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  • Writer's pictureBart Berry

The Business Case for Developing Your Work Teams

Helping employees, mangers and departments work better together has numerous benefits. Rather than thinking of team development in the workplace as a special intervention, it should be seen more as helping the company to work to its fullest potential. Teamwork is at its essence - a set of individual behavioral choices that workers make in their own best interest, and for their own satisfaction, security and survival.

Better teamwork is free, and the benefits of more synergy, cooperation, communication and commitment can yield very tangible results - namely profitability, higher performance and increased organizational competitiveness. Tapping into this ‘free resource’ is however, a very artful process that is often mismanaged, badly delivered, not accurately measured or neglected entirely.

Consultants and trainers are often brought in for a quick fix to try and teach something about how to work better, to provide a ‘feel good’ team building experience, or to attempt to resolve long held conflicts and animosities between departments that are causing serious breakdowns in communication, process or production. Often these band-aids are too little too late with no long term remedy.

Stressors from lack of teamwork in an organization are many; insecurity and mistrust, dishonesty, not sharing information or resources, purposeful non-cooperation, lack of planning, and overall poor performance compared to what might be possible. Whether intentional or not, the complexities and interactions of any company with more than 50 employees are bound to cause friction and misunderstandings when human beings work together. That’s why teamwork is one of the most important factors any organization should be paying attention to.

Departmental Teams and Identity. Each department naturally develops their own identity, culture and norms. Natural competition between departments will develop in an ad-hoc fashion if it is not purposely guided. Research show that small units benefit most from teamwork development and can apply positive teamwork approaches for fastest results. The departmental team, often made up of 15 or less individual employees, is ‘where the rubber meets the road’ in terms of the potential benefits of better teamwork.

Organizational Culture of Teamwork. On a macro-scale the entire organization should be careful about what it communicates in relation to teamwork. Clearly stated expectations about departments and divisions working well together should be continually emphasized in top executive statements, corporate communications and symbolism throughout each plant and office.

Breaking Down Walls and Silos. Teamwork is especially important between internal customers in the value chain who perform the core functions and contribute to key processes. Teamwork can be the lubrication that makes all of the parts of the machine run smoothly. Lack of teamwork can cause the ball to be dropped with the customer – where it matters most.

Human-ness, Fun and Environment at Work. When people feel relaxed and secure they perform at a much higher level. Humor and enjoyment at work correlate strongly with employee satisfaction, turnover, and organizational climate issues. Warmth of relationships can affect morale and reduce barriers between individuals that resistance in approaching one another and working well together. It’s always better when workers like to come to work and enjoy those they work with.

Leaders Lead More Effectively. With good teamwork, leaders can share the load more effectively, gradually developing their teams to be more self-directed and self reliant. This also provides developmental opportunities for employees as the team grows and builds respect for leaders. Leaders who lead their teams well are better supported and have stronger credibility in the organization. Leaders with strong teams behind them are more capable of meeting special demands that require extra effort.

Teamwork Measurement. With accurate measurement of teamwork factors, and attitudinal trending over time, teamwork training and other team development initiatives can be finely focused for success as well as identifying downward trends in the team before they become critical. Teamwork measurement should be one of the important gauges on the corporate dashboard. Read More About The Teamwork Survey For Intact Work Groups

Teamwork Skills Yield Greater Productivity. Teams who invest in learning problem solving, group process, continuous improvement and other more sophisticated teamwork skills will out-perform other teams of similar size and make-up. Meetings will be more efficient, goals, directions and tactics will be better understood, key collaborative relationships will be prioritized and teams will have a much more focused direction.

New Organizations, Mergers, New leaders, Change. Time and energy spent on the development of new teams and relationships is a critical factor in merging cultures of different organizations, integrating new managers and leaders, and setting up a new set of norms and behaviors that will lead to high performance. There is no substitute for the integration step between companies in a merger situation or between managers and employees with a leadership change, but it can be handled in an efficient and proactive way with a focus on building better teamwork from the outset. When all parties are clear and comfortable with the new direction, the inefficiencies of change can be minimized.

Investment in Lubricating Virtual or Long Range Relationships. Teamwork should be a major emphasis for any meeting where relationships are maintained virtually or at a distance most of the time. Time spent in building better teamwork and stronger relationships in person when the group is actually together is insurance for the lion’s share of the time when team members cannot meet face to face.

Impact on Customer Satisfaction. One of the area’s most sorely felt when interdepartmental teamwork is poor is the area of customer satisfaction. This might take the form of dramatically different experiences for the customer when dealing with one department vs. another. It might be a lack of follow through from production on a critical commitment made by sales or engineering. It might be the negative customer experience of feeling neglected because no department in the supplier’s company seems to want to take responsibility. We’ve all been there. A strong theme of team work training and development needs to show the direct impact on the external customer- and the potential costs if all departments can’t work well together internally.

Impact on Strategic Alignment. Buy in and support for plans, especially as they become more complex happen easier with good teamwork. When an organization is tasked with multi-dimensional complexity, demanding customers or the need for highly accurate and specific levels of quality it will require much more detailed interactions and cooperation. The importance of great teamwork is more important as tasks get more complex. With good teamwork, employees have a higher willingness to take individual responsibility and share a positive culture of mutual assistance and support to help shoulder the load. The ability to respond to change, achieve greater goals and implement more complex strategies are only possible with inherently strong teams.

Teamwork is a Critical Factor in Employee Self-Actualization. Great teamwork clears the way for initiative which is freely shared, creativity to come on line and extra effort when needed. All employees share the desire for greater feelings of involvement, ownership and participation. Teamwork feeds fundamental human needs for membership and acceptance in a group and frees individuals to express themselves and their talents to the best of their ability. Making full use of each employee’s talents is what they were hired for in the first place.

In summary, a proactive focus on teamwork is an organizational imperative, not just something given lip service or limited attention at the company picnic. When responsibly developed in each department, and organization-wide, teamwork can be the critical factor that assures targets are reached, initiatives are well implemented, and increased competitiveness is achieved.

When high levels of teamwork are in place, a range of measureable factors will all trend positively, from lower employee turnover and stress-related absences to departmental improvements, efficiencies and higher levels of customer satisfaction.

Your company will be a happier place to work too.

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