Team-building may be the most studied and elusive concept in the management and leadership field…Clearly it remains one of our most valuable practices. And it applies equally to companies and nonprofits, to small groups and large organizations..
#TeamWork, influences nearly all of us in our lives and careers…Think of the many scenarios that involve successful (or failed) team-building : Job-related projects and partnerships…College studies and internships…Volunteer church or school activities…Sports teams and performing arts groups..
As management consultant Patrick Lencioni writes in “The Five Dysfunctions of a Team”, #Team-building “remains the ultimate competitive advantage because it is so powerful and so rare.” If an organization and its people can work toward the same goal, it can whip any competition and rule any market or industry, according to Lencioni…
Teams have been around for centuries, since ancient humans hunted and farmed together. Team-building grew in complexity through the Industrial Age, mass manufacturing and the computer era. Globalization and competition among the United States, Japan and Germany raised team-building to an even higher level, according to Harvey Robbins and Michael Finley, co-authors of “The New Why Teams Don’t Work.”
For certain, all employees can use team-building skills, including the setting of tasks and goals, building trust and community, communicating well and tapping into diverse thinking and backgrounds.
Benefits of collaboration illustrate value of Team-Building:
Why do we rely on Teams so much ? For many reasons, according to Robbins and Finley :
- Teams save money.
- Teams increase productivity.
- Teams improve communications.
- Teams create better-quality goods and services.
- Teams lead to improved processes.
Similarly, the best teams share concrete goals, develop trust, define their roles as team members and engage in clear communication and other team-building practices, say Charlene Solomon and Michael Schell of RW3, an online cultural training firm.
Team-building approach helps multiple industries:
Strong team-building can be found in every field and industry. In healthcare, for instance, hospitals are finding that well-run, interdisciplinary teams of healthcare professionals may reduce costs, improve the treatment of patients, shorten their average hospital stay and even reduce death rates, according to AMNHealthcare.com.
More hospitals — from Long Beach Memorial Hospital in Long Beach, Calif., to Unity Hospital in Rochester, N.Y. — are deploying teams of doctors, nurses, administrators, social workers, pharmacists and case workers who meet throughout the day to share information and assess patients.
At the Cleveland Clinic Center for Multidisciplinary Simulation in Cleveland, Ohio, doctors, nurses and administrative staff train as teams in the clinic’s simulation center. They study and review their performance in simulated medical situations, such as stroke or heart attack patients arriving in the emergency room.
In the nonprofit world, the Children’s Defense Fund in New York City became a leader in child health issues by using cooperation and team-building with government agencies, labor unions, churches, daycare centers and other partners, according to a report by Venture Philanthropy Partners and McKinsey & Company.
The fund quickly achieved its first goal: to increase the percentage of children receiving proper vaccines, as the percentage of vaccinated children in New York City rose from 52 percent in 1995 to 85 percent in 2001. Then the organization and its partners went further, persuading Congress to fund the multibillion-dollar Children’s Health Insurance Program for youth nationwide.
The team- and alliance-building strategies of the Children’s Defense Fund “allowed it to tap into the strengths of existing organizations without threatening them” and also “add value to the whole (child health) sector,” according to the McKinsey & Company report.
Global teams can outperform Local Teams:
In global business, well-run teams based around the world can significantly outperform and collaborate better than local teams, according to a study of 80 software development teams by Boston Consulting Group and business professors.
The study looked at 28 research facilities in the United States, China, Brazil, Denmark, France, Germany and other countries. The researchers found that virtual teams with strong task-related processes — mutual support, work coordination, open communication and full contributions from team members — performed more strongly than local teams.
“Managers have typically viewed dispersion as a liability rather than an opportunity,” the authors of the study point out. “But dispersion can provide substantial benefits if companies can take advantage of the diversity and varied expertise of team members at different locations. … Our research shows that virtual teams can outperform their (local) counterparts when they are set up and managed in the right way.”
What causes setbacks in Teams:
Team-building isn’t easy, of course. Unless it is encouraged and practiced widely by an organization, many employees will work only with their goals in mind, with little interest or incentive in broader teamwork throughout the workplace.
Even well-meaning teams suffer severe setbacks. In their study of 55 teams, London Business School professor Lynda Gratton and Tamara Erickson, president of the Concours Institute, found that collaboration and cooperation decreased when:
- Teams grew larger, especially over 20 members.
- Teams became more virtual and spread among many locations.
- Team members had higher education levels and a greater proportion of experts with specialization.
- Teams had a higher proportion of strangers and a greater diversity of backgrounds and experiences.
In studying successful teams, however, Gratton and Erickson found that team leaders and employees leaped past obstacles by focusing on key factors, such as:
Building and investing in “social relationships throughout the organization” :
At Royal Bank of Scotland, new corporate headquarters near Edinburgh featured an indoor atrium with shops, restaurants, biking and jogging trails, athletic facilities and green space for picnics and barbecues. The goal: to create more open communication, a free flow of ideas and a sense of community among employees.
Training in team-building skills:
It’s not enough to encourage employees to collaborate. They must be trained in the skills of collaboration, from conflict resolution to building personal trust. PricewaterhouseCoopers, for one, trains its employees worldwide in networking, coaching, communicating values, having difficult conversations and other team-building practices.
Using leaders who are task- and relationship-oriented:
The most successful teams have leaders who are skilled at setting tasks and goals, and at building relationships and a climate of trust and goodwill. In performance reviews at Marriott, managers are assessed by their growth in both types of skills.
Moving up to ” Team-Learning “:
After Team-Building 101, some leadership experts recommend Advanced Team-Building in “learning organizations.”
In his classic leadership manual “The Fifth Discipline Fieldbook,” management consultant Peter Senge calls it “team-learning,” which involves high-level dialogue and group dynamics that go beyond simple agreement to create real alignment, or new ways of thinking and working as a powerful and unified whole.
In short, team-building won’t vanish soon…And leaders and employees who use the best team-building techniques are sure to strengthen their teams, colleagues and companies…