“They just don’t seem to have any sense of urgency or initiative, when I’m out of the office they wander around aimlessly” This is probably the most common complaint I hear about teams, there are variations to the wandering including rushing about in a panic but with the same end result.
Just take a quick peek at your team right now; when you look over your PC screen are you looking at a team who manage themselves with lashings of initiative, who develop their own skills and strategies and are brimming over with common sense. If not, don’t worry you’re not alone and help is at hand with Ruth Wageman’s classic model of team design.
Wageman’s 7 key success factors for a self-managing team
1. Clear direction
All the members of your team should have a clear understanding of their purpose in the company and the long-term direction they are moving in. To check, just ask them, ‘What’s our purpose as a team and as a company?’ ‘Why are we doing this?’ ‘What do you think of the way we do things?’
Be prepared for surprising answers.
2. Real team tasks
Teams that recognise that they need each other to succeed at tasks will find ways to co-operate and work together. Managers can encourage this by making it easy for the team to meet regularly to make decisions and draw up strategies to tackle issues.
3. Team rewards
If they need each other to succeed the rewards should reflect this. Use team rewards to help direct how people work together and show everyone what is important.
4. Basic material resources
Don’t ask the team to do a 5-year forecast and give them an abacus to run their figures through. Sometimes finding the time or additional resources your teams needs is the most crucial thing you can do as a manager.
5. Authority to manage their own work
Giving your team real authority to change the way they work is essential if you expect to see teams who show initiative. This can be hard but if you constantly tell and direct staff you will have a team who wait for instruction.
6. Team goals
A high performing team will have goals that stretch them, that they really buy into and that they have to plan to achieve. Make sure that they play a real part in setting those goals.
7. Team norms
Your team needs one more magical ingredient that is tied up with my favourite topic, culture. Is there a team way of doing things that encourages contribution and solves problems and disagreements without needing to be ‘managed’? Norms are accepted ways of getting work done and you can help by rewarding behaviour that contributes to the team’s cohesion rather than saving all the praise for individual superstars.
It does take careful design and a lot of thought to come up with the right plan for your team but seeing your group come together and start to really innovate makes it all worthwhile.
You can find Ruth Wageman’s original work here.