Many of us believe that team working is more effective and, in fact, more superior than individuals working on their own. However, research findings, our own and those published in the more general literature, has shown that this idealistic view of teams may not be that accurate. Evidence has demonstrated that there is a mismatch between the ‘perceived value’ of team working and actual team performance. The evidence is not that favourable for team working, in fact, in many cases the gains of working together do not outweigh those that would have been achieved by individuals working on their own.
There is a great deal of work that is required to make a team work and without a good understanding of what is needed to build and maintain an effective team, team performance is unlikely to meet expectations. So what is required to make a team work? There are four areas of focus that should be considered when trying to get the most from a team.
- Understand the inputs
These are the elements that make up effective teams. This includes factors such as the organisational culture (i.e. is it conducive to team work), is there a clear purpose for the team, effective team leadership, the extent of interdependence between colleagues, having the right competencies for a team to work well and considering the values that help to bring people together for a common purpose.
- Develop effective processes for effective team working
This is about systems and practices that help to make team working work! This includes, for example, establishing appropriate forms of communication between team players, ensuring activities are well coordinated, being clear on how decisions are made within the team, ensuring conflict is managed correctly, providing timely and appropriate feedback, building cohesion and engendering a sense of trust between everyone.
- Monitor appropriate outputs to establish effectiveness
It is important to establish exactly what effectiveness means or looks like within your environment. Use a broad range of criteria to help understand the impact and effectiveness of teams. Examples include, productivity, cohesion, confidence, well-being, happiness and level of learning. The key is not to focus on or use redundant criteria like sickness absence as a way of measuring team effectiveness.
- Be prepared to deal with the dark side of teams
Teams need to be managed and challenged in a positive way to get the best from them and to avoid some of the pitfalls which can cause lasting and sometimes irreparable damage to an organisation. Some of the factors to watch out for include, allowing inequity in terms of behaviour and effort to go unchallenged, the team ignoring evidence which might contradict their collective views and decisions, distrust between team members as well as an inappropriate mix of competencies, values and personalities which can cause relationship conflicts.
The SBT training on team work is at the forefront of current thinking about teams. We have a range of resources and tools that can be used to ensure team working in your organisation is effective as it can be.
The SBT team training modules can also be used to help build an effective team based culture within your organisation.
Please contact the SBT team to find out more.