Why do you need to have great teams?
To begin with, you have teams already (unless all of your employees work in isolation). In most cases, organizations have at least two of the three main types of teams in place - focus teams and work teams. These teams may not be very effective, or they may not have the cohesiveness you desire and in turn you choose not to call them teams, but they depend on each other to get the work done each day. That is how I decide when I should assign the 'team' label to a group of people - do they depend on each other to get the job done?
Aren't there more than three types of teams?
In my opinion, no. It depends on how you define a team of course, but I base my team definitions on the job design that either allows, or requires, them to work together. I have also learned through experience that any organization needs three types of team to reach optimum effectiveness and effectively pursue process excellence - process / work teams, project teams, and focus teams.
Quality circles, kaizen teams, tiger teams, six sigma teams, improvement teams, and problem solving teams are all examples of project teams - they take time away from their 'regular jobs' to develop and implement improvement projects. Work teams are made up of people that work together for a majority of the day, even though their degree of self direction, or autonomy, can vary. Focus teams are analogous to safety committees, steering committees, recognition teams, and management teams - like project teams, they tend to be cross-functional, but they also endure over time to support the primary goals of the organization.
Why do you need all three types of teams?
Work teams are needed to drive continuous improvement in an organization. Since they do not have much time away from the job to meet, they do not have time to develop projects. They should be identifying projects that need to be implemented, but the lack of time for this type of work limits their ability to do so themselves. That is why project teams are needed - time is needed away from the job to work on projects. A person may be on both a work team and a project team, but that does not have to be the case. Finally, focus teams are needed to maintain a constant focus on those performance areas that are key to the organization, such as safety, cost reduction, waste reduction, recognition, and management.
If there are only three types of teams, why do we have all of these names?
A cynic would say that a lot of these names were created simply to help consulting firms make more money (since quality circles did not work, why don't you try using problem solving teams?). Some team names however help indicate differences in team design or focus within each of the three major groups. Kaizen teams are structured in a manner that allows a project to be developed more quickly (usually days) than the more traditional quality circle could develop one (usually months). The degree to which self direction can be given to a work team tends to result in additional names for this team type. The need for several key performance areas results in a variety of names for focus (or special purpose) teams. The key distinction to keep in mind relates to how one's job is designed to support team involvement.
How do I know if my teams are great?
Each team type has its own set of factors that are used to gauge team effectiveness. In my "Are Your Teams Working? - Keys to Team Effectiveness" workbook, I give you tools that can be used to define and assess team effectiveness for each team type. In general however, team effectiveness is gauged by team output (what management really cares about) and team cohesiveness, with cohesiveness being necessary to help drive high levels of output. Keep in mind however that most teams fail not because of low cohesiveness, but instead because they are not properly supported in the areas of information, recognition, resources, and alignment.
How can you make your teams great?
My goal is to help you use the workbooks, workshops, and articles featured on this site to (1) reduce management system waste, (2) create a sustainable high performance work culture, and (3) get better results without having to spend a lot of money or time. I truly believe that an organization cannot attain such goals without having effective work teams, project teams, and focus teams. I can help you improve your teams in several ways, such as facilitating a training workshop, helping you design an effective team infrastructure, or providing your with tools to help you gauge the effectiveness of your existing teams. Send me an e-mail if you would like to learn more!!
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“The only thing I know is that I do not know it all.” -- Socrates