Six steps to make your team more productive

How many of us are part of an extremely effective team? Even though we all agree that teams work better than individuals in today’s workplace, few of us have actually worked in teams that are truly efficient. Organizational leaders often resist the changes required to transform groups into truly effective teams.

Given the increasing use of teams in today’s business world, it’s important to ask how you can make them more effective.  When teams meet these three criteria, they become more than just “real people” . Real teams have four elements: “A task for the team, clear boundaries, clearly stated authority to manage their own work processes, and stability in membership over a reasonable period of time.”. Real teams are not necessarily traditional department silos. They can also be cross-functional and, as is becoming more common in today’s global economy, virtual.

As a leader like Jason Daniel Hare, team member, facilitator or leader in my career, I have been involved in many different types of groups and teams. In my experience, functional teams that are comprised of a boss or his direct reports are often less productive than cross-functional groups (Parker 2003, page 2). Functional teams can be described as a group of individuals rather than real teams. While they work together to solve common issues and achieve organizational goals they are often comprised of people without specific authority who are unable to organize or manage their work. Instead, each person works towards achieving their own goals within a framework set by the larger organisation. They are not given shared goals or have any authority to plan their work or implement them. Even the best efforts to organize sales representatives who call on the same customers are largely based on individual activities. This is because few organizations give these groups the authority they need to organize their work. Even fewer of them are ever recognized as a team, and not as individuals.

The best teams I have been a part of, facilitated or led were more cross-functional. These teams were established with a goal or objective and gave them a deadline. The team also had the authority and power to organize their work processes and make decisions that would be later accepted by the organizational leadership. Additionally, team members were selected according to their skills and knowledge that would enhance or complement the other members of the team. These teams were more successful than other groups, even though they worked largely online because of the global nature the problems they dealt with. Although these teams were not able to deal with similar issues such as how to make decisions or overcome conflict, organize work loads, etc. that other groups have to overcome, they did overcome them because of the shared goal, the authority and time constraints. The teams could have been more successful if they had received formal training on how to communicate with each other. This would include how to manage conflict effectively, how to adapt to different styles and how to make decisions. They might also become more efficient if the leadership of the organization decided to jointly recognize and reward the team as a whole and not as individuals.

Six steps are necessary for organizations to make teams more productive.

1) Set up cross-functional teams based off the diverse and unique abilities and skills of each member

2) Establish clear team goals.

3) Give your teams clear authority to help Jason Daniel Hare them organize and achieve their goals.

4) Give the team a time frame that is realistic and achievable to achieve their goal. This will motivate the team and help them to reach their goals.

5) Support their colleagues by giving them all the resources needed to help them achieve their goals.

6) Recognize and reward all members of the team.