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Building Blocks For Team Excellence


Jill A. Daily
Jill A. Daily, Global Procurement Training Manager, Rohm and Haas Company, Philadelphia, PA 19106-2399, 215/592-6827.

82nd Annual International Conference Proceedings - 1997 

Teamwork – Teamwork is the ability to work together toward a common vision. The ability to direct individual accomplishment toward organization objectives. It is the fuel that allows common people to attain uncommon results.

Individual excellence and performance is no longer the primary benchmark for promotion. It is not the quality attribute employers are seeking!! The ability of the individual to contribute his or her personal best to ensure team success is tomorrow's primary corporate evaluator for hiring and promotion. It means knowing yourself, your needs, and how you send and receive communications. Interpersonal communications and conflict management are key!!

An initial set of building blocks for team excellence should be comprised of: assignment and use of "roles," decision making through consensus and collaboration; creating a climate where innovation is encouraged; and the use of open communication. Research studies performed on high-performance industry teams at Corning and Kodak validate that these factors and others differentiate high-performance teams from other natural or cross-functional work teams.

Team climate is one of "we" not "I" or "THEY." Focus is clearly on the goals NOT personalities. Contribution is encouraged and sharing power is commonplace. "Active" listening is the norm. Concern is expressed for the feelings of others and everyone participates. Problems are reframed so that conflict can be recognized and handled rather than avoided or allowed to become disruptive.

The team knows, understands, and commits to the corporate/ organizational vision. There is alignment between team activities/ directives and the overall organizational goals. A mission statement which is clear, specific, and realistic becomes the vehicle used by the team to set project scope and boundaries. It is used to help identify expected outcomes and other strategic goals. Often, it will also list obstacles to success. Using the diverge/converge model, teams can assess resources required and set reasonable team expectations. The team is the author and owner of the mission and is, therefore, empowered to complete it.

Ground rules and roles help to set expected group behaviors. Remember a team is different than a task force or project group. Teams generally exist for longer periods and most often have some ongoing responsibility for the mission. In many cases, team members are from diverse groups within the corporation or from the same functional group but representing a different task area, geographical area, or culture. As you would expect, there is a "period of adjustment." In fact, there are actually four (4) different stages of team development:

  • Forming – Issues around identify, influence, and acceptance
  • Storming – Attacks on leadership, role emergence, trust
  • Norming – Individual issues/roles, group issues
  • Performing – Productivity, high level of comfortability

Unfortunately, most teams spend 85% of their time in the forming and storming stages and less than 15% performing. Why is that???? Conflict!! When was the last time you freely gave your trust?? How about sharing power or working through alternatives instead of just trying to influence others to "see it your way"??? Decisions—how do you make them in your office or at home??? Unfortunately, most of us don't listen to all points of view, ask questions for clarity, and then collectively decide with all those impacted by the decision. Successful teams do!!! They don't negotiate a compromise. The majority does not rule!!! Everyone gets to express their ideas and opinions and be a part of the process.

Teams/Groups are significantly affected by:

  • Clarity of purpose
  • Interest, commitment, competency of members
  • How the team organizes and maintains itself
  • Attention to individual needs and interests of members
  • Efficiency and effectiveness of processes in which people work

There are six sources of conflict: facts, goals, roles, methods, values, or inherited (baggage between you and the other person or group from past experience). Each source needs a different strategy for resolution. These strategies and skills for effective conflict resolution will be explained in detail during the workshop.

Finally, teams need to remember that success breeds success. Goals should be a progress of task completions. Teams need to be successful quickly and receive management and peer recognition to bolster self-esteem and keep and gain momentum. Positive results are an important motivator. Management must demonstrate and/or affirm team success by implementing their strategies and ideas. Recognition and reward is also part of the equation. In companies where teamwork is the desired state, group/team efforts need to comprise an important portion of the individual performance review. Teamwork is tomorrow for all businesses. Technology and the world in general are moving at a rapid pace. No one individual can possibly have all the necessary knowledge, experience, or insight to make the best business decision. Attend this workshop to add skills which will help you to contribute and advance in the business world of tomorrow!!

Workshop Objective – Allow attendees to be able to clearly differentiate between high-performance teams and other group initiatives. Develop a basic understanding of the dynamic of "conflict" and learn strategies and approaches to manage and reframe it for positive impact. Demonstrate how communication and influence skills impact on team success. Introduce the concept of "group stages" and their relationship to team results.

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