government, professional practices, and not-for-prof-its are
following sports by forming teams. The question is whether or not
they are effective, or do they have teams for teams' sake? It is not
uncommon to hear from CEOs complaints that they have a lot of team
meetings, but few results. Too many organizations have teams that
are stuck in process. For example, in a division of a large
multinational corporation, their setup reduction team spent six
months trying to decide on the type of hat and jacket they would
have. Another organization spent a year and a half in developing a
vision, and their end result was a statement that was not
cross-functional teams can lead to dramatic results. One
manufacturing company that had steadily declining revenues over a
four-year period was able to dramatically rum around its performance
by implementing an effective cross-functional team in 1993. In the
six years following, the same company more than doubled its revenue
and is currently in the process of building a brand-new,
multimillion-dollar facility. Similar results of effective teams
have been obtained by implementing ISO/QS initiatives in record
time, dramatic inventory reductions, setup reduction times in excess
of 300 percent—and the list goes on.
teams, by definition, are a diagonal slice of an organization with
ideally five to seven members to represent various departments and
levels within the organization. It is key that these team members
participate voluntarily. The announcement of the formation of such a
team must be constructed with considerable care. All employees need
to be made aware of the opportunity to serve on the team, the
expectations regarding participation, frequency of meetings, and
again, most importantly, that the corporation is looking for
volunteers. If more than one person from a designated area within
the company volunteers their name, the names should be drawn in a
random fashion and in a public area, such as a lunchroom or
cafeteria. The reason for this meticulous attention is that most
teams start off on the wrong foot by having at least one if not all
handpicked members who are seen by the rest of the organization as
the company favorites. In these situations, teams have
instantaneous difficulty in developing credibility with the rest of
their peers or subordinates.
How do your teams measure up? We often think of letter grades
because of our indoctrination in the formal education system (ABCDF).
Prepare your own teams for those letters.
there a genuine but simple process in place that demonstrates top
management's personal appreciation for the volunteer's
indicated earlier, it is most important that the first step of the
team be formed through utilizing volunteers. The members must also
understand prior to participating that they have an obligation to
keep the rest of the organization informed regarding their progress
via minutes that reflect topic, desired outcome, ownership,
resources, target date for completion, and percent completed.
C Conflict—In order
for teams to achieve dramatic results, they must work for
constructive conflict. Teams that have not reached this cutting-edge
position are no different than a newlywed couple that has never had
an argument or difference. Conflict in and of itself can be very
destructive, but conflict that is worked to resolution by attacking
the issues rather than the person is absolutely essential for
quantum gains in team performance.
teams need a direction or focus. This is no different than a family
deciding to take a vacation without any destination in mind. It can
quickly wind up overbudget without having ever reached anyone's
unspoken, desired destination.
F Failure—We have
all felt the anxiety of failure in our personal lives, and
unfortunately, failure has gridlocked many teams from trying
something different that can have a dramatic impact on the
business. Henry Ford went bankrupt before founding Ford Motor
Company. Edison wrote in his diary that he spent time on the 999th
way not to invent a light bulb. It is critical for teams to utilize
failure as a tool for progress, not as an ax for repercussion.
Underlying failure is the essential element of attitude. The
organization and its employees or team members see problems or
opportunities by utilizing brainstorming techniques. Individuals
can quickly identify mass quantities of opportunities for
cross-functional teams to sink their teeth into. Once these ideas
are identified, it is important for everyone to use their
imagination as to all of the options for resolving these issues or
taking them to the next level.
process is a creative process that quickly takes a team through
successive steps of divergent and convergent thinking of the facts,
options, actions, and results. The FOAR-step process is the map for
the cross-functional team to truly become change agents. Its
important that teams build excitement or positive energy. The
question is whether the excitement is hype or results.
In order to avoid
the pitfalls of teams, several elements must be in place. Too many
teams spend months and sometimes years providing process tools
without any particular task to work on. Great results can be
achieved in a shorter period of time if teams first are given the
opportunity to work on issues. Then if they achieve a stall point,
they should identify the tools needed to move forward. Today, many
employees have worked in different departments or organizations
before being part of the team. Why reinvent the wheel if the skill
level of the team members is higher than assumed?
are directly proportional to the information that cross-functional
teams have access too. If ownership or leadership feels that it is
imperative for information not to be shared, it is strongly
suggested that they consider confidentiality agreements, signed by
the team members prior to participating on the team. With good,
clear, concise information teams can be empowered to make decisions
with a greater sense of urgency. Team budgets and ability to
purchase to predetermined levels is a true measure of trust.
Budgets also form an essential methodology for measuring a team's
must also be considered by developing baseline data on the targeted
area and measuring the impact of the team's effectiveness by the
ability to show continuous improvement against baseline data. With
all of these components in place, key cross-functional teams can,
in fact, achieve very dramatic results in a short period of time.
If management or
leadership tolerates nonperforming teams, it is sending the wrong
message to the rest of the organization. Why should a production
worker or staff person be motivated to perform their jobs or duties
with safety, quality, or productivity in mind if individuals on
teams are seen as handpicked favorites who get to escape from daily
duties? Business success is directly proportional to the quality of
products, services, and information that responds to a niche market
through TEAMWORK, innovation, and URGENCY!