Teamwork is an often-touted requirement in position descriptions. Team players, after all, more readily fit into collaborative environments.
It is important for companies to ensure they are operating as efficiently as possible by leveraging the right teams at the right times and empowering individual stakeholders to take the lead at other times, when it makes more sense.
Following are five questions to ask to determine when teams are needed, as well as how to ensure those teams are properly developed and optimally performing.
1. Would a team add value to this project? Particular tasks or projects are more effectively accomplished by individual performers. While creative team brainstorming to develop new products or design new processes has its plusses, it also can complicate the path to the goal. Sometimes, tapping a single individual design contributor to handle a design from start-to-finish is more seamless and efficient; other times, a team makes more sense.
According to Jeffrey Stibel, in Why a Great Individual Is Better Than a Good Team, “… there is clear value in having a marketing person work with a programmer on a project or a biologist working with a chemist on a problem. Proper team building is a powerful thing. But when an activity can be performed sufficiently by one person with adequate skills, doing the activity as a group should be avoided.”
Additionally, Edmond Lau, a Quora Engineer, in the article, “Why and Where Is Teamwork Important?”, discusses the downsides and risks to working alone, and thus, why teamwork is invaluable. “Working alone reduces learning [as there are] fewer people with a shared context to challenge your ideas.”
Additional upsides include increased accountability, project momentum and morale.
The decision to assign a team to a project may best be determined by whether an individual would be less likely to succeed without proper team support.
2. What’s the clear mandate? According to the article, 5 Key Questions to Ask When Coaching Teams, a team’s stakeholders must provide “a clear mandate to deliver an output that only they can deliver together.” These can include strategic, measurable goals as well as more ambiguous, but equally important impacts in relation to corporate culture and values.
Some projects are small, involving a single team with specific expected deliverables; e.g, come up with a tagline for the new company website. Other initiatives are larger and more complex, involving several teams functioning across an enterprise, such as expanding visibility in the marketplace, which might involve engineering, product development, marketing and public relations, sales and more.
Regardless of project scale – whether the mandate is a single goal or a series of successive goals – the overarching impact must ultimately be in every team member’s line of sight.
3. Who are the key members? Appointing the right people with the right capabilities to act on the necessary roles is key in building a productive team. Identify what specific skills are needed to advance the product, process or other initiative forward. Those might include specific skills and experience in technology, accounting or manufacturing process design or more nebulous attributes in communications, influence or analytical thinking. As well, for a project to steam ahead, the members must equally embrace the strategy, cohesively steering the ship toward a common vision.
4. How far away from the goal are we? As a project gets underway, the human factor often intervenes, business disruptions pull key people away for periods of time and/or priorities shift. As such, milestones slip. It is important to take stock from time to time and determine how far away the team is from the goal.
According to Stosh Walsh in Five Questions You Must Ask Your Team, the process of asking “affords opportunity for celebration, building on previous successes, and establishing best practices.” It also stimulates candid discussion, spurs team growth and provides a forum for taking individual responsibility for areas under their control.
5. How are we leveraging learnings? Even the most successful projects leave a wake of learnings. Taking the time to review and make note of what went well while also taking stock of what didn’t go so well is crucial for future team projects.
How to coach your team to develop is a multifaceted process: from determining whether a team is needed in the first place to recruiting targeted talent to achieving goals and learning from the outcome. The process of team development reverberates beyond the projects and initiatives completed and if done well, has a positive, sustainable effect on a company’s growth and success.
One method to ensure you are hiring teamwork-capable employees is to test their skills in the interviewing phase of onboarding. For tips on group interviewing, download Glassdoor’s eBook.
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