How’s the performance of your team? Are there days when you wonder if you’re accomplishing anything together? One of the problems some teams have is the assumption they are a team… when they aren’t. Although the determining factors of whether a team is really a team are many, one measure is the output of the team.If your team’s performance can be summarized by the previous equation, there’s a chance you’re operating as a work group. A work group is a group of individuals working independently. Even if you combine their output at the end of the day/week/month, you still don’t have a real team.
Jon Katzenbach and Doug Smith introduced me to this language about 20 years ago. If you’re interested, I wrote a post last week that explains their Team Performance Curve. The first station on their curve is the Work Group. If that’s where your team finds itself, what do you do next?
1. Decide. Do you really want to be a team? This is no trivial question. To become a real team will require time, energy, discipline, courage and vision.
2. Cast Vision. Begin to help people see a preferred future in which you accomplish more together that you could working independently. Although you may love the idea of working together to improve your performance, not everyone wants to be on a team.
3. Begin the Journey. This includes looking for, or creating, interdependency among your team members. One way to do this is to look for common work the team can rally around. To facilitate this, you’ll probably want to work with the team to establish a common team purpose.
I don’t mean to make any of this sound easy. The decision regarding how you’ll organize to accomplish work is a big deal. Also, don’t be surprised – leadership will be required. Teams don’t drift to high performance.
A word of caution: Starting the team journey is perhaps the easiest part. The real difficulty is staying the course. The temptation to retreat is real and pervasive.
The good news is the path to become a high-performance team is well marked. The reality: it is rarely traveled. Most teams don’t successfully navigate the journey. The road ahead is challenging but passable. The Team Performance Curve can be your map. Check back in the coming weeks, and I’ll share from my experience not only how to survive the trip but how to accelerate your journey to become a high performance team.
After more than 20 years studying the topic of teams, I wrote The Secret of Teams. It is my attempt to bring the team journey to life. Click here to read more.