1) Absence Of TrustTrust lies at the heart of a functioning, cohesive team. Without it, teamwork is all but impossible. The kind of trust that is characteristic of a great team requires team members to make themselves vulnerable to one another and be confident that their respective vulnerabilities will not be used against them. These vulnerabilities include weaknesses, skill deficiencies, inter- personal shortcomings, mistakes and requests for help. Overcoming Dysfunction No. 1
- Personal Histories Exercise. This low-risk exercise requires nothing more than going around the table during a meeting and having team members answer a short list of questions about themselves.
- Team Effectiveness Exercise. This exercise requires team members to identify the single most important contribution that each of their peers makes to the team, as well as the one area that they must either improve upon or eliminate for the good of the team.
2) Fear Of ConflictTeams that engage in productive conflict know that its only purpose is to produce the best possible solution in the shortest period of time. They discuss and resolve issues more quickly and completely than other teams do, and they emerge from heated debates with no residual feelings or collateral damage, but with an eagerness and readiness to take on the next important issue. Overcoming Dysfunction No. 2
- Mining. Members of teams that tend to avoid conflict must occasionally assume the role of a “miner of conflict” — someone who extracts buried disagreements within the team and sheds light on them. Some teams may want to assign a member of the team to take on this responsibility during a given meeting or discussion.
- Real-Time Permission. In the process of mining for conflict, team members need to coach one another not to retreat from healthy debate. One simple but effective way to do this is to recognize when the people engaged in conflict are becoming uncomfortable with the level of discord, and then interrupt to remind them that what they are doing is necessary.
3) Lack Of CommitmentIn the context of a team, commitment is a function of two things: clarity and buy-in. Great teams make clear and timely decisions and move forward with complete buy-in from every member of the team, even those who voted against the decision. They leave meetings confident that no one on the team is quietly harbouring doubts about whether to support the actions agreed on. Overcoming Dysfunction No. 3
- Deadlines. One of the best tools for ensuring commitment is to use clear deadlines for when decisions will be made and honour those dates with discipline and rigidity.
- Contingency and Worst-Case Scenario Analysis. A team that struggles with commitment can begin overcoming this tendency by briefly discussing contingency plans up front or, better yet, clarifying the worst-case scenario for a decision they are struggling to make.
4) Avoidance Of AccountabilityMembers of great teams improve their relationships by holding one another accountable, thus demonstrating that they respect each other and have high expectations for one another’s performance. High standards of performance on a team is peer pressure. More than any policy or system, there is nothing like the fear of letting down respected teammates to motivate people to improve their performance. Overcoming Dysfunction No. 4
- Publication of Goals and Standards. A good way to make it easier for team members to hold one another accountable is to clarify publicly exactly what the team needs to achieve, who needs to deliver what and how everyone must behave in order to succeed.
- Simple and Regular Progress Reviews. Team members should regularly communicate with one another, either verbally or in writing, about how they feel their teammates are doing against stated objectives and standards.
5) Inattention To ResultsThe ultimate dysfunction of a team is the tendency of members to care about something other than the collective goals of the group. An unrelenting focus on specific objectives and clearly defined outcomes is a requirement for any team that judges itself on performance. The most effective and efficient means of maintaining. Overcoming Dysfunction No. 5
- Public Declaration of Results. Teams that are willing to commit publicly to specific results are more likely to work with a passionate, even desperate desire to achieve those results.
- Results-Based Rewards. An effective way to ensure that team members focus their attention on results is to tie their rewards, especially compensation, to achieving specific outcomes.
ConclusionThe reality remains that teamwork ultimately comes down to practicing a small set of principles over a long period of time. Success is not a matter of mastering subtle, sophisticated theory, but rather of embracing common sense with uncommon levels of discipline and persistence. Ironically, teams succeed because they are exceedingly human. By acknowledging the imperfections of their humanity, members of functional teams overcome the natural tendencies that make trust, conflict, commitment, accountability and a focus on results so elusive.
Harsh Vaniawala, Project Executive August Infotech