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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

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