Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Team Manifest 2: The Five Dysfunctions of a Team

In a recent post,I announced my plan to share my current study of team-building and collaboration that coincidentally happens to be list centric. Manifest Team 2 is the second in this series that explores the lists of collaboration and teams.

Manifest Team 1 identified the Characteristics of High-Performance Teams by DeJanasz, Dowd, and Schneider.

The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Leadership Fable is a national best seller having appeared on the best seller/best business book lists of the New York Times, Business Week, and the Wall Street Journal. In the book, author, speaker, and consultant Patrick Lencioni spins a fable about a new CEO who takes on the challenge of transforming a dysfunctional executive group into a cohesive, high-performance team. Along the way, the group explores and confronts the pitfalls and dysfunctions that can inhibit teamwork and performance. I found the book compelling and gripping as a good fable can be.

The core instructive content (the list) presented in the book centers around the five dysfunctions that Lencioni presents in the form of a pyramid model.

Absence of Trust

The first of the dysfunctions, absence of trust, stems from teams unwillingness to be vulnerable within the group. Team members who are not genuinely open with one another about their mistakes and weaknesses make it impossible to build a foundation for trust.

Fear of Conflict

This failure to build trust is damaging because it sets a tone for the second dysfunction: fear of conflict. Teams that lack trust are incapable of engaging in unfiltered passionate debate of ideas. Instead, they resort to veiled discussions and guarded comments.

Lack of Commitment

A lack of healthy conflict is a problem because it ensures the third dysfunction of a team: lack of commitment. without having aired their opinions in the course of passionate and open debate, team members rarely, if ever, buy in and commit to decisions, though they may feign agreement during meetings.

Avoidance of Accountability

Because of this lack of real commitment and buy-in, team members develop an avoidance of accountability, the fourth dysfunction. Without committing to a clear plan of action, even the most focused and driven people often hesitate to call their peers on actions and behaviors that seem counterproductive to the good of the team.

Inattention to Results

Failure to hold one another accountable creates an environment where the fifth dysfunction can thrive. Inattention to results occurs when team members put their individual needs (such as ego, career development, or recognition) or even the needs of their divisions above the collective goals of the team.

A List with a Positive Twist

A list that positively states the desired characteristic or behavior would be more compatible with my growing insight into high performance teams and collaboration. Fortunately, Lencioni provides a positive list in his summary of the book.

The members of truly cohesive teams:
Trust one another.
They engage in unfiltered conflict around ideas.
They commit to decisions and plans of action.
They hold one another accountable for delivering against those plans.
They focus on the achievement of collective results.
The list seems pretty simple but we know in practice it is difficult to achieve. It requires new team insights and consideration from every team member. And, of course, it takes a leader to set the stage.

Next Manifest Team: 6 Habits of Highly Effective Teams

Thanks for reading. Please lead quietly.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Manifest Team 1: Characteristics of High Performance Teams

In my last post, I announced my plan to share my current study of team building and collaboration that coincidentally happens to be somewhat list centric. Manifest Team is my title of this series of posts that will summarize these lists. Manifest Team 1 is the first of several such posts.

A team and collaboration list that I encountered a few years ago, continues to influence my thoughts about team building and collaboration. The list comes from the book, Interpersonal Skills in Organizations. Authors De Janasz, Dowd, and Schneider provide research background and a very concise list of the "Characteristics of High-Performance Teams." Here is their list with my comments and summary:

Common purpose and goals: Leaders need to ensure that all team members clearly understand the mission of the team. It's an obvious characteristic and on the surface seems easy when there is a single mission. However, in my work environment, many team members are engaged in multiple projects and clarity and priority becomes challenging in the face of multiple projects.

Clear roles: Team members need to understand their roles and assignments. And it's better when the understanding includes the big picture, task interdependence, and how one members work affects other members.

Communication processes: High performance teams use extensive communication methods. A variety of approaches (in person, phone, email) are used and updates are frequent.

Accepting and supportive leadership: High performance teams have leaders that function more like coaches than managers. These are leaders who look to influence and not control. This is quiet leadership at work.

Small size:
High performance teams range in size from 6 to 10 members.

High levels of technical and interpersonal skills: The members of the team have both people and technical skills. The team is able to apply these skills to areas like problem solving, feedback, and conflict management.

Open relationships and trust: High performance team develop cooperative behaviors, assist each other, are approachable and dependable.

Accountability: The members of the high performance team understand that performance matters and that members share a mutual responsibility for the success of the team. The perfect scenario is when all team members feel accountable to the team rather than accountable to a project or resource manager.

Reward structures: High-performing teams are rewarded for team accomplishments in addition to individual performance. Team success needs to be celebrated.

One characteristic of this list that seems very compatible with Lead Quietly principles is that none of the "Characteristics of High-Performance Teams" cited by HeJanasz, Dowd, and Schneider recognize a dependency on the work of a project or resource manager. A team comprised of quiet leaders, who have a clear mission and roles, communicate well, and are generally accountable to each other and the team can self direct and achieve great success.

Thanks for reading. Please lead quietly.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Team Building and Collaboration - Let's Compare the Lists

I like lists. To me, a good list, for example, a David Letterman-like top ten list of the key elements or points of a topic are all that I need to get started. I often pick out a key point or two and then drill into the details. Kind of like, reading a Wikipedia entry where you might pick up a point or two in the narrative but what you really want is to get an overview of the topic and then drill into the "Further Reading" or "External Links" at the bottom of the entry.

I stated my affinity for lists in an earlier post, For the Love of Learning, you gotta love a good list. I like a good list. Two of my favorites that I refer to for affirmation include:

Rosa Say: Twelve Rules of Self-Leadership

Tom Peters - Change this Manifesto: This I Believe

The power of lists also hit my Google Reader this past week in a post by Tom Davenport on the The Next Big Thing blog on Harvard Business Publishing. Professor Tom Davenport is a coauthor of Competing on Analytics: The New Science of Winning. A good book on the power of analytics and business intelligence as used in winning companies.

Last week he posted Top Ten Reasons for Top Ten Lists where, with a touch of sarcasm and humor, he lists the top ten reasons why we like lists.

My list of reasons might be different (maybe a later post) but I like a concise list that you can interpret as marching orders or a call to action.

Coincidently, my current review of books and literature on collaboration and team-building happens to be list centered.

So over the next few weeks, I plan on sharing these lists as I aim to expand our knowledge of a quiet leader's role in team-building and collaboration. After we have reviewed and commented on the lists, I'd like to aggregate the lists into a single uber list of key leadership elements for collaboration. I haven't compared the lists yet. However, I suspect that we will find some intersecting points as we compare the lists.

Here is my list of list-centered books that I plan to review:

6 Habits of Highly Effective Teams
The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Leadership Fable
The 17 Indisputable Laws of Teamwork

For good measure, I plan to also review a couple of additional lists that I have referenced in the past.

Also, please contribute any other team-centered lists that you have found interesting. As the information consolidates, I use this information to compile a Lead Quietly list high performance characteristics. Your contributions are priceles.

Thanks for reading. Please lead quietly.