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Section 17  Requirements for Success

        Certain requirements will help facilitate the success of the team building process. The first consideration is that teams should begin with a fundamental philosophy. The philosophy should be optimistic about the ability of all staff members. The challenge is for the staff members to respond to the team building effort as an opportunity, rather than a dreaded change.

An awareness of the specific challenges and pitfalls of team building is essential in order for the staff members to act to avoid or diffuse them. This will facilitate a successful start.

              Secondly, the teams will require a change in the management information system of the organization and how things are communicated. As staff members increase their responsibility, accountability and become empowered, they will require a great deal of information and communication in order to make decisions and become successful. In fact, some teams may even demand information and communication systems be adjusted or they will take on the challenge of designing new ones.

             Third, continuous training will be required. Things may get worse before they get better in the team. Therefore, the training requirements for teams cannot be overestimated. Moreover, the training must include interpersonal and social training. Recognizing and rewarding team members, as well as creating incentives, will help keep the morale up and training ongoing.

             Forth, an outside facilitator functioning as a resource, may be extremely helpful. This outside resource need not come from an expensive consultant. For some clinical situations or organizations, an interpersonal facilitator from staff development may be appropriate. The main consideration is that the outside resource be willing to provide an objective viewpoint that will help overcome the bumps and challenges that will rise.

             Finally, there needs to be a lot of patience and more patience! The staff members will definitely be on a learning curve. We typically think of a learning curve in regard to the adoption of new technology, yet the development of new social skills that are inherent in the team building process will also require a learning curve. Many mistakes will be made and the process can be a difficult journey.

              Yet, team building is an investment. If the resources and patience are allocated, there will be rewards and success on the part of all team members. 

Challenges for Successful Implementation 

              A great deal has been written about the benefits, advantages and success that teams share, but there are always a few challenges worth mentioning that also can make them successful if they are aware of them. According to Charles Manz and Henry Sims teams typically face the following challenges when they try for success:  

·        Organizations may expect too much too soon.  

Some organizations may expect easy implementation and immediate results! Managers and organizations that underestimate the effort necessary to launch teams in a successful way are setting up their organizations for failure. 

·        Things often get worse before they get better.  

Like any other innovation, teams undergo a learning curve. In fact, some organizations may suffer a reduction in effectiveness as teams start up and it may take a while simply to regain former levels.

This decrease in productivity may occur as team members learn new behaviors and new responsibilities and especially when they try to find the path for internal organization that works for them. Many staff members have no practical experience with self-management strategies, such as goal setting, self-feedback, and designing their own information system. So, they must learn how to go about these tasks.

Others believe this temporary drop in productivity can be eliminated, or at least reduced, through an appropriate lead time for planning the changeover to teams and intensive training to help team members learn to adjust and succeed with the new system.

Another consideration is that team members may go through a period where they test the system to see if the management truly has moved to a self-management philosophy. An example would be for the team to deliberately make decisions that they know are contrary to management preferences and then wait to see if management steps in and revokes their decision-making authority.

This may be a critical moment on team in any team implementation, because the naysayers will be saying, “I told you so!” and management may begin to feel as if total organizational effectiveness is threatened. 

·        Managers’ sense of power and control is threatened.  

Frequently, many middle managers feel as if they are big losers in a transition to teams. When an organization changes to teams, managers need to be guaranteed that no one will be out of a job because of the team system.  

·        A new perspective on leadership is needed.  

Often, when organizations move to a team concept, they leave untouched the system of managing. An example would be that the team is expected to increase productivity but the mode of leadership and management remains the same.  

·        Team members need expanded technical and behavioral skills.

Added responsibility and expanded autonomy means that both the technical and behavioral skill level of staff members must be expanded. They also need to learn organizational, planning and interpersonal as well as self-directional skills.

For example, they must learn how to set goals, interpret feedback, lead and participate in meetings, resolve conflicts on their own rather than automatically shifting the burden to a manager. 

·        Team implementation takes planning for success to be measured. 

Typically, failure comes because teams are given total responsibility without the necessary technical and social knowledge and skills. Teams need to be trained in the fundamental social processes of learning to lead a meeting, generate creativity and conduct a problem solving session.

·        Teams may be difficult to diffuse throughout the organization.

Often, success with teams at one location does not necessarily mean that teams will be implemented successfully on another unit or in another location. The team concept may threaten managers and be resented by other parts of the organization. 

         [Charles Manz and Henry Sims. Superleadership: Leading Others to Lead Themselves  (New York: John Wiley and Sons, Inc., 1993), 58].