Team-Building and Organizational Functioning
Dynamic teams can help your organization operate at an optimal level.
Teams are sophisticated entities; you can’t just put a group of people together, call them a team, and expect them to function well.
Teams require functional processes to succeed. For example, they need to communicate on a regular basis with an efficient team meeting process. They need to have an organizing purpose and be held accountable to that purpose. Generally they need leadership, though an evolved team may have the leadership functions embedded in the team members. Leadership holds the team accountable to healthy functioning and outcome. It also builds a shared sense of commitment and trust by the members to accomplish their goals.
Building a strong and healthy team takes time and usually moves through stages of development. I often describe the process as stages of forming, storming, norming, and performing. Moving through the stages helps the team grow and get to a consistent level of high performance.
Time and again I am surprised at how teams are critical to organization functioning and are not supported to carry out their essential functions. For example, I was called to work on a nursing unit where two teams had been combined to form one a year earlier. It was assumed that the seasoned nurses would blend into a new cohesive whole. In fact, the two groups maintained separate cultures and conflicted on subtle elements of procedure. My work identified barriers to blending, engaged the team in building a new culture, and created new team dynamism. The work led to my efforts with six other nursing teams in the hospital.
Begins with a team leader identifying the need for improved team functioning. I generally meet with the leader first to hear an overview of the problem and discuss some potential ideas for assessment and intervention.
With an agreement to move forward, the next step is often to meet with the individuals on the team, then the entire team together. The steps of the assessment phase depend on the nature of the team and its needs. This part of the process also helps the team itself guide and engage its change path.
The assessment phase leads to an intervention plan tailored to the team and its parent organization. It may take the form of team meetings, individual support, or team/leader discussions.
Case Example: Solving the Team Dynamic
I was asked to provide “training” to a service delivery organization with a staff size of about 40 people. I arranged to meet with the director and three supervisors to assess the needs of the organization. In the initial meeting it was clear that there were problems at multiple levels: between the director and her supervisors, between the three supervisors, and between the supervisors and their teams. The line staff also had a list of problems regarding the splits in the organization, their training needs, the struggles between them and the secretarial pool, and the larger organizational demands of which they were a subgroup.
The contract that evolved was for a “training” day once per month, with the day split in three sections. The morning was for the training needs, in which everyone participated. The early afternoon was for a large team meeting to resolve team concerns and build a cohesive unit. The later afternoon was for the leadership team to meet; to resolve their differences, to get on the same page, and to build a plan for the larger organization.
The training helped build a similar approach among team members. Individuals began to shine as they presented cases and understood more clearly what was expected of them. The supervisors also showed their depth of knowledge and experience. In the afternoon the team moved from “negativity and complaints” to active problem-solving. Interestingly, the first subgroup to move forward was the secretaries. They offered a top ten list of new rules for their treatment in the office.