Management Articles


 

Matching Team Types and Focus

By: Jim Clemmer

Jim Clemmer is an international keynote speaker, workshop leader, author, and president of The CLEMMER Group, a North American network of organization, team, and personal improvement consultants based in Kitchener, Ontario, Canada. His other bestsellers include Firing on All Cylinders: The Service/Quality System for High-Powered Corporate Performance, and his most recent book, Growing the Distance: Timeless Principles for Personal, Career, and Family Success. His web site is http://www.clemmer.net/


"If the organization is to perform, it must be organized as a team."
   
— Peter Drucker
Managers' growing understanding of the power of a team-based organization has created an explosion of teams. We’re now seeing a profusion of high-involvement teams, high-performance teams, corrective action teams, service and quality improvement teams, project teams, task forces, steering councils, process management and improvement teams, problem solving teams, cross-functional teams, departmental teams, work teams, regional or branch teams, self-directed and self-managed teams, semi-autonomous teams...to name just a few.


You are viewing the U.S. bookstore. Click here to view the Canadian store.
But many so-called teams aren't. They're groups, committees, task forces, or councils. Managers are often confused by teamwork, "teaminess", or team spirit. Jon Katzenbach and Douglas Smith provide a good definition of a team in their book The Wisdom of Teams. They define a real team as "a small number of people with complimentary skills who are equally committed to a common purpose, goals, and working approach for which they hold themselves mutually accountable" (their emphasis).

The authors then take their team definition a step further to describe a "high-performance team: This a group that meets all the conditions of real teams, and has members who are also deeply committed to one another's personal growth and success. That commitment usually transcends the team. The high-performance team significantly outperforms all other like teams, and outperforms all reasonable expectations given its membership (their emphasis)."

The Whats and Hows of Teams
"When teams work, there's nothing like them for turbo charging productivity. . . forget all the swooning over teams for a moment. Listen carefully and you'll sense a growing unease, a worry that these things are more hassle than their fans let on — that they might even turn around and bite you. . . the most common trouble with teams: Many companies rush out and form the wrong kind for the job."
    — Brian Dumaine, "The Trouble with Teams", Fortune
The dozens of team labels and types can be boiled down to two core types: operational teams that work in the business or process and improvement teams that work on the business or process to increase its capabilities and effectiveness. Effective operational teams are a hybrid of both types. They work in the process or business to meet production or service goals while also working on the process or business to expand its performance potential.

Besides clarifying what a team's purpose and role is, the other important management decision is how it will operate. The team management choices can be plotted on a three-point continuum:

Management commands and controls the work group, with some consultation and involvement (this is not a team).

Management roles and responsibilities (such as scheduling, planning, meeting facilitation, and establishing measures) are shared between team members and the team leader.

The team is autonomous and manages itself.
The third point on the continuum talks to self-managed rather than self-directed teams. That's because teams do need direction from the rest of the organization. That direction usually comes from a manager who's guiding and coordinating their activities or a management team they report to.

Self-directed teams can too easily become self-serving teams. Without clear guidance and direction, their activities can drift away from the organization's overarching Focus and Context (vision, values, and purpose), its customers/partners, as well as its performance and improvement goals (strategic imperatives). That's the path to unproductive busywork and self-destructing teams.

Looking at Katzenbach and Smith's description of real and high-performance teams, only Shared and Self Management fit their definitions. This is consistent with a growing body of research and our own experiences. A team's commitment and performance increases exponentially with the degree of power, control, and ownership they feel they have (in their own — not management's — perceptions of their work).



This chart shows the What-How choices that need to be made with every team. We can use it to plot each team's role or purpose and how it will be managed. It's not unusual for an organization to have a wide variety of teams that could fit within various points on this chart. But a large proportion of teams in a highly effective organization are skewed toward the Self Management end of the How continuum. These organizations also have a good balance of teams focused on working in the business or process as well as on the business or process.

© Copyright 2001 The CLEMMER Group

Books by Jim Clemmer

(You are viewing the U.S. bookstore. Click here to view the Canadian store.)

Other Articles by Jim Clemmer

The author assumes full responsibility for the contents of this article and retains all of its property rights. ManagerWise publishes it here with the permission of the author. ManagerWise assumes no responsibility for the article's contents.

 

Place "+" (without the quotes) in front of words that must appear; "-" to exclude articles with certain words; and put double quotes around phrases. For example, fantastic search will find all case studies with either the word "fantastic" or "search" (or both). On the other hand, +fantastic +search will find only case studies with the words "fantastic" and "search". "fantastic search" will find only case studies that with the phrase "fantastic search". Note: Searches will not find words, such as 'management', that appear in more than half of the articles or words less than five letters long.

 


Would you like us to consider your own articles for publication? Please review our submission and editorial guidelines by clicking here.