Genuine Contact Summer Academy: Extraordinary Leadership

 

Is team development a worthwhile investment?

Is team development a worthwhile investment? My answer is 'no'. Is having well functioning teams an asset to any enterprise? My answer is an unequivocal 'yes'. Does this seem paradoxical to you? I will explain my perspective based on over thirty years of studying teams and organizations.

In 1965, Bruce Tuckman developed a model for group development that organizations even today assumes to be true. As I write this, you probably recognize the alleged four stages of group development: forming, storming, norming, performing. I have had this quoted to me in a variety of settings especially when there is conflict emerging "oh, we are just in the storming stage of our team development". I am not sure Bruce was ever right in the first place. It was a theory, possibly popularized because it so conveniently explained away conflict and weak to mediocre performance at the different stages. I am amazed at how many team development programs are based on this theory.

Another kernel of wisdom is that whenever a new person joins a group, or a person leaves a group, the grouping of people becomes a 'new' group requiring a new starting point. Does this mean that team development must begin again at forming, storming, norming and performing? Oh my, it does if the theories are correct.

Now, how do we factor in team or group development when change is constant, and change is indeed constant? In fact, you have probably noticed that there is never a time of 'normal' as both internal and external change bombard us all as global communication has become instant and global interactions seem to affect us more now than ever. The concept of teams has changed too, with many organizations understanding the benefit of having their people participate in several teams simultaneously...functional teams, multi-functional 'cross cutting' teams, and project teams are examples.

Taking the time for team development work, especially that based on linear approaches such as the 'form, storm, norm and perform' cannot possibly of sufficient return on investment. And yet, having well functioning teams is an essential organizational capacity to get desired results. Let us shift our consciousness a bit to view teams from a different lens and thus pay attention to team behavior and performance differently. I will offer my perspective. Maybe it will be helpful to you. It may be worth discussing in the various teams you are on.

  1. Put old linear models of team development into the trash bin, let go of these notions, and declare that the old models have served you well in the past but this is now and a new perspective is needed.
  2. Imagine together that operating as a collective, group, team is a natural state of human beings and has been so since the beginning of time. People need each other and need to band together to get things done that are too big for an individual to undertake alone. We instinctively know how to work in teams, so no team development is needed.
  3. Discuss the belief that we offer to you in the Genuine Contact way of working 'every organism has within it the blueprint for its own optimal health'. This belief, applied to teams, is that the blueprint for a healthy team and its performance is already present. The team not only knows instinctively how to be a team, it has its own blueprint to be a really healthy team. Yes, this requires acceptance that the team is a living organism.
  4. The team will respond to a common attractor (purpose or business goal) and will find a way to lead and manage towards agreed upon outcomes and expectations.
  5. People by their nature want their lives to be meaningful and will strive to perform well assuming the environmental conditions are life nurturing and not toxic.

Recommendations

  • To the extent possible, remove toxins and create a life nurturing environment in which the team can rise to its optimal performance. Shift the focus of investment to organizational health and balance (organizational wellness) and let the teams flourish in performance.
  • Create a clear, concise, compelling attractor field. What is the purpose, the business goal for the organization and for the team?
  • Create clear strategies that teams and individuals on teams can align themselves with to find meaning in their work in the accomplishment of a greater outcome.
  • Consider reorienting your organization to accomplishing the triple bottom line, benefitting people, planet, and profit, so that the people involved in the organization can find greater meaning in their work and the expenditure of their life force.

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