In the first of his articles on how we can improve our work team's performance, Pitchcare Trainer and Motivational Speaker Frank Newberry outlined the key differences between team building and team working. Before looking at the eight building blocks that need to be in place for a work team to succeed, Frank pauses to ask if we even need to have work teams?
You may like to ask yourself a few fundamental questions about the work your team currently does before you try to improve its performance.
1. How important is teamworking to the work being done?
2. Do we actually need our employees to work as a team?
3. Could our work team, in fact, be just a collection of individuals doing quite different tasks who have been thrown together for administrative convenience?
Is teamworking essential or minimal?
There is a way to assess whether teamworking is essential or minimal. You can analyse the work your people do in teams quite simply. Just a few questions in four straightforward categories:
Category 1: The Task
Are the work outcomes or results we want certain and predictable, or are they uncertain?
If we do not know what the outcomes will be because of (say) the weather, the lack of experience of our people or the unfamiliarity of the task(s) being undertaken - then teamwork is probably essential.
If the work outcomes or results we want are certain and predictable, then the need for real teamworking is minimal and the work can be done by a group of individuals, each of them working on their own, e.g. picking up litter.
Category 2: The Type of Work or the Need to Share
Is the work our people are being asked to do routine and usually programmed? Are there predictable outcomes and a lot of certainty - or is the work not routine and not programmable?
If the people we are asking to do the work do not know the outcomes or do not have the experience to deal with the uncertainty on their own, and it would help them to be able to discuss or share their thoughts with other team members - then teamwork is essential. Whether teamworking is essential will often depend on the experience level of each of your team members.
If the work outcomes are predictable, then the need for teamworking is minimal. But to get round the uncertainly issue, by having the supervisor there to decide for the team, might well be effective in the short term, but it could maintain an unnecessary dependency and not build the confidence of the individual or the effectiveness of the team.
Category 3: Working Relationships
Are the working relationships with the colleagues or contractors we want our people to work alongside polite and unthreatening, or could there be some potential for people to become angry and emotional as the (perhaps difficult) work progresses? If the latter is true, then teamworking is essential.
Depending on the situation, individuals can and do express their feelings strongly if they feel the stakes are high for them at work. Again, having the supervisor there to keep people calm could be really effective in the short term, but it might not build the confidence of the individual or the effectiveness of the team in the long term.
Category 4: Leadership and Working Together
If the work we want done is such that we ask our people in a 'transactional' manner (i.e. the leader or a senior team member says; "do this and report back to me") then the need for teamwork is minimal.
If, however, the work is unfamiliar or complex and we use a 'transformational' approach (where the leader or senior team member asks; "how do you think we should do this?") then the need for teamworking is essential.
If, for convenience, the supervisor continues to reduce complex tasks to simple steps, this could be really effective in the short term, but it might not build the confidence of the individual or the team in the long term.
In the next article, we will start to look at the eight building blocks that need to be in place for a work team to succeed.