Does Churn Hurt or Help Team Performance?

In many organizations a lot of work is done through limited life teams. They assemble, complete a project or complex task, and then disband, with individual members going back to their regular job or on to another team's project. But such teams typically change the composition of their members. While several individuals may end up working together on another team, other members join the group. So it starts out as a "new" team, one that, from a human dynamics perspective, is destined to … [Read more...]

The Army’s After Action Review–a Model for Performance Feedback

The US and Canadian armies (among others, I'm sure) are famous for its post-event after action review (AAR). Whether it's a mission,  a tactical maneuver, or just a patrol, the individuals involved meet immediately afterward to debrief on how it went and what they can learn for the next time. This goal is to quickly and consistently capture new learning and give the squad–both as a team and as individuals–instant feedback and a way to improve right away.   The four questions they ask … [Read more...]

Allow Team Members to Find Their Place

Edgar Schein, a titan of the field of organizational development, says in his recent book, Helping, that there are four questions on the minds of new members of any team. While these concerns operate at a subconscious level, nevertheless, any team member must become comfortable with the answers before he or she can relax and start to really contribute to team goals. These personal issues are: What role am I to play in this group? In effect, who am I to be? How much control or influence … [Read more...]

Want to Collaborate? Choose Your Level

We hear so much about collaboration these days. Our work is more complex. The best solutions require input from diverse perspectives. We at Fulcrum Associates have just started working with a fascinating simulation learning event, Friday Night at the ER. In it participants experience the challenge of working in a system where the unit managers must ultimately collaborate in the interest of the whole system. Otherwise, when one unit/part gets the best results for itself, other units–which, … [Read more...]

Teamwork Palette®…a Tool for All (Team) Seasons

In two recent posts I have written about two capacities teams need to become high performance: Remaining aware of their team processes (vs. just tasks) and Interrupting the business of the team meeting in order to conduct "maintenance" on these processes. The problem for most teams is that group process and relations among team members can be difficult to describe, let alone objectively measure. To some managers they can also seem tricky to deal with. But, at the same time, they are … [Read more...]

Trust the Process

Years ago when I was taking courses from University Associates around how to facilitate groups, a wise instructor, Larry Porter, said these three words: trust the process. I have never forgotten them. They have been my anchor at critical times when in a team building session the conversation seems about to get out of hand. This raises the level of anxiety not only within the team but also in the facilitator. The "worst case" fear (and isn't that the one that we always bring to the fore … [Read more...]

Team Process Makes All the Difference

All teams must pay attention to their work:  the task, the goal, the things to be done, the agenda items to be crammed into their meetings, the hurried decisions to be made by the group, the deadlines to be met, and so on. But the most effective teams also monitor how well the members are working together and what the current “climate” is within the team. They quickly notice when the team becomes stuck or bogged down or loses energy and enthusiasm. When this occurs, team members stop working … [Read more...]

Don’t Neglect Team Maintenance

You plan to drive your car from Boston to Denver. It’s a long trip so, before departing, you take your vehicle into your local service center for a tune-up. You have them check your tires and battery, top up the oil and brake fluid and take it for a spin on the highway listening for any rattles that should not be rattling. Then, once on your journey when you stop for gas, even if everything seems fine, you do a quick check on how your vehicle is operating. If you don’t perform these … [Read more...]

Being a Leader is All about the Group

Professor Alex Haslam of the University of Exeter, in a recent presentation put on by the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research, took the following position in answer to the question, "What makes a great leader?" "The traditional models [of leadership] are built around an “I-based” model of identity, where the individual’s personality is so strong that others cleave to the leader out of sheer inspiration and loyalty. The truth is, though, that the most effective leaders draw on a … [Read more...]

Your Group Doesn’t Have to Be a “Team”

One of the best books written on teams and teamwork is The Wisdom of Teams by Jon Katzenbach and Douglas Smith. They make the distinction between a "team" and what they call a "working group." The latter is the most common form in workplaces today: a VP with a group of managers, each in charge of a functional area of the department an accounting manager with a group of employees spread over the various jobs within the department. In most cases, all you need is a working group. These … [Read more...]