team technology

How to Improve Teamwork

The foundation of good teamwork is having a shared commitment to common objectives. Without this, all other forms of team building will have a limited impact. Therefore, before using any team building exercises and activities, or team building looking at relationships in the team, or embarking on other forms of team building, you need to put this foundation of shared commitment in place by:

Team Building is therefore not just a single event (though events can play a part), nor is it something that can be done by someone outside the team (though outside consultants can help). It is a task primarily for the team manager and the team members themselves.

Four Types of Team Building

Once you have established the basic foundation of shared commitment, the approach you then take to team building depends on the size of the team and the types of issues that may be inhibiting good teamwork.

Better teamwork is achieved through dealing with: individuals, small teams, team islands and the organisation.

Individuals

In a project environment, where team composition is continually changing, the emphasis must be on selecting people who are self-starters and developing the skills in individuals to become effective team members very quickly. The 'scale' involved is 1 person, and the team building consultant or trainer is endeavouring to change the skills and abilities of the individual at operating within a team (or within multiple teams).

Small Teams

In teams where membership is static - typically in management teams - the motivational challenge is to align the drive of the disparate individuals around the same goals. There can be many inhibitors to performance - eg: personality, dynamics, processes etc., and how the individuals within the team relate to each other can have a big bearing on team performance. So, if a member leaves, or another joins, the dynamics of the team can be changed greatly and the task of team building has to start again. Here, the scale is small - say, 2 to about 12 - and the main priorities are to build the foundation of collective ownership of team objectives, and then overcome inhibitors through team bonding, facilitation, processes, etc..

Team Islands

A larger scale operates between teams. Where the teams do not relate well, they are called 'team islands'. The motivational challenge is to overcome the problem of "in/out groups" so that people have positive attitudes towards those in other teams. There are often many barriers between teams that inhibit team performance, but not all of them can be removed. The main task, therefore, is the bridging, or relationship, between the teams.

Large Teams

The largest scale is organisational culture change. With the exception of the senior management team, any changes to personnel have limited impact on the corporate culture. The key aim of company-wide team building is to change the behaviours and attitudes prevalent in the organisation, which are almost independent of who actually works there - new recruits who are 'different' often start behaving in accord with the existing culture.

Summary

Type of team buildingScaleWhat is changed
Individual1 personWho is involved in the project, and their individual skills/perceptions
Small Team2-12 peopleOrientation around the team goal, and bonding (relationships between people)
Team Islands2 or more teamsOrientation towards higher goals, and bridging (relationships between teams)
Organisation15+ peopleCommitment to the corporate mission, and the culture of the organisation

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©2013 Team Technology. Further articles/resources that may be of interest include: Personality Test, Personality Type Descriptions, Myers Briggs overview, The Basics of Team Building, What Career is Right for Me?, and Career ideas.