How To Avoid The Plague Of Unproductive Teams

Unfortunately team dysfunction is a plague that affects many – in fact I would say most – organizations.

And much has been written on how to build effective teams.

But it’s much more than simply getting people to work well together.

After three decades of leadership, here’s my take on how to build remarkably productive teams.

1. Appoint a team leader who is emotionally invested in the challenge the team is addressing. There may be a temptation to assign the role to an individual who is deemed internally (by HR in particular) to possess “expert” leadership skills, but don’t do it!

Results are produced when a crazy amount of emotional energy expended on solving the problem at hand not when sophisticated leadership skills are present.

Find someone to lead the team who is first and foremost THE internal champion of “the cause”, and second, who has demonstrated experience in leading teams successfully in their past.

2. Provide the strategic framework for the team to work within. The team needs to know what is “within limits” and what is not. This is NOT an issue of containing creativity, rather it is a guidance mechanism to point creativity in the strategic direction of the organization.

Unclear and vague strategic focus for the team’s work generally results in unusable output; an interesting answer to the wrong problem. Test the team’s understanding of their terms of reference.

Keep the conversation going until they have demonstrated an intimate understanding of what they are being asked to do and how their expected results relate to the strategic game plan of the organization.

3. Have the team present an update on their progress to the team executive sponsor at least monthly. This will ensure the team stays on track and gives an opportunity to recognize team members on the points of their progress.

4. Build the team objectives into performance plan of each team member. Regardless of whether the team is full time or part time, shared accountability for results must be assigned.
If members are not personally liable, the pressure is off and you can expect casual rather than focused attention on the team’s activity and results.

Develop functional teams by concentrating your efforts on making them effective – achieving strategic goals – rather than efficient – achieving internal harmony and business.

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