Team Dynamics - Key to Project Success
While poor team
dynamics can occur in any organization, Lean organizations want to avoid
this occurrence at all costs. Why? Poor team dynamics can kill projects
even before they start!
When working with a
team, be it a focus group, Kaizen team, project team, or any type of
group in between, prevention of maladaptive behaviour needs to start
right at the beginning of the first meeting. Set the stage for effective
teamwork with ground rules.
Have the team
brainstorm ground rules and get their agreement on, at a minimum,
start/end times for the meeting, use of a parking lot, side
discussions, cell phones, respect for all ideas, and all opinions
When the ground
rules list is complete, get agreement on the ground rules by asking, "Is
there anyone here who disagrees with these rules?" This is far more
effective than asking "Who agrees with these rules?"
But what happens
if you have agreement on ground rules, but some team members still pose a
problem? Here are some factors that can create a poor team dynamic.
- Weak leadership.
If the team does not have a strong leader (or facilitator), a more
dominant member of the group can divert the group's attention to focus
on the wrong priorities.
- Deference to authority.
Team members that constantly agree with the team leader are not
expressing their own opinions. This can be counterproductive to the
When people desire to "get it over with" or "keep the peace" within the
group, they will not express their views. Instead, they will go along
with the prevailing decision. This may prevent the team from reaching
the right decision.
Disruptive behaviours from team members prevent the flow of information
in the group. If not managed appropriately, disruptive behaviours,
ranging from aggression to clowning around, can severely impact team
- Social loafing. Group members that do not contribute to the discussion, but show up for meetings, are creating a negative team dynamic.
- Fear of judgment.
Team members that do not share their opinions because of a fear of
being judged by their colleagues also create a negative group dynamic.
To help improve
team dynamics and curb maladaptive behaviours, include "balanced
participation" in the ground rules. This should direct those who
are overly exuberant or under-contributing to participate in a manner
that promotes positive team work.
Balancing the Team
balanced teams are productive teams. And productive teams save the
organization both time and money. They also impart a boost to employee
morale and overall job satisfaction.
If your team is not productive, you need to act to develop and maintain your team's high performance. Here are five suggestions.
- Know your team. Understanding individual behaviour styles of team members helps with behaviour intervention.
For instance, if dealing with someone who is naturally "hands on," give
them an opportunity to perform by, perhaps, taking notes or writing on
flip charts during meetings. In contrast, those who prefer a one-on-one
connection will respond positively when praised for their creativity.
- Identify and deal with problems immediately.
If one group member is exhibiting maladaptive behaviour that is
impacting the group's performance, act quickly to challenge and correct
- Roles and responsibilities are understood.
If a team lacks focus or if they do not understand their roles and
responsibilities, poor team dynamics can develop quickly. A team charter
can be effective to define the group's mission and objective including
their roles and responsibilities. While this is highly recommended for
projects, a team charter or a discussion of roles and responsibilities
at the beginning of a meeting with focus groups or other teams is also
- Team building exercises.
Use team exercises to engage people, so that they get to know each
other better. Share personal experiences relevant to the discussion
topics. Human nature being what it is, judgments about others are broken
down when we actually engage with others and learn about our
Open, honest, and frequent communication is central to ensuring
positive outcomes in anything we do. Team dynamics, especially, benefit
from clear communication. If there is a quiet member on your team, try Crawford's Slip Writing Method (similar to "anonymous brainstorming") to draw out ideas from the entire group and promote communication.
remember to recap the end of each and every meeting. Not doing so can
lead to confusion over decisions made and actions to be taken.
In My Humble Opinion (IMHO)
There are teams and there are teams. In organizations that
rely on departmental teams to get the job done, projects are rarely
successful. This is because departmental teams compete for money for
"their" department's project. On the other hand, cross-functional
projects with cross-functional teams have the necessary synergy to break
down barriers between departments to get the job done. Next time your
team is stuck in second gear, look at the composition of your team. If
they're all from the same beige department with the same beige
behavioural styles, infuse some energy and fuel potential for a
successful project by building a cross-functional team. IMHO.
"When the common purpose and mutual dependencies of the members are not obvious to each member, there is no team."
- J.M. Juran
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