Teams in Change Programs

Teams in Change Programs

Change program success depends increasingly on people working collaboratively within teams.

Team Types in Change Programs

Six hands interlocking on wrists above green backgroundYou may be using teams in designing and implementing your change initiative. Or your organizational change program may be tasked with setting up teams of one description or another. Which of the following kinds of teams are you currently involved with?

  • management decision-making
  • cross-functional or functional improvement teams
  • autonomous work teams
  • project teams

Whichever team types you are involved with, there are a number of considerations in making sure that your team setup and development activities are successful.

Team Setup

Team size is important. If it is too small, there will not be enough ideas and variety of viewpoints for well-informed and representative decision-making. If it is too large, decision-making becomes laborious and protracted, with a tendency for members to form cliques. The optimal size appears to be somewhere between five and eight members.

Ensure that the team leader is motivated and with a good measure of interpersonal skills. Also make sure that there are enough team members with formal authority and credibility with the rest of the organization. Team members will also need a good dose of interpersonal skills and access to the needed subject matter experts if your change program is to be a success.

Teams are so much more effective than groups of people working on the same task because team members capitalize on each other’s strengths and fill in the gaps for each other’s weaknesses. With that said, have you got the right balance of team roles? The two most popular instruments for balancing teams are the Margerison-McCann Team Management Profile and the Belbin Team-Roles Profile. As an example, Belbin uses nine team roles in three categories.

Action Oriented Roles

  • challenging and dynamic
  • thrives on pressure
  • drive and courage to overcome obstacles
  • disciplined and reliable
  • conservative and efficient
  • turns ideas into practical actions
Completer Finisher
  • painstaking, conscientious and anxious
  • searches out errors and omissions
  • delivers on time

People Oriented Roles

  • mature and confident
  • clarifies goals and promotes decision-making
  • delegates well
  • co-operative and mild
  • perceptive, diplomatic and averts friction
  • listens well and fosters team cohesion
Resource Investigator
  • extroverted, enthusiastic and communicative
  • explores ides, developments and resources
  • develops contacts outside of team

Cerebral Roles

  • creative and imaginative
  • solves difficult problems
  • advances new ideas and strategies
Monitor Evaluator
  • sober and strategic thinker
  • analyzes and evaluates options objectively
  • impartial arbiter in disputes
  • provides valuable knowledge and skills
  • focus on technical issues
  • self-starting and dedicated

The trick is to make sure that all of the team roles in your organizational change program are covered by at least one team member.

Leslie Allan’s comprehensive change management guide and workbook, Managing Change in the Workplace, discusses team profiling in more detail.

Team Development

Some teams get off to a flying start and then get stuck. Other teams seem to never get going. All teams progress through developmental phases — much as we do as individuals. The most widely recognized way of looking at team development was proposed by Dr Bruce Tuckman. Tuckman explained that teams progress through four phases of development as members start with initial uneasiness and a concentration on protecting themselves before moving on to a strong focus on group cohesion and common goals.

Bruce Tuckman Stages of Team Development diagramWhich stage are your teams at? Some teams get stuck in the forming, storming or norming phase, never becoming a “performing” team. Leslie Allan’s guide, Managing Change in the Workplace, lists suggested strategies for teams stuck in each of these stages.

Two activities that you can use to bond your teams are setting “Ground Rules” and asking “Team Questions”.

“Ground Rules” are the set of expectations that team members have of each other whilst operating as a team. It helps to make these explicit in the Norming stage. The team leader can facilitate this by setting up a team meeting where team members discuss and debate for themselves the team rules and come to a consensus of opinion in their own time. Rules can take the following form:

  • I will not interrupt whilst another member is speaking
  • I will be punctual
  • I will be prepared at meetings
  • I will support the team goals and objectives

If at any time the team has lost its way, a facilitated discussion on where the team is at and where it is going often helps set the team back on track. Here again, the team leader sets up a meeting where fundamental “Team Questions” are raised and discussed and a consensus achieved. The list below presents a typical set of such “Team Questions”.

  • Why are we here?
  • What stage are we at?
  • What are our objectives?
  • What is our game plan?
  • What do others expect of us?
  • What resources and skills do we need?
  • What will be our rewards?

Team Success Factors

What makes for a successful team? How can you create high performance teams in your change program? Leslie Allan’s Teams Table™ provides a succinct statement of the five ingredients necessary for team success.

Table 1 – Teams Table™
Targets The team mutually agrees on objectively measurable goals and continuously measures performance against their targets.
Emotional Intelligence Each team member displays self-awareness and emotional self-control, and is able to empathize with and inspire others. Team rules are mutually agreed, with each team member working actively in support of team cohesion.
Authority The team has sufficient authority and influence to command the resources that it needs to achieve its goals and to get things done by others outside of the team.
Motivation Each team member is highly self-motivated towards achieving the common goals. External rewards are set up to further enhance this strong internal drive.
Skills Each team member is competent in the range of personal and interpersonal skills required to build and maintain the team. Technical and professional skill gaps are identified and filled with the required training and coaching.

I encourage team leaders to paste up the Teams Table™ in a place that is visible to team members and to use it as a means of introducing talk about the team inside and outside of team meetings.

Learn more about building and using teams effectively in your change program. Leslie Allan’s down to earth guide on managing change in organizations features a variety of tools, techniques and tips for ensuring that your change initiative delivers on its promises. As you work through the guide, you will complete a series of practical exercises that will help you plan and manage your project for maximum impact.
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