Leadership hack 022 – teams change over time
High performing teams are very rare and take a huge amount of investment.
As a leader, it is very difficult to understand how your team (or teams) are performing. While you can use metrics and OKRs these are relative (to other teams or to the post) and do not give you an indication of the true potential of your team.
being explicit that teams go through a cycle is helpful. I draw the diagram below on a whiteboard and ask team members to mark where they think we are (you need a strong psychology safety to do this constructively).
(The phase of orientation, testing and dependence) Tuckman says that when people initially come together in groups, their first concern will be to orientate themselves within the team. This is primarily accomplished through testing, which identifies the boundaries for both interpersonal and task behaviours. In an environment where relationships are either non-existent, or at best, distant, individuals are more focused on their own objectives. Consequently, there is a tendency to strive for cordiality as the new team members hold their cards close to their chest while they suss out their colleagues .
(The phase of conflict) The second phase, also known as storming, is characterized by the loss of systematic resolve, the heightening of differences, and the polarization around interpersonal issues, facts, goals, methods, and values. Although fighting in the physical sense is unlikely, conflict may manifest itself in the form of emotional outbursts as team members talk at, rather than talk to, one another.
(The phase of group cohesion) Tuckman says that this phase occurs when resistance is replaced by an in-group feeling, and a sense of cohesion. This is also the time when group standards and processes evolve, and new roles are adopted. Norming essentially marks the birth of the realization of the project manager’s vision for the group.
(The phase of functional role-relatedness) This is the phase where roles become flexible and functional, and group energy is channeled into task completion5. The performing team is now a truly purpose-driven unit where members derive satisfaction from working together to overcome the challenges at hand.
(The calm before the storm) Edison9 calls the informing phase the proverbial mid-point of the group development journey. This is where the organization recognizes the achievements of the project team and gets it to document and inform others about its results, processes and conclusions. Citing a 2002 research by Dr Owen Gadeken, he says that the informing phase is still part of the functional stage of group development as the organization tries to, as part of knowledge management, capture the processes and lessons learned by the project team to enable its replication by other groups.
(The start of the slip) The manifestation of groupthink is really the first clear sign that the team is heading downhill. The desire to conform threatens the team by subverting creativity, originality and innovation, according to Edison. He says about the stage of conformity, ‘members have begun to think alike, and any of the unique yet appropriate ideas… from the team are lost or decreased because the team members are beginning to develop the characteristics of groupthink.’
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