”A decade or so ago, the common view was that true teams rarely had more than 20 members,” says the Harvard Business Review (HBR).
Of course, today many complex tasks involve teams of 100 or more. According to HBR research, however, the tendency to collaborate decreases naturally as the size of a team increases beyond 20 members. When companies invest significant funds to collaboration capacity, under the right conditions, larger teams may cooperate effectively.
So, with the team size in mind, the first step is to hire the best talent.
Team builders should think about the personalities needed. It’s been said that the personal style of team members has the greatest influence on a group’s success. “The input and expertise of people with disparate views and backgrounds to create cross-fertilization sparks insight and innovation,” notes HBR.
BPR Online Learning Center offers the following examples of unique traits of team members:
- Individuals who intimately understand the current process (experts – could be at any level in the organization)
- Individuals who are completely objective toward the process and outcome (consultants may fall into this category)
- Individuals who actively use the process and work closely with customers (including union involvement when applicable
- Technical wizards
- Individuals not yet familiar with the current process (someone who brings a fresh perspective and outlook to the team)
- Customers of the process (when possible) and suppliers (those people who are involved with the process at the boundaries)
Team members with traits that complement one another’s work best, of course. But understanding the pros and cons of diversity in teams may help a company manage collaboration.
Foundation and Vision
Once team members are selected, a leader should excite, or better, inspire the team with the key goal(s), says Learning Center. “Give them a vision,” athletics and training source Speed Endurance suggests.
The leader’s work doesn’t end there, though.
As with any effective change vision, building a winning team requires buy-in from the front-line troops.
“To build the winning team, you not only need to show people what direction the company is headed in, but you need to get them to ‘buy into’ this direction,” says Streetwise Small Business Start-Up“. Otherwise, you can’t expect people to support a group if they don’t agree with where it’s headed or, worse, don’t even know where it’s headed.”
Other tips for ensuring buy-in include explaining why a particular strategy is the best and reminding people what the organization stands for and that it does indeed hold a bright future for them, adds Streetwise Small Business Start-Up.
Collaboration leads to idea discovery — that is, the foundation for an innovative product or service. The more effective this idea discovery, the quicker the development and time-to-market of a true product or service. The actual team product depends on successful collaboration.
According to management consultant Susan M. Heathfield at About.com’s Human Resources Guide, the organization within which the team works must assure that members:
• Understand the team and group process;
• Approach problem solving, process improvement, goal setting and measurement jointly;
• Work together effectively interpersonally;
• Establish group norms or rules of conduct in resolving conflicts and arriving at consensus; and
• Cooperate to achieve the team charter;
• Use an appropriate strategy to accomplish its action plan.
Yet, according to HBR, “the higher the proportion of strangers on the team and the greater the diversity of background and experience, the less likely the team members are to share knowledge or exhibit other collaborative behaviors.”
Managers who can carefully balance these phenomena can position their companies to excel.
With the “buy-in” cited above comes commitment. And nothing kills buy-in faster than leadership or management not following through on its commitments.
Yet a team is just that: a group of individuals working together. To prevent commitment from waning, leaders should take a team “pulse” and assess members routinely. “Administer a survey at least quarterly,” recommends Business Know-How.
Or, even better, have periodic face-to-face sit-downs. In manufacturing organizations, collaboration processes are commonplace. Holding kaizen meetings, for instance, is one methodology, considered critical by some, used in manufacturing for team-based improvements.
This is simply the foundation for team building. For a team to achieve its goals, its formation must be based on best practices. A team reflects its leader’s knowledge, skills, intelligence, passion and perceptiveness.
Author: Fred White