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GO TEAM!TAKE YOUR TEAM TO THE NEXT LEVEL
By Ken Blanchard Alan Randolph Peter Grazier
Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Inc.Copyright © 2007 Alan Randolph, Peter Grazier, and BFP, LP.
All right reserved.
Chapter OneUnderstanding Next Level Teams
a picture of your future
You've no doubt heard about teamwork and its importance in today's workplace. Perhaps your organization has even tried to do more with teams and has preached teamwork.
But most people are much more familiar with the idea of a work group. It's the front line of an organization where the product is made or the service is provided. The idea of work groups is based on a view of work that is rooted in the old notion of an organization with rigid lines of managerial control, authority, and responsibility. In other words, those in leadership positions tend to assume they should make most decisions about the work, and employees tend to assume they should do what they are told by the leaders.
WHY IS A NEW KIND OF TEAM NEEDED TODAY?
In today's rapidly changing business environment, concentrating decision-making authority with a few people no longer gets the kind of results that are needed. Additionally, centralized decision making places an undue burden on those making the decisions and is frustrating to those who cannot act until the decisions are made. Communication in the traditional work system simply moves too slowly. Because decision making is slow, people are inhibited from taking action in a timely and responsible fashion.
With this approach to work, organizations cannot compete successfully, and people throughout the company feel they are not valued. The result is low motivation and low company performance. Moving key decisions closer to the front line makes good business sense. This approach is at the core of teamwork that gets great results. But it means operating in a new world for most people.
WHAT KIND OF TEAM GETS GREAT RESULTS?
To succeed in today's complex and changing business environment, we must learn a new way of working in teams. We must take our teams to the Next Level. This means creating teams that release the power of team members—power that comes from their knowledge, experience, and internal motivation.
For example, a supervisor we know was frustrated by the amount of time he spent performing tasks that, although important from an administrative viewpoint, did not seem to maximize the use of his talents and skills in the organization. He wondered how he might change this. He thought about the valuable time he spent approving small purchases of tools and supplies for his group. Then he considered how he could better use the abilities of his people in performing tasks that did not make the best use of his experience and skills.
One of these tasks was ordering small tools and materials for the team each time a team member came to him with a request. So he taught the team members how to place the orders themselves and began delegating these purchases to the team. He allowed them to submit small orders directly without his approval. Initially, he placed a boundary on the purchases—a cost limit of $100—but he later widened the boundary as the team's (and his) comfort level grew. Team members had the authority to order needed supplies more easily without the delay of the supervisor's approval. His team members felt great. The cost of supplies decreased by 20 percent as people took more care in ordering only those materials that were really needed.
Sounds easy, doesn't it? But, given our history and comfort with traditional work groups, we have a lot to unlearn to take steps like this supervisor did. And, while people may complain about managerial control, they take comfort in not having to take too much responsibility for decisions and outcomes. Yet taking that responsibility is exactly what is required to move teams to new levels of excitement, energy, and performance.
NEXT LEVEL TEAMS AND THE LEADER'S ROLE
Historically, decisions for day-to-day work and overall responsibility for the success of a work group have rested with the leader. This was one of the clear expectations of the leader's role. Leaders became comfortable with this responsibility, in fact, placing high value on this exercise of power.
Additionally, through most of the last century, certain management theories taught that workers would not accept responsibility and, in fact, would abuse time if left unsupervised. As a result, leaders were expected to closely supervise their people and certainly not delegate responsibility for work decisions.
So when we talk about shifting decisions closer to the point of action and putting them in the hands of the team, this contradicts the traditional role of the leader. One of the primary questions of managers, supervisors, and team leaders is, "What will my role be in this new environment? If my team takes on more of the day-to-day work decisions, what will I do?"
In point of fact, delegating daily task decisions actually enhances the role of the leader, as well as the role of the team members. The leader can take on new tasks, particularly those that seem to get sidelined in favor of the more immediate daily decisions. One manager explained her appreciation for Next Level Teams by stating, "Delegating certain day-to-day decisions and tasks to the team has allowed me to concentrate on issues of strategic importance to our department." Too much of her time had been spent fighting fires. Now, with the team's ability to fight the fires, she tackled new tasks with greater potential to add value.
To understand the positive impact a Next Level Team has on its leader, consider what a team leader might be able to do if he or she had an extra two hours in the workday to spend on other activities. Indeed, we have asked this question to many leaders, and some of the responses we hear include
Spend more time planning the work
Look ahead to contemplate new equipment that may be needed
Address some of the issues that impede the team's work
Spend more time coaching and counseling team members
Attend a work-related conference
Interact more with customers
Take a training course and learn new skills
It is important to understand that the shift to a Next Level Team has the additional benefit of freeing up the team leader, supervisor, or manager to focus on how better to serve the team and the organization.
BENEFITS OF NEXT LEVEL TEAMS
We have explored how Next Level Teams could impact your day-to-day actions in the workplace. We have also considered how the roles of leaders and team members change in such an environment. These are significant and powerful changes in how an organization operates. But is this change justified? Is it worth the effort? Does it really get great results? Let's look at two more examples.
PICTURING YOUR WORK GROUP AS A NEXT LEVEL TEAM
You have now begun to understand what a Next Level Team is and why it is so important in today's business climate. Simply put, the world of work has become too complex and dynamic for individuals to go it alone or for traditional work groups, operating with limited authority, to be successful. You and your organization need Next Level Teams that have expanded authority to act, release the creative energies of people, and provide opportunities for your team to add greater value to the organization.
Next Level Teams encourage everyone to feel valued, responsible, and engaged in the work. All participants can take pride in using their knowledge, experience, and motivation to achieve great results that will benefit the team and the organization.
As you prepare for the journey of creating your own Next Level Team, take a moment to think about what we have discussed thus far. You have probably gained some insights into your own team, and perhaps a few questions have popped into your mind. At this point it would be helpful for you to consider your team as it is today and how it compares to a Next Level Team. We encourage you to take a few minutes to discuss the following questions with your team.
MOVING FROM AN IDEA INTO ACTION
While the idea of molding your group into a Next Level Team may be appealing, it is important to recognize that understanding the idea and actually doing it are two different things. Moving your team to the Next Level, while challenging, is certainly doable and worth the effort. Next Level Teams can deal with complexity and change in truly amazing ways. They can also make you feel more engaged and valued at work.
The remainder of this book will take you through the following three steps to get your team to the Next Level:
During this exciting journey, you will learn to use the three key skills of a Next Level Team:
Use information sharing to build high levels of trust and responsibility
Use clear boundaries to create the freedom to act responsibly
Use self-managing skills to make decisions and get great results
Next Level Teamwork replaces self-interest, dependency, and control with partnership, responsibility, and commitment.
This journey will change you and your team members and the way you work together. At times it may be challenging, but with this book as a guide, your journey will be easier. And in a relatively short period of time you will be at the Next Level, wondering why you did not do this before.
Chapter TwoUse Information to Build Responsibility
How do you move your team to the Next Level? The change begins as you learn and apply Next Level skills. This chapter will get your team started as you learn how to use information to build responsibility.
DECISIONS REQUIRE INFORMATION
In any process of change, there has to be a starting point. Let's pretend that you are an architect and have been asked to design a house for a family. You need to know a few things first before you can develop a concept of what the house should look like. But let's also pretend that you have been told you cannot speak with the family about their wants and needs. You must design the house based on your own assumptions.
Puzzled, you proceed to design a house for the "average" family of four, located in a moderate climate. When you finally meet the family, you learn that there are seven children and that the house will be located in a coastal village in Iceland. Needless to say, you are surprised. You are also disappointed because you will need to do the work over again. You did your best but still wasted valuable time and energy, and the house you designed does not work for the family.
Under normal circumstances, you would have asked questions at the beginning of the project, such as,
How large is the family?
How many children are there and what are their ages?
Does an elderly parent or someone else also live with the family?
Where will the house be located and what is the climate like there?
What style of home is wanted?
Does the family have any special needs?
Is the house to be in a town or in the country?
Of course a house would never be designed without first gathering all the relevant information and giving it to the architect. The point of this example is to emphasize the importance of information in making good decisions.
How does this relate to your team and your organization? Let's look at a real-world situation.
Whether we are operating from an executive suite or pushing a broom on the third shift, when we make decisions, we need information. Operating as a Next Level Team steps up the level of information sharing because team members play a larger role in monitoring their own work. People simply need better information to make better decisions. As information is shared freely, more brainpower is enlisted for problem solving and business growth.
As business changes, the nature of work needs to change. Relationships, responsibilities, and information flow between management and the workforce must change to meet the demand for ever-improving performance. The move to Next Level Teams begins with sharing the information necessary for people to carry out their work effectively and efficiently. Information sharing is absolutely essential for solving the problems that plague organizations.
WHAT INFORMATION TO SHARE?
The following story illustrates how team members with information can solve problems that often baffle the experts.
The sharing of information requires us to change our prior beliefs about what people need to know. If team members are being asked to accept more responsibility and accountability for work performance, then they must be given more resources to affect that performance.
Historically, information has been guarded and held closely at various levels of the organization, each level assuming that to share that information would be to compromise it. Information has been regarded as power, and those holding the information have been seen as more powerful.
But as the examples above suggest, power actually increases as more people are included in the organization's thinking processes. The ironworkers increased production once they had a benchmark, and the locker-room attendant devised a solution once he was aware of the problem.
Information sharing in the workplace is simply the process of communication between people who have mutually held goals. In other words, people who are working toward the same result have a need to help each other by pulling together the best information available.
In the past, the communication was between the team and its team leader or supervisor. In a Next Level Team environment, communication widens to include other work teams, managers, and customers.
In the past, information that was shared with frontline employees was generally only that which was necessary to perform the work. Frontline employees were not asked to make decisions and thus did not need as much information. Next Level Teams are called upon to make and implement decisions, so they need more and different kinds of information.
In a Next Level Team environment, this includes having information such as
Production rates and quality statistics, both expected and experienced
Customer feedback, both good and bad
How well competitors are doing
How well the organization is doing financially
Specific problems the organization is having
Feedback on the team's overall performance
The health of the industry
Next Level Team members also receive information that needs to be shared to aid in better decisions, such as
What's working well for the team and what's not
Ideas for improving work processes to enhance productivity
Suggestions for better working conditions that yield better results
Ideas for improving quality
Suggestions for needed training
Whenever we share information with someone, we create an implied agreement of trust. We trust that the person will handle the information responsibly.
Additionally, when we share information—particularly information of a sensitive nature—a powerful message is sent to the recipient. This unspoken message says that we value the person and trust him or her to act responsibly.
Conversely, when we refuse to share sensitive information with someone, we may send the opposite message: that the person cannot be trusted. This severely hampers the working relationship and, ultimately, opportunities for work improvement.
Next Level Teams become powerful because information is shared openly in an atmosphere of trust and respect. Team members know that they are protected by the bond of trust that exists among them, so they feel freer to offer information that may be sensitive but important to the team's success.
THE NEED TO CHANGE OUR BELIEFS ABOUT INFORMATION
The beliefs we have all acquired about work are deeply embedded in our thinking. These beliefs ultimately become strong drivers of our behavior at work. In the traditional system, we learned that information about an organization and its systems was held tightly at its various levels and parceled out on a need-to-know basis.
Excerpted from GO TEAM! by Ken Blanchard Alan Randolph Peter Grazier Copyright © 2007 by Alan Randolph, Peter Grazier, and BFP, LP.. Excerpted by permission of Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Inc.. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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