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Monday, April 9, 2012

Team Tips - 8 {Stop the bus!}

The challenge for teams discussed in Team Tips - 3 was how to find members for a great team. But, sometimes, teams experience the opposite challenge:
How to DE-select members for a great team?
Some years ago Vickie and I assisted Toyota Technical Field Operations in the US with improving their processes towards providing more consistency and hence higher value. The boss, David J., was appreciative enough of our work to not only pay our invoice (always important), treat us with thoughtfulness and respect (a wonderful bonus), but to also provide a gift of a book (a special thank you).

The book was Good To Great by Jim Collins. Not only did this selection indicate his state of mind – the desire to transform his organization – it also became very important to me personally.

I've always been fascinated with this differentiation: Good vs. Great. While I'm fussy about precise definitions and clarity these terms are wide open. They can mean almost anything to anyone; however, they still easily allow us to distinguish companies, organizations, workgroups. Given a choice, we would at least want to work with Good ones, even better if we can find Great ones.

But what makes the difference between Good and Great organizations?

That is exactly the quest Jim Collins took on. One of the differentiators Collins and his research team found was this concept: Transformative executives
... first got the right people on the bus (and the wrong people off the bus) then figured out where to drive it.
The Simple Rules and Tools Great Teams Immersion (aka BootCamp) demonstrates the same principle: Have the team self select its members, then have them determine their shared vision of their future.

For me this is an instance where universal truths are determined by the connection of ideas from separate sources that provide us a fundamental insight.

Team Tips - 3 tackled the challenge of getting the right people on the team:
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.
But what if someone isn't sure they're on the right bus, or decide it is the wrong bus for them? Or, the boss or the team decide someone should get off the bus? Just as being in a mediocre organization or workgroup isn't comfortable for some people, some aren't interested in being in workgroup striving for Great. And, a Shared Vision doesn't meet its potential if it is not truly shared.

Happily, the Core Protocols – the Simple Tools – provide lots of techniques to develop the desired synergy: Check In, Ask for Help, Personal Alignment, Investigate, Perfection Game, the Intentional Development Protocol for example. These all enable the high-bandwidth communication to explore ideas and develop a shared vision.

But this isn't mind control. We may just agree to disagree.

In the ideal situation, the team works with and supports the diversity of thought and dreams of each of its members. In fact that diversity – explicitly shared and explored – is the team's strength. All the intellectual diversity, aspirations, dreams, visions of greatness combine to produce a shared vision that is far beyond the sum or the multiplication of its parts. And each member's share of results towards that vision needs opportunity for hearing, investigating, support, and perfecting.

If one member of the team isn't aligned with that vision, then he or she needs room to explore that difference, work on their own, promote their alternative to the rest of the team. That may lead to a new product feature, a different development technique, a supporting element which still delivers team success.

Or not.

Perhaps that member is simply on the wrong bus. He or she then needs to take responsibility for themselves – part of the Core Commitments – to get off the bus. And the analogy works: this is not grabbing the steering wheel and yanking the bus off the road into the ditch. This is calmly, and with good intent, dealing with the difference which may lead to getting off. A quick stop, planned and controlled, that lets one off to catch a different vehicle.

And the team's responsibilities include being open to those differences, and where they aren't resolved, facing up to the fact that this is the wrong bus for that individual. If an adjustment can be made that makes the bus and its direction attractive to all, then make it. Otherwise, agree and accept that the bus needs to let someone off.

In the least ideal case, the boss has to recognize this situation and initiate the bus stopping. Here we can turn the slogan “The buck stops here” to “The bus stops here”. (Sorry; that really is bad!) The point is that we all have a responsibility to each other's success and well being, including helping them make a tough decision to leave us and join a different team.

This isn't about being right or wrong; it is about making a good decision. Having someone leave, then having to replace them and make up for lost opportunity is expensive in many ways. What a shame not to have, or use, the Simple Rules and Tools to get the best from each team member and make that bus trip Great.

How's your bus doing?

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