The goal is to create a 'high energy' team, where team members are committed to high-level outputs and work with so much energy and enthusiasm that it is almost infectious.
Team Management Systems' research shows us that to create a high energy team, you need to get high satisfaction rates on eight strategic issues - questions that team members want answers to, if they are to stretch themselves for the benefit of the team.
With the help of my colleague, Charles Margerison, these eight strategic questions became the basis of much of our work in developing teams:
The high energy teams model
Who are we?
Each person brings different strengths to a team and will approach problems and opportunities in different ways. Team members need to know what makes each person tick, so individual differences can be harnessed to achieve maximum performance. The workplace behaviour of team members can be understood by examining their work values, risk-orientation and work preferences.
Where are we now?
Before planning the future, teams can benefit from looking at current capabilities. Important issues are team balance, whether members are likely to be risk-averse or risk-accepting, and whether conflicting values are likely to arise. Look at key Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats and determine whether the necessary resources are available to deliver the team purpose.
Where are we going?
To work with energy, commitment and enthusiasm, a team needs a vision that is aligned with the organisation's mission, goals and values. It needs to understand its purpose - what makes it different from other teams, what its outputs are and what outcomes they lead to. A Team Purpose Statement can be used as a structure for the team.
How will we get there?
To turn a vision into reality, it is necessary to systematically set objectives, action plans and performance measures. Plan the route from where the team is now to where it needs to be. The team needs to define and work on the critical tasks - those that make the difference between success and failure.
What is expected of us?
People find it difficult to perform if they don't know what they are meant to be doing. In a High-Energy Team, all members fully understand their job description, team role and responsibilities - and, most importantly, what they are accountable for.
What support do we need?
Now the team can focus on what support is required to deliver results. This means doing a training and development needs assessment and establishing ongoing systems of personal and team learning so all members can continuously develop their skills.
How effective are we?
Regularly review team effectiveness. Establish benchmarks for success and implement procedures for learning from mistakes. This regular process prevents complacency from developing.
What recognition do we get?
Most teams won't attain high-energy levels unless there is adequate recognition for the accomplishments of all members - through feedback, remuneration, fringe benefits and promotion.
Before agreeing a development plan with a team, carry out a Team Needs Analysis where all members and sometimes outsiders answer questions designed to identify which strategic issues should be dealt with first.
By discussing the analysis with team members, they can usually identify where they would like to start the development process and as a result, they become committed to
Many HR practitioners lack a strategic perspective when working with teams. Too often, they want to use their own 'pet' approaches more often reflecting their own interests and learning styles rather than the needs of the team. A process such as Strategic Team Development provides an accurate road map for ongoing development of any team and allows members, in consultation with their facilitator, to pinpoint the underlying issues that are preventing the team from functioning optimally.
By collating team members' views on each of the eight strategic issues and comparing them with those of others from outside the team, a clear picture of the source of performance deficits is obtained.
From here, HR consultants can design an intervention in a systemic way, dealing with the source of the problem rather than providing a quick (and usually ineffective) fix to the symptoms.
About the author
Dr Dick McCann is an international researcher and consultant in organisational and team development. He is co-author of the Team Management Systems approach to team development. Email firstname.lastname@example.org or phone (07) 3368-2333 for more information.