No man is an island. This life is such that we inevitably need other people for one thing or the other. Human beings are social creatures, hence, we are naturally gregarious. From the dawn of time, and in the earliest civilizations, there have been lots of records of human associations based on man’s need to interact and socialize with others.
Due to compartmentalization, certain affinities and preferences, especially due to common goals and interests, people tend to group themselves with other people that are more like them.
Some of these groups can be referred to as teams. A team is defined as a group of people with different skills and different tasks, who work together on a common project, service or goal, with a meshing of functions and mutual support.
Here are four common types of teams- Functional, Cross Functional, Virtual, and Self-directed.
The Functional team is something which is related to a function. For example, you have the design function, advertising function, etc.
On the other side of the spectrum, Cross Functional Team is a team where people from different functions work towards a common goal. This team is used when you’re working on it improvement project which spans over a number of functions.
Virtual Team is a team which don’t have physical/face-to-face interaction. These are people working towards a common goal using the help of technology.
The next type of team is the Self-directed team. The self-directed team comes together on their own. Members are not formally assigned to a particular project. The members of the self-directed team come together on their own with the minimum input from management to solve a particular problem.
In addition to these four team types, there could be many other types of teams; For example, a quality circle is a kind of team where 5-6 people work towards a common goal of improvement.
Team Building/Improvement is an essential part of a team’s activities, no matter the kind of team. In order to build an effective and efficient team, certain traits have to be exhibited by the team. They are-
1. The purpose, the mission and the vision of the team should be known and understood by all team members.
2. Team communication must be open, frank and honest. However, members should show respect when talking to each other and avoid insults, gossips, trolling etc.
3. Leadership of the team must be strong and able to handle member welfare with efficiency.
4. Regular reviews of team performance.
5. The organizational structure of the team must be plain, functional and agreed upon by all members.
6. Adequate resources for the success of the team’s activities must be provided.
7. Teamwork and synergy must be promoted.
Team Building is a step by step process with lots of experience and acquired knowledge along the way. Team members must learn to divide labour well. Positive team spirit has to be promoted at meetings to push members to work better together. This usually takes some time. It won’t all click immediately, there would certainly be some setbacks and challenges that will threaten the stability of the team at different development stages.
The developmental stages of a team include the following-
1. The Forming stage
2. The Storming stage
3. The Norming stage
4. The Performing stage.
The Forming Stage
1. Team members are cautious, timid and guarded. Therefore, there’s little investment into the group.
2. There’s little visible disputes on issues due to lack of identity amongst members.
The Storming Stage
1. Conflicts and disputes occur often at this stage.
2. Cliques are created as members start taking more risks and try to know each other better.
3. Work is not very productive, and there’s a high level of frustration.
The Norming Stage
1. Work becomes enjoyable as progress starts to show.
2. Goals, roles and relationships are being defined and developed.
3. Conflicts are now about issues, not egos or people, as team members are learning to appreciate the peculiarities in people.
4. Communication becomes open and clear, therefore, members begin to feel a sense of belonging to the team.
The Performing Stage
1. Team synergy, morale and productivity is high.
2. Conflict frequently happens, leading to problem solving.
3. Collaborative efforts are spontaneous and free flowing.
4. Differences in personalities are valued.
In order for a team to go through all these stages and be successfully developed (according to its values, goals, mission and vision), there are some team building exercises that must be completed for changes to occur. These exercises can be called Team Development tasks. Without these exercises, team efforts may be wasted. Some of these Team Development tasks include –
1. Defining the team purpose and vision in a clear and concise way.
2. Review team performance using the purpose as a balance.
3. Work ethics, norms and traditions should be discussed regularly to instill fundamental training in members. Define the roles of all the members.
4. Create team plans for new projects. At the same time, assess the current stage of team development and identify roadblocks to improvement.
5. Participate in team skill learning programs to boost knowledge.
6. The team members should engage in challenging and enjoyable experiences occasionally to bolster positive relationships amongst members and team spirit.
In addition to this (leaders take note), there are some things that should never be done because it hinders Team Development. One of them is Over talking, it’s a big no-no in Teamwork. Talking too much, especially with an authoritative tone, drains the spirit of the team and bores members into relaxing on the job. State the facts and get to work! That’s the way to get the job done.
Bragging and power plays should be limited, if not entirely stopped. Team members should be taught that there’s more to the team than the hierarchy of power and authority. Equity is the vocal point here. That’s what being a team player is about. Criticisms should be made in private.
Teams set higher and tougher goals than individuals because of an increase in productivity due to the bringing of more knowledge and skills to the solution of a problem. In order for a team to succeed, communication has to be open, conflicts have to be managed, collective wisdom has to be applied, boundaries have to be set and duly defined, and differences in the personalities and traits of the team members have to be appreciated and valued.
Every team member is valuable, and should be made to feel so. All ideas and opinions should be weighed equally and the team must be open to active negotiation and compromise. Everyone must contribute unless they would be cracks in the wall, and this would eventually lead to the crumbling of the team organizational structure.
In conclusion, successful teams are not built in a day. Maybe not even a year. It’s the people that count. Team members should be selected carefully (All the boxes have to be checked). Bonding and synchronization takes time to effect the changes desired by the team leaders. The parameters of team organization should be flexible, open to change; rigidity may only lead to stagnancy. With constant dedication and persistence, any team can be built to the level where goals and targets can be met with relative ease.
As earlier mentioned, no man is an island. Teams are very essential for the effective and timely completion of projects, goals, and missions. To build the right team, you must build the right people.