Tools And Techniques To Teamwork

The purpose of this briefing paper is to recommend a combination of tools and techniques to consider in order to improve the productive cooperation of people inside and outside the business. This document can be used as a discussion paper for managers to identify and prioritise issues which need addressing. It should be noted that there are no single prescriptive solutions, but the items below are based on practical best practice identified within other successful organisations. This shows that a combination of success factors are required to achieve the best result. These factors are listed below, with further explanatory guidance.

Internal Goal Alignment

Objectives exist at three main levels: organisation, team and individual. However, the pace of change means that priorities change at all levels very quickly. People often fail to share such changes with all relevant parties. This can mean people pull in different directions, waste energy, and get frustrated. People at all levels in the different departments should be regularly advised of top level changes (eg merging sales and service operations) and be given advice on the impact to their own roles and objectives. Teams should then use this as an opportunity to re-appraise priorities and incentives. Often this may not happen and the benefits of macro-level change may not be supported at micro-level. Such cascade blockages can be prevented by ensuring people on the ground reset directions quickly when new circumstances demand. A simple way to assess how well goals are aligned across functions is to ask managers to write down their understanding of other managers priorities & measures of success. Do they know them? Are the links between them clear? If not it is probable they are not mutually supporting each other.

Cross Functional Projects

The mainstay of organisational growth is dependent on the quality of people and their ability to develop their skills and roles. People’s flexibility is greatly enhanced through learning “on the job”, yet most organisations put people in “job boxes” which can limit their horizons. This especially applies to managers who have developed their careers through expertise in a particular function which may reinforce silo preferences. The creation of cross-functional projects should be sponsored by managers who have experienced secondments into adjacent departments & who therefore have a better understanding of shared (or different) working practices. A week going “back to the floor” in another function will significantly improve a managers understanding & expectations of opportunities & threats to change programmes. It also gives an opportunity to see the result of delegation to those who are deputising for the manager during the secondment.

External Benchmarking

This is the process of sharing best practice for mutual improvement. It is often performed by comparing operating processes with different organisations & industries. It encourages people to disclose their agendas & issues with open transparency, create a common purpose, & work together so all parties gain. It is now common practice for Chief Executives to be recruited from outside a marketplace for their potential to innovate & stimulate change. New systems & ways of working can be more easily imported by creating a “benchmarking forum” to engender teamwork with other non-competing organisations. There are many external facilitators experienced in setting up appropriate guidelines for the participants of such projects, & some have online access to Enterprise Benchmark forums which allows companies to share success measures online.

Supply Chain Awards

Recognition schemes are often ring-fenced around people within their own immediate circle. Such self-imposed boundaries may be seen as self-congratulatory by those who are outside the circle (especially in sales). This can lead to feelings of “them & us”.
Yet success is almost always part of a wider team effort involving back office support. People behind the scenes should be identified by those on the front stage.
Creating awards which can be only be nominated & judged by people in the supply chain outside their department can encourage people to go beyond their own boundaries looking for things that go well. This improves inter-team cooperation & information sharing. It can also be applied with equal effectiveness to customers & suppliers. These can be invited to supply chain award events to network with the “bigger” team.

Family Events

Employee partners are a part of the supply chain too, & can make a substantial contribution to the motivation & work ethic of key people. Rewarding their personal & private support can pay dividends in retention & energy levels. Events can be held outside working hours, & allow people to get to know each other without the baggage of job titles & work issues. What makes people tick is often not what people see or show in the office.

Values On Display

Business has begun to recognise they will attract & keep quality people across all stakeholder groups if their espoused corporate values are reflected in day to day management behaviour. Corporate Values statements are by themselves insufficient, & indeed may be more damaging if there is evidence of managers paying lip-service to those beliefs. Brand value can be diluted as can the reputation of top management when gaps appear between aspired & actual principles at work. The review, definition & communication of work-place values will generate energy & stimulate high levels of teamwork around shared values & beliefs.