc. prohibitive.

Boss”: A generic term covering all the organizational words for someone in authority over the team, e.g. manager, director, team lead, project manager, etc. The boss represents the power that sets one or all of the goal, resource budget, time deadline, etc. In Human Systems Dynamics terms the boss sets the “initial conditions”. We often refer to these items as those that are non-negotiable by the team. In a typical workplace the boss represents the owner / president / CEO who has the final decision making authority. In a family the boss is the combined and agreed decision making authority of the parents or couple.

High performance teams”: In my corporate career I previously used this term very loosely as meaning any team operating with some awareness of their own performance and having some techniques to intentionally direct their own work. (And I thought it was a big deal to get that far.) Having since experienced what excellent teams can do I now use “high performing” to refer to teams that are committed (scary word!) to intentionally (not maybe) delivering great results (as considered by themselves and their boss) on time, every time. In other words, teams that consistently and continually use the Core Protocols (or better).

And finally, for now...
Member”: Any one who considers them-self part of the team, and whom the team agrees is part of the team, not because of any assignment by organizational grouping or task, but because of their behaviour. And that behaviour includes their own commitment to intentionally great results from the team.

I'm sorry if you were hoping for quick and easy answers instead of this preamble. In Human Systems Dynamics (HSD) terms a team, as any group of people, is a complex adaptive system. That is, it is a system constantly adapting to a chaotic environment. Which is why self help books and blogs, weekend retreats, climbing ropes in the woods, facilitated intervention can help momentarily but typically doesn't last or grow. These things are not maintainable, repeatable, scalable for the chaotic, dynamic world we live and work in.

HSD also teaches us that simple rules and tools are important for people in complex adaptive systems. (Simple means a short list that is clear and concise – not necessarily easy).

That is why Vickie and I refer to the Core Protocols for team building and operation as the Simple Rules and Tools for Great Teams.

And why I'll be referring to the Core Protocols in the next posts as I answer your questions about teams.

To add your questions to the list add a comment below or tweet me @ReevesResults