Team Building Maneuvers and the Team’s Leadership

Conquering the Challenge of “Change” through Team Building Maneuvers

Nothing is as upsetting to your people as change. Nothing has greater potential to cause failures, loss of production or failing quality. Yet nothing is as important to the survival of your organization as your people and their response to change.

Research tells us that 70 percent of all change initiatives fail (Source: Author Peter Senge, “The Dance of Change,” Doubleday Press, Toronto, Ont. 1999, p. 3-4). Beyond a doubt, the likelihood of your change initiative failing is overwhelming. Since 2004, I’ve studied, facilitated and taught change processes and experience tells me that change efforts fail for one, two, or all of the following three reasons:

1. Failure to properly define the Future Picture and the impact of the change.
All too often, the “change” initiative addresses the symptoms of current challenges and problems rather than the future the organization wants or needs to create. Change is about creating a desired future, not just correcting current problem/symptoms.

2. Failure to properly assess the current situation, in order to determine the scope within the requirements for change.
Organizations perpetually assess the current situation against current measures of performance. However, change is not the same as problem-solving or project management. Rather, managing change is about moving an organization strategically forward to achieve its vision of the future.

3. Failure to effectively manage the transition of moving from the present to the future.
Experience demonstrates that failure to effectively manage the transition/transformation need is the leading cause of failure for strategic change initiatives. The change itself is not the problem. Change is an event; it is situational: deciding to implement a new system, target a new market, acquire or merge two organizational cultures (Source: Author William Bridges, “Managing Transitions: Making the Most of Change,” Addison Wesley, Don Mills Ont., p.3). The problem occurs with what happens within the gap between the present and future, after the “change” and before you get to “there.” The reality of change is that change is about people not structures – people are the reasons for stop gaps in change initiatives!

Failure to successfully execute often comes from seeing the change as solely structural, so once the new system is designed and ready for implementation, the new organization is agreed upon and the doctrine papers are signed to legalize the “deal,” everyone, including the CEO, walks away from what is considered (prematurely) a “done deal.” This is a mistake that goes on all too often like a broken record. History is full of examples of organizations and teams that failed when experiencing changing environments (most of them are now extinct). The secret to successfully managing change, from the perspective of the people within the organization and their teams, is “definition” and “understanding.” To make it clear, I’ll explain them in subsets.

Definition and Understanding for the “WHAT” in Teams

It is important to understand that not everyone who works together or in close proximity is a member of a team. This concept is a misnomer for a lot of people. A clear explanation of a team is a group of individuals who are interdependent with respect to intelligence, information, transferable skill sets, resources, and tools and who seek to combine their efforts to achieve a shared-vision towards a common goal. A team, for instance, is either building or falling apart. An essential aptitude for true team building and the maneuvers they require is leading the team into building on a continuous basis. Team building maneuvers lead a group into higher levels of team spirit, cooperation and interpersonal communication. Building teams is the process of developing on the team-dynamics and interpersonal relationship of the people that come together to make-up the unit. Team spirit either grows or it dies based on the dynamics of the unit.

Teams have specific characteristics that should be addressed:

- Teams must be constructed to achieve a shared-vision for a shared goal.
- Team associates are interdependent regarding some common interests; teams are the instrument of sustained and enduring success in leadership and management.
- Teams use strategic thinking, acting, and influence – associates each possess the authority to manage their own stimulus for change.
- A team is a type of group, but not all groups are teams – team leaders know this to be true.
- Teams are formed to best facilitate learning and peak performance while operating in a socialist environment.
- Team associates are not responsible to “self,” but to their team and its mission; their obligation is to guide the unit to find its voice, while strategically and flawlessly executing.
- Teams learn to navigate positive transition to disseminate authority and power for change – and, they understand when it is a “must” to move into greater levels of performance (the difference between ordinary and extraordinary high performance teams).

The difference between ordinary teams and high performance teams are its people and their abilities to overcome the fear of change. High performance teams place a focus on the people who drive the overall performance within the system: “how do you define a high-performance team?” A high performance team is a group of people who are led by an exception leader, ALL having complementary skills, who understand roles and goals, and who are committed to achieving those goals through a shared-voice, as one unit or body, to demonstrate strategic and flawless execution measures for overcoming changing environments.

This team format learns quickly how-to work together toward mutual goals using their individual skills to support one another regardless of the situation they are engaging or any amount of resistance to change from a fear of the unknown or an expectation of loss or failure.

The “alpha” of the high performance team’s resistance to change is how they perceive the change. The “omega” is how well they are equipped to deal with the change they expect. The team member’s degree of resistance is determined by whether they perceive the change as good or bad, and how they expect the impact of the change to be on the entire unit. Their ultimate acceptance of the change is a function of how much resistance the team member has and the quality of their coping skills and their support system. The job role of the team leader is to address their resistance from both perspectives by helping each member reduce it to a minimal, manageable process level. The success of the response depends on the leader’s ability to lead by example, their level of trust from the members on the team and their ability to persuade the members to overcome their resistance so the unit can move ahead. When the leader is able to communicate a low threat level and/or limited risk, the member’s perception will be one of trust for engaging the objective. Simply, it will all come down to the leader’s relationship with the team; hence, the success of the team not only depends on its members, but also on the leadership they follow.

Definition and Understanding for Accepting “CHANGE” on Teams and Organizations

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Team Building and Development in a Matrix Environment

What is a team?

There are many kinds of teams. A functional team is a permanent team established to conduct operational activities for a particular part of the organization, such as finance, sales, marketing, etc. There is no specified time limit on functional teams as they are needed to keep the business running. A project team is brought together for a discrete period of time to achieve a defined goal. At the end of the project the team is disbanded. Project teams are often matrix in nature, staffed by members taken from diverse functional teams in order to achieve the project goal. When the Project Manager has a high degree of authority this is known as a strong matrix; when Functional Managers have stronger authority this is known as a weak matrix.

In all organizational structures, there are many ‘teams within teams’. For example, if I am the Manager, I might have several teams within my overall team:

- Me and the whole team

- Me and each individual in my management team

- Me and all of my management team

- Me and my peers in other departments

- Each management team individual and their direct reports

This is complicated enough if the structure is a well-defined functional hierarchy. However, a matrix environment for completing projects adds in another layer of complexity. The functional ‘teams within teams’ still exist and each person has a functional ‘home’ team, but now they also belong to a ‘project’ team which has a finite life span.

All of these teams need nurturing if a project is to be successful. In a matrix environment, allegiance to the project is not created by the structure itself, but rather as a result of the relationships that are developed within the project team. Relationships in all teams are important for success, but on matrix teams, particularly weak matrix teams, where the project manager may have little authority, they are especially important. On such teams, relationships are more difficult to establish, are more fragile, and can be more easily destroyed. Keeping a diverse group of people together in a matrix team depends on building loyalty and trust.

Phases of Team Development

In 1965 Bruce Tuckman developed the theory that a team went through certain phases of group development: forming, storming, norming and performing. The phases can be summarized as follows:

- Forming – the team comes together, starts to understand the goals and boundaries, initiates the tasks, but each individual is still working somewhat independently. Managers need to be directive at this stage in order to steer the team toward the goal.

- Storming – ideas and approaches start to be exchanged about how the work can be accomplished, and this can result in conflict. This phase is critical for the growth of the team, and results in individuals learning ways to work together. Managers still need to be directive at this stage, and also accessible to ensure that conflict is resolved and the team is starting to move forward toward the goal.

- Norming – the team starts to feel a sense of achievement, rules of operation (either formal or informal) are working, and trust begins to form. Managers start to be participative, and need to be available to provide guidance as the team continues to grow together.

- Performing – the team is now maturing and often high performing. Work is accomplished, team members know how to work together, and even though conflict takes place it is managed and navigated with skill and can enhance productivity. The team requires very little supervision at this point and can largely make its own decisions.

Tuckman later added a final phase ‘adjourning’ to acknowledge that teams, in particular project teams, typically break up after the objectives of the project are complete.

Team Building Techniques

Team building activities are conducted in order to develop loyalty and trust which are a critical foundation for getting the most effective results from a matrix project team. Team building is not just about creating ‘fun’ events, although that is part of it. It is also not just about understanding team members through personality assessments, although again, that is part of it. The most effective team building involves combining a variety of tools and techniques.

- Kick off meetings – a new project should be initiated with a kick off meeting so that the purpose of the project, roles and responsibilities and how the project fits into the organization’s overall goals can be understood. This technique can be used in all types of teams, but in a matrix project team that has come together with staff from multiple different sources it is especially important as the team has no established context for the project.

- Team agreements – Teams that know how to work together are more likely to be effective and efficient. Establishing agreements can assist in this process. Collaboratively establishing ground rules for how a team will operate will provide the team with clarity and will ease communication over issues such as boundaries, responsibilities, and team member behavior. Functional teams already have this established through the use of departmental policies and procedures. However for newly formed matrix project teams that do not have rules of operation established as part of their formal organization structure, team agreements is a necessary aspect of building an effective team.

- Delivery process definition – Understanding how the work is to be accomplished makes it easier for a team to work together. Functional teams typically have the process for delivering the work established as part of the departmental rules. Given that the nature of each project may be different, matrix project teams typically do not have initial stated rules for delivering the work. For example, if a software development team is unsure which development lifecycle (waterfall, agile, etc) is being followed to achieve the project goal, confusion and a lack of productivity by the team may result. Clearly defining and establishing a process that is understood by all the players in the newly formed matrix team is critical for the success of the project.

- Conflict management- A skillful Manager will understand that conflict happens on any team and will take the initiative to establish a clear process for managing it. This provides clarity to the team in the event that conflict does occur. A newly created matrix project team will find this especially helpful as the team is not used to working together and will need to navigate this as part of the process of maturing as a team. This will also help the team move more quickly through the ‘storming’ phase of group development.

- Personality assessments – An effective way to understand the other members of a newly formed matrix project team is through team building sessions using personality assessments. These can be simple and quick assessments, such as the Personality Profile: The Shapes Test, or more complex assessments which include Strengthsfinder, Myers Briggs Type Indicator, FIRO-B, Kiersey Temperament Sorter, etc. Regardless of the specific assessment conducted, the results can bring a team significant value in determining how team members can be best utilized, how the project manager can best communicate with specific team members to get the best outcomes, and how people like to be managed to make them efficient and productive. For matrix project teams, personality assessments can help shorten the process by which the team matures and learns to work together to get the results needed by the project.

- Team building events – Group events encourage positive team dynamics to develop and mature. In matrix environments, the development of loyalty and trust is critical to the stability and effectiveness of the matrix structure. Engaging people in activities outside the project allows them to get to know each other in a more relaxed setting and is quite effective in building team esprit de corps. In addition, this allows people to find ways to work together in a non-stressful environment that can then be carried back to the workplace. Some options are:

- Social events – participating in a social activity can create a team spirit that encourages people to support each other when they are at work

- Team building ‘games’ – building or creating something outside of the project may engender a camaraderie that can then be carried back to the working day

- End of project celebration – to acknowledge the success of the project meeting the goal

- Executive Coaching – Individual and group coaching can be an effective tool in all types of organizational structures. Executive Coaches can facilitate team development, as well as individual leadership development, by focusing on areas such as collaboration skills, negotiation skills, addressing personal or group blind spots, and improving communication. For matrix project teams, Executive Coaches can assist in team building events, as well as facilitate personality assessments, and help the group understand its own dynamics and assist the team in becoming more effective. Executive Coaches can also help teams and individuals navigate conflict in an emotionally healthy way that allows the team to move quickly through the ‘storming’ phase of a project and onto the next phases, thus becoming more productive more quickly.

- Regular status updates – There are a variety of ways that status can be gathered and communicated. This is a natural activity in a functional team, as members are typically used to an established status reporting routine and may be more clear on their role in that structure. For newly formed matrix project teams it is important that team members feel that they belong to the team, and can see how their progress affects the overall progress toward the goal. Examples:

- Weekly status meetings

The Relevance of Facilitated Team-Building in the 21st Century Business

A corporation’s staff of employees, i.e., corporate team, can sometimes literally make or break its business. The “right” corporate team for an entity cannot be purchased in a store, or at auction via eBay, as an effective corporate team doesn’t simply just happen–its creation is typically both purposeful and highly strategic to the particular entity. Designing the “right”, i.e., effective, corporate team generally requires the assembly of a group of people who are willing to, a) work together, sans individual agendas; and, b) be creative and non-judgmental. After the “right” corporate team has been selected, one of the quickest and most effective ways to foster the quality, seamless, superlative development often required of said team is through tailored, team-building sessions conducted by a trained, experienced, and truly neutral, third-party Facilitator.

Facilitated Team-Building

A team-building Facilitator is essentially skilled in the art and science of group dynamics. Such a Facilitator, in actual team-building exercises, is essentially the process expert in the particular session(s), whilst the corporate team members of the entity client are the content experts in said sessions. E.g., a trained, team-building Facilitator can typically create, employ, and manage exercises designed to foster the effective, cooperative development of new ideas. For instance, if the corporate client’s goal is to develop a new snack food for kids, the typical Facilitator can construct, implement, and manage sessions designed to inspire cooperative, efficient creativity amongst the subject-knowledgeable corporate team members–often through the lens of particularized effective communication and problem-solving techniques–that would ideally produce the new food product for their employer.

A team-building Facilitator essentially, like the combination of a sports organization and a referee, creates the rules, and oversees and corrects the team interactions-inclusive of ensuring that team members are:

a) not harming one another, or, the objective;
b) are playing on the correct field; and,
c) adhering to the requisite time-frames, until the overall objective of the exercise is achieved.

Additionally, a team-building Facilitator assists that “right” corporate team in learning how to creatively use any interpersonal friction toward the common entity goal–essentially merging the varied experiential levels, knowledge, and energies for a common purpose. A few important duties typically conducted by a neutral, facilitative, team-building Professional include the following:

o Gathering Appropriate Background Data:
E.g., Determining,
o What the current opportunity or problem is;
o Who is involved;
o How long the opportunity or problem has been occurring;
o What has been tried before;
o When a solution is needed; and,
o How success will be measured;

o Designing Well:
E.g. Understanding that,
o Good process doesn’t just happen, it is designed; and,
o A dynamic design takes into account desired outcomes, people involved, culture and climate of the organization, and the strengths and weaknesses of available problem-solving processes;

o Setting and Communicating the Agenda and the Big Picture:
E.g., For each meeting,
o Reviewing the situation background both in general and specific, current terms;
o Expressing what is expected to be accomplished at a particular session; and,
o Providing a big picture view of the context, purpose and desired outcome of the entire project;

o Setting and/or Assisting The Generation of Team Rules:

E.g., Employing and managing meeting ground rules, such as,
o The turning off of cell phones and other meeting-intrusive devices;
o Attendance and timeliness;
o A Two-Minute Rule for verbal participation (i.e., if any one person speaks for more than two consecutive minutes, it is likely that s/he is getting off-track and may therefore need to yield the floor);
o Holding one conversation at a time;
o Deferring judgment when generating ideas; and,
o Judging affirmatively when evaluating ideas;

o Supporting The Team in the Management of Group Dynamics:
E.g.,
o Managing conflict;
o Supporting team member honesty and openness;
o Valuing everyone’s opinion; and,
o Being transparent in discussions.

Climate Changes for Optimal Team-Building Collaboration

Facilitated team-building can occur, e.g., at the client’s corporate site. However, often, a climate, i.e., setting/staging change can quickly establish a fresher, more novel tone for team collaboration. In newly formed, as well as established, teams it is often necessary to shake things up a bit in order to avoid habitual, ritualistic performance. Namely, a climate change can provide new perspective amongst team members, toward existing, reoccurring, or currently unimagined, opportunities. Such can be obtained by something as simple as, e.g., sitting in a different chair during the next meeting, or as seemingly complex, as, e.g., meeting in a different location. Atmospheric variation can particularly be achieved by meeting at the offices of a strategic partner. For example, an air ambulance service could consider holding a series of team-building sessions at a local hospital for which it provides services, in order to achieve the desired novel, brain-storming effect of its corporate team.

Typical off-site choices for climate variation have included, e.g., hotel conference rooms, specialized retreat venues, resort areas. More contemporary off-site options for climate variation have included, e.g., rock climbing, adventure treks, sailing, erecting dwellings for the economically challenged, and even meal preparation. When rock climbing/trekking, building a house for the poor, or engineering a new pasta dish, the unknown, e.g., the possibility of encountering a wild animal, experiencing a hammer-smashed thumb, or discovering a strange spice forces the team members to use all of their senses, to be more mentally and physically prepared, and to, a) rely on the strengths, and, b) understand the weaknesses, of themselves and their teammates. Essentially, climate-changed, facilitated team members often quickly learn to merge their own individual points of light–into a blinding bolt of energy that can streak past any competitor.

Virtual Facilitated Team-Building

Optimally, facilitated team-building occurs in face-to-face settings. However, increasingly, employees are finding themselves physically distanced from their counterparts. Electronic team-building facilitation, as conducted via the Internet, can restore higher levels of communication, responsibility, and productivity among, especially, distance-challenged teammates.

Virtual team-building facilitation can be, similar to face-to-face facilitated team-building, targeted toward discreet meetings, continuous projects, and/or strategic planning. Numerous Internet-based tools are available for any need or budget. Some popular search engines, in fact, offer free virtual meeting space. Providers of more complex virtual tools typically charge a fee for their offerings. However, when compared to e.g., the costs of airfare, hotel rooms and incidental expenses required to produce some face-to-face facilitated team-building sessions, virtual facilitation fees are in hindsight, relatively nominal.

The advantages of facilitated, virtual team-building include the practical facilitation of large groups/teams, automatic documentation and updates, uniform use of various tools, file-sharing, and the ability to generate, evaluate, and develop action plans. Input to virtual team projects can be parallel or asynchronous depending upon the collaboration product selected. In addition, anonymity is available if needed. The potential drawbacks to facilitated, virtual team-building are: the requirement of computer literacy, the elimination/reduction of sometimes critical face-to-face social interaction, data overload, and any requisite user fees. Overall, however, facilitated team-building success, whether virtual or face-to-face, is dependent upon quality input and the strategic follow-up of the session participants.

Investment

Facilitated team-building sessions can be designed for almost any budget. One beauty of using a skilled, team-building Facilitator is time efficiency. An experienced team-building Facilitator may be able to reduce