It Takes a Team

Steven StantonIn every possible way, teams represent a core aspect of process excellence. That’s why we at FCB Partners talk about them so often.

In our Process Redesign class we discuss the critical roles and actions of process improvement project teams. In Implementation and Execution we focus on the necessity of transition teams and how to coordinate them. In our Change Leaders and Catalysts course we emphasize the importance of creating a change coalition team that brings together all the proponents of process change together.

Yes, teams are everywhere, and a wonderful recent article in the New York Times, referred to me by our colleague Brad Power, reinforces this issue.

In the article, the author Charles Duhigg discusses how Google searched for the “secret sauce” of building high-performance teams.

It’s not easy to make a team. Putting a group of people in a room together and assigning them to a project doesn’t make them a team. They’re more likely to act as a mob or a congress. Mobs have no rules, and congresses have representation, but no common goals.

Teams are critical during and after process change.

In the critical work of process improvement, a high-performance team is needed. Neither mobs nor congresses can reduce task fragmentation or feudal behaviors. As we discuss in Process Redesign, what’s needed is a well-staffed, whole-brained team.

By well staffed we mean that team members’ time dedicated to the project has to be a meaningful amount. Dr. Hammer used to say that the best teams have seven members serving full time. But given most organizations’ project-itis, that’s an impossibility, so we now say that teams need to have members with as close to 50% dedicated time as possible. If a team has all its members at 5-10% of their time on a project, that project is at high risk of failure; it’s not anyone’s first (or even second) priority.

And whole-brained means that the team needs the right mix of ‘imagineers’, detail-oriented members, ‘empaths’, and administrators to get their work done well. But even then there’s no guarantee of success.

Even more importantly, teams are increasingly the operating unit of work in future-state designs. If you think about it, an individual’s work is by definition fragmented and leads to hand-off after hand-off. But, real world requirements often need multiple disciplines and perspectives working together to create meaningful results. Which means more operating teams.

But teams don’t happen naturally or spontaneously. As we discuss in all our courses, there are a few key interventions that can accelerate the alchemy of turning a mob into a team.

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