Building High Performance Teams

ppleTeams have proven to be a powerful vehicle for both achieving quantum improvements in productivity as well as implementing major organizational change. In today’s competitive marketplace, the need to accelerate the development of high performance teams is critical.

This may involve:

  • Revitalizing an Executive Team that is consumed with turf issues
  • Forming a new team from consolidated departments
  • Integrating cross-functional teams to improve productivity across boundaries
  • Partnering for process improvements with vendors or customers
  • Implementing major change with a consultant/client engagement team

In order to master the art of the team:

  • Teams need to learn how to grow up quicker and get well sooner
  • Most teams struggle needlessly through a series of predictable challenges
  • Some teams get stuck along the way and never achieve high performance
  • Some teams achieve high performance but cannot sustain it

Not all groups that work together need to be teams. Four essential elements of a team are:

  • Common goals versus individual goals
  • Commitment of members to common goals
  • High degree of interdependence among members
  • Team accountability to a higher level

The following model applies to the development of team:

  • Teams have a very predictable life cycle. Just as people develop in stages (childhood to adulthood) so do teams.
  • Each stage has its challenges which must be overcome to allow the team to develop. Teams grow stronger as they solve the challenges of each stage.
  • Team leadership needs to focus on two objectives in each stage: The task (the work itself, achieving results) and the relationship (working together, getting along, the process)
  1. First stage is FORMING. The team challenge is orientation. The task objective is clarifying goals and structure. The relationship objective is getting to know each other.
  2. Second stage is STORMING. The team challenge is conflict. The task objective is confronting systems conflicts. The relationship objective is confronting people’s conflicts.
  3. Third stage is NORMING. The team challenge is cooperation. The task objective is open communication and involvement. The relationship objective is understanding and respecting individual differences.
  4. Fourth stage is PERFORMING. The team challenge is productivity. The task objective is solving problems. The relationship objective is promoting interdependence.

There are no short cuts. Teams that are poorly formed will experience more conflict and may never move beyond the storming stage, while teams that seem to move effortlessly from forming to performing are vulnerable. They have not learned how to deal with adversity (storming) nor have they developed norms to sustain during difficult times.

  • Teams that do not resolve the challenges of each stage get stuck and rarely achieve high performance.
  • Just as teams can develop in readiness, they can also regress with changes in goals, the external environment or the membership.

There is a close parallel between leadership styles and team stages. Teams need a lot of structure and direction (styles 1 and 2) in the forming and storming stages and alot of involvement and empowerment (styles 3 and 4) in the norming and performing stages.

Team Building Strategies:

  • The quickest and most effective way to develop a team is to provide it with the leadership it needs based on its readiness. As suggested earlier, teams need different leadership at different stages in their development.
  • High Performance Teams share seven common dimensions: Common Purpose-Stretch Goals, Results-Driven Structure, Competent Membership, Customer-Focused Leadership, Single Minded Commitment, Team Accountablity and Team Collaboration.

(Courtesy of Curran Consulting Group)


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