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 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:
- Clarifying the team goals, and building ownership/commitment to those goals across the team
- Identifying any issues which inhibit the team from reaching their goals, rand emoving the inhibitors
- Putting in place enablers to help the goals be achieved to higher standards
- Using team processes in the correct sequence to help the team climb one rung at a time up the ladder of performance
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.
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).
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..
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.
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.
- A team is a group of people working towards a common goal
- Team building is a process of motivating and enabling the team to achieve that goal
- The stages involved include clarifying the team goals, building ownership, removing inhibitors, introducing enablers and using processes to move up the ladder of performance
- The nature of the team building varies in terms of scale, and what you are trying to achieve:
|Type of team building||Scale||What is changed|
|Individual||1 person||Who is involved in the project, and their individual skills/perceptions|
|Small Team||2-12 people||Orientation around the team goal, and bonding (relationships between people)|
|Team Islands||2 or more teams||Orientation towards higher goals, and bridging (relationships between teams)|
|Organisation||15+ people||Commitment to the corporate mission, and the culture of the organisation|