In The Wisdom of Teams Katzenbach and Smith write, ‘Teams are the key to improving performance in all kinds of organisations. Yet leaders consistently overlook opportunities to exploit their potential, confusing them with teamwork, empowerment or participative management’. In this article, Steve Woods explores team alignment, team process and team practice, and the reason why all three are necessary.
by Steve Woods and Michelle Macdonald
In developing this proposition, a good starting point is to distinguish between ‘team building’ activities (such as drumming, rafting, barbeques, fire-walking or abseiling) and ‘team achievement’ issues that focus directly on goals, effectiveness, performance and delivery. For organisations that put achievement before bonding, or believe that bonding and ‘building’ are natural spin-offs of performance excellence, there are three components that must be addressed.
The first component concerns the degree to which team members have a common view of the team’s goals. It addresses team alignment, and requires team members to understand and accept their team’s purpose in relation to the goals of the organisation.
The second component concerns the degree to which team members apply a common approach to achieving theses goals. It addresses team process, and requires team members to impose a disciplined methodology capable of managing their relationships and interpersonal dynamics.
The third component concerns the degree to which team members have an opportunity to see themselves as others see them. This requires that the team be placed in a simulated environment in which its commitment to the first two components can be practiced, evaluated and assessed.
It is not an exaggeration to say that team alignment without team process is meaningless, while team process without team alignment is directionless. And in the absence of team practice, both will be less effective when it comes to a team becoming the key to improving performance. Each of these components is described and explained in the rest of this article.