Follow by Email

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.


Joserra said...

Great post. :)
I discovered the idea of "product=team" reading "Software for your head" several years ago. At the beginning seemed not to be very interesting. But it's very powerful after all. It must change your way of being a boss :) It did it for me.

Paul Reeves said...

Jose: Thanks for your comment.
Yes; all these concepts are covered in Software for Your Head, which is a very powerful book.
I believe that once one sees the possibilities of working with a great team it changes everything, including how one operates as a boss.