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Keep Your Workplace Team Tuned Up

Mostly, working groups are not like cars!

But there are some analogies:

  • Both are made up of interdependent parts.

  • The interface between the various components needs to function smoothly.

  • Channels of communication between the parts need to be working optimally.

  • Over time, performance can flag, systems can wear, and problems can creep in.

  • When they’re working well, they get you where you want to go!

  • Both cars and teams can benefit from occasional tune-ups.

With the pressures that teams face in today’s work environment, it’s difficult to take a break from the race and make a pit stop. And yet, when teams don’t take time for tune-ups, they will lose on most performance measures.

What are the characteristics of an effective team?

  • Members of the team share the same mission and goals. These are clearly articulated, regularly reviewed, and supported by all members.

  • The team’s goals take precedence over individual goals.

  • Team members are committed to each other and to achieving the team’s goals.

  • Team members are interdependent, not independent. Each member relies on the others in order to excel. Each member coordinates his or her activities with the others.

  • Team members have different skills, roles, and responsibilities.

  • Team members receive recognition, acknowledgement, and appreciation for their individual contributions.

  • Trust is an essential ingredient. Team members demonstrate and can depend on mutual support.

  • The effective team regularly identifies problems and areas that need improvement and expects to work together to make necessary changes. Effective teams use problems to improve performance, focus on the future, share responsibility. Team members do not blame and finger point or personalize problems.

  • Effective teams have effective and efficient structures and methods of communication, problem solving, and decision making.

  • Team members celebrate their successes together.

For a team to function effectively, each of these elements has to be fostered.

Living systems theory demonstrates that “feedback” is a necessary component of a dynamic and stable system. In today’s workplace, teams function in an especially dynamic context and must deal with ever-changing circumstances. A high-performing team depends on good communication and the ability to monitor, review, and evaluate performance and make corrections to improve.

Waiting for there to be a crisis in a team before addressing team functioning is like waiting until your car breaks down before fixing it. Teams and cars run better and longer with good maintenance.

Team Tune Ups can focus on various functional elements, including: communication; problem solving; conflict resolution; decision making; effective meetings; team identity; team mission ; clarifying objectives and expectations; interdependence and coordination; interaction with other groups; creativity; productivity; and performance evaluation.

When there are problems with a team, you can’t trade it in. Regular tune-ups keep teams on the road in today’s fast-paced work environment.


Tim Hicks

Tim Hicks is a conflict management professional providing mediation, facilitation, training, coaching, and consulting to individuals and organizations. From 2006 to 2014 he led the Master’s degree program in Conflict and Dispute Resolution at the University of Oregon as its first director. He returned to private practice in 2015. Tim is… MORE >

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