Management Articles


Is Your Team Stuck in 'P'?

By: Brian Ward

Brian Ward is a principal in Affinity Consulting. He helps leaders, teams and individuals acquire new knowledge and wisdom through their consulting and educational work. He can be reached at t

Sometimes teams struggle when it comes to taking action. Spending too much time in the 'P' (planning stage) can cause well intentioned efforts to fizzle out. It can happen to the best of teams, even yours. Using an automobile analogy, here are some solutions you might want to try to get your team unstuck and moving smoothly along the Plan-Do-Check-Act (PDCA) highway.

Let's suppose that you were the owner of a high powered racing car, that competes in all the major racing events. You have assembled a team to design, produce, maintain, repair and of course drive the car. But it always seems that the car spends more time in the pit (P) than on the track (D)...and even less time reviewing/improving (C/A) - something is terribly wrong.

Start by asking the following questions...add to them as you see fit:

  1. Do we really have a fully streamlined planning and design process, or do we just constantly spin our wheels while in 'P'
  2. Do we test out our ideas sufficiently before putting them 'on the track' or do we just chance it to lady luck and blame the driver when the car stalls or goes out of control?
  3. Do we have a good team balance or do the 'engineers' outnumber, outrank and outvote the 'drivers'?
  4. Are we using the right gas, or do we constantly run out of energy?
  5. Are we willing to face up to reality and admit that we don't have the right design of car, or high performance processes in place?
  6. Is the leader willing to step in and take control or are they 'wishing' that the team will solve its own problems?
Asking these questions, and others, will direct you to examine a number of elements critical to high performance as a team, such as :
  • Fully understanding the need for a team based PDCA approach
  • Identifying the need for rapid testing of ideas before full implementation
  • The role of the leader in helping the team when they are in trouble
  • The need for a balanced range of team skills...some team members may like analysis and tinkering, while some just want to get in and need both
  • A better understanding of the teams boundaries and limitations
  • The role that technology and high performance processes play in team success
  • The need to pace team activity and avoid burnout
What do the N and R on the dash mean?

N stands for Norms...

Establishing team norms is essential for success. For example, developing team processes for decision making and problem solving, including dealing with emergencies, will help to establish norms around how the team will deal with situations as they arise. Another norm is treating each other with respect, which can be easy when things are going smoothly...but wait till things get a little chaotic!

R stands for Resilience

Not everything is under the control of the team, and it sometimes takes courage and determination to deal with obstacles to team performance. Building individual capacity to handle these tough situations is essential. For example training in conflict management skills will help the team members recognize when conflict has arisen and what actions to take that are appropriate.

Here's hoping that your team can keep its motor running and stay on track...but if it gets stuck in  'P' again, you know what to do!

© Copyright 2003 Affinity Consulting. All rights reserved.

Other Articles by Brian Ward

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.


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