SuddenTeams™ Program>
Team Training

Contents


Overview

You have reached the heart of the program, where the work of becoming a high-performance team begins. Each section has a small amount of text someone on the team should read aloud, including this section, unless already read due to instructions in an earlier action box. If something is unclear, stop and discuss as a team what it means to you. When you come to an action box, complete that box’s activity before going on to the next section.

Each box lists a maximum time. The facilitator should use these times to decide how many sections can be completed in a given meeting. However, if the team reaches the maximum time and decides it would like to continue the activity, that is fine. The maximum is not a hard deadline, but rather a suggestion based on the author’s experience with how long each activity takes most teams.

Introductions

In most groups people can work together for many years and still occasionally find out interesting facts they did not know about others’ backgrounds and interests. Knowing each other well as people reduces team member conflicts, both by building personal bonds and providing explanations for behaviors. For example, if you know someone has a child with special needs, that person’s need for more worktime flexibility than the average parent makes sense. Also, if you do not know everyone’s background, you may not be aware of “hidden” skills on the team, or may resent it when someone speaks as if they are an expert on an issue. It will help the teaming effort immensely for each of you to fully understand the history of the others. So even though some or all of you may know each other well, start with detailed introductions.

Action

Go around the room, and in addition to your name, each member should also give:

  • Your job title.
  • A short description of how you spend your work day.
  • How long you have been with the company.
  • How long you have been in your current job.
  • Previous jobs you held in the company, if any.
  • Where you worked or went to school before joining the company.
  • Your hometown.
  • What you like to do when you are not at work—hobbies, family, sports, volunteer work, etc.

Maximum: 5 minutes per member.

Discussion of Team Basics

Go back to the previous section and complete its action boxes before continuing.

Charter and Mission

Background Discussion

At this point, you are going to start putting together two documents the research says will be very important to team success. One is the “Team Charter,” which covers how you will interact as team members and with people outside the team (see a Sample Team Charter from a real team). The other is a “Mission Plan,” which specifies what changes you want to accomplish in your team and how you will accomplish them. Because these documents are related, you will move back and forth between them over time. It is very important to remember that everything you decide on initially can be changed later. So do not get too hung up on the details of one section, or you will never get through the drafts. Even in their final forms, they do not have to be perfect.

Discussion

Note: If the manager is assisting with this training, he or she should have completed the “Administrative Tasks Checklist” after reading the “Manager Guide” page.

  1. Have the manager go over the following for the team:
    • Team purpose.
    • Desired performance goals.
    • Administrative Tasks Checklist.
    • Team parameters (or “boundaries,” what the team should not be doing).
  2. The team should question anything members have concerns about while the manager practices “Active Listening.”
  3. If the team and manager agree on any changes, set an action item to update affected documents.

Maximum: 60 minutes.

Document Repository

All team documents should be stored in one location everyone on the team and the manager can easily access. There are plenty of Web-based tools for this, but if everyone on the team does not have easy access to the Internet, a file drawer may be better. Along with the charter and Mission Plan, this is also where meeting minutes, project plans and any other documents a member might want to look up should be stored. Your team may need folders that only members can see, especially if it is self-directed. That way the team can keep working drafts of documents without worrying about the manager or other outsiders reacting to something that is incomplete or only an idea.

Action

  1. Choose one or more people who will create the Team Charter and/or Mission Plan documents with the team’s decisions.
  2. Decide where team documents are going to be stored or assign an action item for coming up with options.

Maximum: 10 minutes.

The manager (as opposed to the team leader, if any) should not feel obligated to continue past this point unless conducting the training, and should not do so if the team is to be “self-directed.” See “Program Definitions” if you are not sure of the difference between the roles, or whether your team is self-directed.

Meeting Schedule

Decide how often you want to meet. I recommend you meet formally at least two hours per week until you are done with this section and with putting in place initial changes in how you do your daily work. The action boxes have been written with the idea that the team will spend at least an hour each week on the program, so you may want to schedule another hour (at least) for regular team activities.

Some teams add 15-minute “stand-up” meetings early each day. By taking care of daily “fires,” this can make it easier to justify time spent on the training in your full meetings. To prevent these from becoming big time wasters, limit them to just four topics to be addressed by each member:

  • What did you do since the last standup meeting?
  • What do you plan to do before the next standup meeting?
  • What barriers exist to completing your current tasks or action items on time?
  • Who can help the member overcome that barrier?

The critical point from the teamwork research is that regular meetings, so long as they are productive, are seen as positive to team performance by members and stakeholders alike. Because of this, team meetings should be considered mandatory—that is, team members should agree to schedule other events around them if at all possible.

When do you want to meet each week? A set time is necessary. If you do not have anything to discuss, or half the team is missing that day, you do not have to meet. But when that happens, you have this nice protected hole in your schedule to catch up on other things. If you can avoid it, do not meet Mondays, especially mornings, or Fridays, especially afternoons, for obvious reasons.

Action

  1. Decide on an initial meeting frequency.
  2. If your company uses an online calendar tool, use it to choose a day and a time that works best.
  3. If not:
    1. Draw a schedule grid on the board, with the team’s regular work hours listed an hour at a time on the side, and its work days across the top.
    2. Have people say when they already have regularly scheduled events.
    3. Use the remaining “schedule gaps” to set the regular meeting time(s).
    4. If there are no gaps in which everyone is available, ask the unavailable people to try to move the problem events.
    5. Choose a tentative time, and set an action item for the next meeting to confirm the time after everyone has checked their schedules.
    6. At the next meeting, choose a day and time.
  4. Decide if you want to add stand-up meetings.
  5. Set an action item to start a Team Charter document and add that information in a “Meetings” section, along with the meeting rules discussed earlier.

Maximum: 30 minutes (over two meetings if needed).

Team Description

What is this team? In one or two sentences, what job types make up this team and what do or will you do? You are not looking for a mission statement, but a factual description of the team. This is the first step to making sure everyone is working toward the same ends. Your discussion may turn up some differences in how you view the team.

Example: “The ER Publications Team is a self-directed work team comprised of technical editorial, design, and production staff supporting the Environmental Restoration Project.”

Discussion

  1. Create a description.
  2. Set an action item to add a “Team Description” section to the Team Charter with this information.

Maximum: 20 minutes.

Action

Set an action item for all team members to read the next three sections of this page—“Stakeholders,” “Mission,” and “Rules/Values”—before the next meeting.

Stakeholders

The term “stakeholders” is business jargon for everyone affected by a team’s efforts. It points out that the people you provide deliverables to are not the only ones with an interest in how well you function—in other words, you may have more “customers” than you realize. Communicating with everyone affected by your team the way they want you to, and especially getting input from them when making decisions that will affect them, will reduce conflicts with stakeholders. It will also improve your decision-making and customer satisfaction, and thus raise the team’s reputation in the company.

Create a list of stakeholders for the Team Charter, specifying the groups or titles that fit at least the first three categories below:

  • Direct customers—The first people to receive the output of your work, whether in or outside of the company.
  • Indirect customers—People who receive the output of your direct customers. If you keep working down the chain, you should be able to connect any team to the end user. [1],[2]
  • Management—Managers who will be affected if you do not do your jobs well. When naming these, use titles, not names. Start with the team’s manager, and go all the way up the hierarchy to the head of the company.
  • Owners—Those “considered to have rights or obligations of an owner regardless of legal title.”[3] Even if yours is not a private company, it has owners. For a corporation, the owners are the stockholders. For a government, they are the taxpayers. For a charity, you might consider the owners to be the volunteers or the donors or both.
  • Colleagues—Organizations in the company that are not “customers” as defined above, but still depend on your organization to do well. For example, if a team is the first line of support for customers calling for help, a smaller second-line group would be overwhelmed if the first team could not solve most customer problems.
  • Society—Good performance on your part should do good in your community in some way, such as:
    • Helping to provide goods or services people want.
    • Helping the company stay healthy so it can provide jobs and tax revenues.
    • Providing the company with profits from which it can give to charity.
  • Yourselves—Obviously each of you has a stake in how well the team does, so you have a responsibility to yourselves as well. By succeeding as a team, although there are no guarantees, you are likely to:
    • Improve the opinions other divisions and managers have of your operation.
    • Reduce your stress because you are getting along with each other better and your jobs become easier.
    • Be healthier and have more fun at work because of the lower stress.
    • Earn more money, to the degree team success improves your performance evaluations (written or not).
    • Become more valuable to the company—and other potential employers—because of your improved teamwork skills.
  • Family and friends—If you become happier at work and get more work done in fewer hours, this might help your relationships with your family members and friends. So they, too, have a stake in your success.

Action

  1. Write the stakeholder types on the board.
  2. Name each of your stakeholders (using team names, group names or titles).
  3. Set an action item to add a “Stakeholders” section to the charter with this information.

Maximum: 30 minutes.

Mission

Overview

Note: If your team is a non-Agile project team (expected to last less than three years and produce a specific deliverable), you can skip this section. The project goal is the team’s mission.

A lot of people are cynical about mission statements. That may be because a lot of companies come up with lofty statements that are not very specific, or the companies never do anything to back those statements up. A survey of 1,300 workers across the United States found that 48% only “sometimes” or “rarely” used mission statements to guide their actions. Reflecting this cynicism, the president of a multibillion-dollar construction company said: “When I was told we needed a mission statement, I thought it was just a lot of MBA jargon. But it’s been a powerful tool to get our people working and moving in the same direction.”[4] One major study found that companies adhering to mission statements over the years “outperformed the general stock market by a factor of 12 since 1925.”[5] And the employee survey mentioned above found that 60% of employees who wanted to stay with their employers used mission statements to guide their actions, versus only 30% of those thinking of leaving their employers.

There are very practical reasons for a team to have its own mission statement. A statement can:

  • Prevent overlaps of effort between your team and others in the company.
  • Ensure that your work is in line with the company’s goals.
  • Remind you why your team exists, building a stronger sense of purpose.
  • Make your job feel more worthwhile.

In this program, the team will eventually create a “Mission Plan,” basically a project plan for attaining the mission statement. The mission is the only item that should appear on both the Team Charter and the Mission Plan, thus tying them together.

There are different kinds of mission statements. One kind is a grand statement of your core reason for existence, something always there regardless of what your goals are, such as:

  • Volkswagen—“To provide an economic means of private transportation.”
  • International Minerals and Chemical Corporation—“To increase agricultural productivity to feed the world’s hungry.”
  • Merck (a drug company)—“To preserve and improve human life.”
  • Wal-Mart—“To give ordinary folk the chance to buy the same things as rich people.”
  • Walt Disney—“To make people happy.”
  • Nike—“To experience the emotion of competition, winning, and crushing competitors.”

Or, a mission can be a statement of what you want to become—a single major goal for ten or more years down the road. Here are some examples:

  • Boeing, the aircraft manufacturer, in 1950—“Become the dominant player in commercial aircraft and bring the world into the jet age.”
  • Stanford University in the 1940s—“Become the Harvard of the West.”
  • Nike in the 1960s—“Crush Adidas!”

Some people would call the first kind of statement a mission and this second type a “vision.” It does not really matter which type you choose, and in time you may want to have both. Whichever type you choose, the keys to these statements are that they are relatively specific, and most importantly, they are interesting. If you worked for Disney, when you got out of bed in the morning it was not only to earn a paycheck—it was to “make people happy.” So as you work on a mission statement, go for something big—what a couple of researchers[6] called a “Big, Hairy, Audacious Goal.”

Guidelines

  • Stay aligned—Keep the missions of your company and division(s) in mind as you create the team’s mission. If they do not fit, the company will not be as likely to provide the resources you need from it over time.
  • Balance the bar—Most teams make one of two big mistakes when setting their mission and related goals: They set them too high, guaranteeing failure; or they set them too low, guaranteeing success. The latter does not sound too bad, but the problem is, low goals are boring. If you know you can jump over a six-inch bar, and that is all you need to jump to win, how excited will you get about winning? What you want is a mission you can achieve, but might not.
  • Remember the stakeholders—If your mission does not mesh with your stakeholders’ interests, you are unlikely to succeed. Sometimes it seems like those interests are at polar opposites, but if that were really the case, your company would cease to exist. Do not try to please everybody perfectly, but make sure your mission will not turn any of your stakeholders against you.
  • Boundaries—Another reason teams fail to achieve missions and their supporting goals is the failure to account for barriers they cannot change. Keep in mind:
    • Guidance from your manager.
    • Responsibilities that cannot be taken on or passed off by the team, at least in the short term.
    • Resource limitations that may require time to overcome, such as budgeted costs, skills the team lacks, capital equipment needed, etc. Setting a mission that would require added resources in time is fine, but it should be one you can make progress on until that time.
  • Simplicity—Keep your mission statement as short as possible, and definitely to a single sentence. Every time you add an “and,” you double the chance of failure. Maybe you can “Change the way people think about toilets,” and maybe you can “Eliminate tile scum forever,” but the odds of doing both may send your mission down the drain.

Action

  1. Write the company’s mission and any division missions on the board.
  2. Review the stakeholder’s list and ask whether the team should get input from any of them. If so, set an action item for getting that input, and defer this topic to the next meeting. It is okay to go to the next section without having the mission written.
  3. Create a draft mission statement.
    Suggestion: Ask yourselves, “What do you want to achieve? In other words, why does this team exist?”
  4. Using a technique from the “Problem-Solving” and/or “Decision-Making” topics in the “Troubleshooting” chapter, complete your mission statement.
  5. Set an action item to add a “Mission” section to the charter with this information.

Maximum: 30 minutes initially, then 15 minutes per meeting until done. Once you have some agreement and are just working on wording, move on in the training while you continue with Step 4.

Rules/Values

Like missions, lists of values or team rules are viewed with a lot of skepticism, for many of the same reasons. But, again, the fact that they have been misused or ignored by others is no reason to dismiss their importance. Every formal grouping of humans develops a set of rules for dealing with each other, some written, some not. Governments have laws and regulations; civic and religious groups have bylaws; and kids regularly declare to their playmates, “You can’t do that!”—referring to some rule that may or may not have been spoken out loud. Phil Jackson, who has coached two professional basketball teams to national championships, had a startling quote on the role of a value: “More than anything else, what allowed the Bulls to sustain a high level of excellence,” he wrote, “was the players’ compassion for each other.”[7]

Values or behavior rules, like the mission statement, should be specific and practical. As two teamwork researchers[8] put it, the values must clarify what members “expect and want from one another, what they prefer” in how they work with each other.

Of course, this list can and should be changed as the team develops. If at some point any one of you feels a value and/or its behaviors are not working, bring it up. If you want to add one, bring it up. If a new member joins the team, ask him or her if there is a behavior important to that member, and find a way to incorporate it into the list. Obviously, you do not want to turn the list into a 200-page legal document, but make sure the values are working for you, not the other way around. The one overriding rule is this: If you do not agree with a value, do not simply violate it. Raise the issue with the team.

There are two ways to go about creating a set of behaviors the team agrees to follow. You can either start with a list of behaviors that you then group by values, or with a list of values for which you identify behaviors. Read through the next two procedures and decide which one you prefer. Though each can arrive at the same output, one may be a better fit for your team’s personality. Later you will create a team procedure for using these values to address team member disagreements.

Action

Decide as a team which of the following procedures to use and then perform that procedure.

Code of Conduct Procedure

  1. Write on the board the team’s list of answers to this question: “Thinking back over your whole work life, what kinds of things do co-workers do that drive you crazy?”
  2. Delete, combine, and revise the items to a list of no more than ten behaviors.
  3. Reword these into rules.
    Example: If the item was, “People interrupting each other instead of listening,” your rule might be, “Wait until someone finishes their point to speak.”
  4. (Optional) Group and label these according to values.
    Example: The rule in the previous example might fall under “Respect.”
  5. Set an action item to add a “Code of Conduct” section to the charter.

Maximum: 60 minutes initially, then 15 minutes per meeting until done.

Value List Procedure

  1. For two minutes, have everyone write down values important to them at work, such as “Honesty” or “Respect.”
  2. Go around the room and have each person contribute one item at a time, with the facilitator listing them on the board, until everyone has listed all of their items.
  3. Ask the person who contributed the first value to describe a specific behavior that illustrates that value.
    Example: For “Friendliness” they might say, “Speak politely,” or, “Keep your sense of humor.”
  4. Allow other members to suggest behaviors for that value.
  5. Repeat the previous two steps for all of the other values.
  6. Delete, combine, and revise the items to a list of no more than ten behaviors grouped by values.
  7. Set an action item to add a “Values” section to the charter with this information.

Maximum: 60 minutes initially, then 15 minutes per meeting until done.

Action

Set an action item for all team members to read the next section, “Roles,” before the next meeting (stopping at the “Procedures” section).

Roles

Overview

Sometimes team conflicts erupt over, “Who is supposed to do what?” Often that question is really, “Who is supposed to tell whom to do what?” Despite what the official organization charts say, lines of authority become blurred based on factors like seniority and expertise. Clarifying the official job roles of each team member pays major dividends by eliminating time losses caused by people duplicating effort, confusion over who is responsible for a function, and the conflicts that arise from both.

By definition, an empowered team takes on some functions required to operate the team that a team leader or manager formerly performed. Though this may seem like an extra burden at first, in time this transfer of responsibility will help your team by giving you more control over your daily lives and letting you adapt each function so it best serves your collective needs. Part of that process is defining the roles and how you wish to handle them as a group.

In the next two sections, you will create a Role List describing job-related and team-related functions.

Work Roles

To clarify “who does what,” include your work roles and their primary tasks in your charter. For an example, see the “Sample Team Charter” under “Forms and Samples” at the back of the site. In it, the team defined the two job roles of its members: Editor and Compositor. In the course of creating this charter, the editors learned they were causing extra work for the compositors by placing graphics in the documents in incorrect ways. The compositors had to remove the graphics, fix related formatting issues, and re-insert the graphics. To eliminate the inefficiency, the team agreed to add this line under the Compositor role: “Inserts figures, photographs, and tables.” The related problems ceased immediately.

As you can see, their charter also made clear that members shared the duty, “Manages document files and version control.” This meant no one could rightly claim during a crisis, “That’s your job!”

For the charter you do not need the level of detail used in formal job descriptions, but discussing your work roles can expose the root causes of problems the team may be having. To spur the discussion, create a list describing the critical tasks and decisions of each job role represented on the team, focusing on possible overlaps or gaps between roles. (You might identify other sources of conflict, and align the team’s efforts with company hiring and pay systems, by performing the longer “Job Descriptions” technique instead of the action box below.)

On most teams there will be fewer job roles than members, since more than one person will fill the same role. It is possible to have more roles than members, however.

Action

  1. If the company has official job descriptions for people on the team, set action items for:
    1. Someone to gather copies and send them to everyone on the team at least two business days before the next meeting.
    2. Everyone to review their descriptions.
  2. At the meeting, create bullet-list descriptions for each job role represented on the team, no more than seven items each.
  3. Set an action item to add a “Roles” section to the charter with this information.

Maximum: 20 minutes per role.

Team Roles

Overview

Before continuing, the team should review the Administrative Tasks Checklist from the manager if a list was provided, to see which of the roles the manager wants to turn over to the team and when. At the next meeting(s), perform the action boxes for the role(s) he or she is asking the team to take now. Regardless, do at least the next two sections.

Facilitator

You went over the facilitator’s job earlier in the “Meeting Facilitation” section. As a reminder, the facilitator:

  • Creates the meeting agenda, which includes making sure all action items and objectives that came due since the last meeting are covered.
  • Ensures the team gets all the information and handouts it needs before the meeting.
  • Runs the meeting according to the agenda and rules that ensure time is not wasted.
  • Leads problem-solving efforts and builds consensus behind decisions.
  • Creates new action items.

If the team manager is turning this role over to the team, it is best to rotate this position. If one person holds it, there is a tendency for people outside the team—and sometimes inside of it—to start treating that person as “the boss.” Ideally, all members will take on the role. People tend to cooperate with the facilitator more when they know they will need the same cooperation themselves some day. recommend you rotate every one to four meetings, but not more often than weekly. That way no one feels overwhelmed by the extra duties.

Action

  1. Answer this question: Do you want to have one person do the job, or do you want to rotate it?
  2. If you are rotating, answer:
    1. Do you want all members to take the role, or just those who volunteer?
    2. How often do you want to rotate?
    3. What order do the facilitators want to take turns in?
  3. Assign the role for the next meeting.
  4. Set an action item to add this information to the “Roles” section of the charter.

Maximum: 30 minutes.

Note: The person leading the SuddenTeams training should continue to facilitate the training portions of the meetings.

Action

If possible, cover the next action box before adjourning.

Scribe

The scribe makes sure there is a written record of the meeting. Some teams want very detailed notes; others simply want a quick summary and the resulting decisions. Notes are critical to ensure the team keeps moving forward efficiently. Research shows our memory is less reliable than we realize. Without meeting notes, conflicts often arise over what was decided, and discussions of postponed topics may re-cover old ground.

At minimum, the notes must include:

  • Topics covered.
  • Agreements reached.
  • Action items, listing for each the specific task, due date, and responsible person.
  • Parking Lot issues not yet addressed.

As the team gets going you can decide what level of detail you want.

Consider rotating this role, too, because it takes time and prevents the scribe from participating fully in the discussions. If some of you are really uncomfortable with writing, you can solicit a group of volunteers and rotate the job among them. But if you do that, the rest of you should expect to do more of something else, such as taking on more action items.

If everyone takes on the scribe role, the rotation schedule should follow the facilitation schedule. In other words, if you rotate the facilitator role weekly, have next week’s facilitator serve as this week’s scribe. That way he or she is fully up to speed on what the team is doing, so it is a little easier to put an agenda together and gather needed materials.

Action

  1. Answer this question: Do you want to have one person do the job, or do you want to rotate it?
  2. If you are rotating, answer:
    1. Do you want all members to take the role, or just those who volunteer?
    2. How often do you want to rotate?
    3. On what schedule do you want to rotate?
  3. Assign the role for the next meeting.
  4. Set an action item to add this information to the “Roles” section of the charter.

Maximum: 15 minutes.

Project Manager

Properly applied, the tools and methods of a good project manager are the only reliable way to complete one-off tasks with minimal stress. Your Mission Plan will be a project because it will have definite end points and unique deliverables. If any of your regular work matches that description, project management is vital. Good project management will also help you predict your labor, equipment, and supply needs, and help you measure and communicate about your progress. If no one on the team has PM skills, pick the most organized member for the role and consider asking for resources to get that person extra training. Frequently this person becomes familiar with some type of project management or scheduling software, and is responsible for letting facilitators know when project or Mission Plan items are due for discussion.

Because of the learning curve involved, I recommend you have one person and a backup, and/or rotate the job very slowly, like every six months to a year. In that case, you could have the backup move into the project manager role and train the new backup.

Action

  1. Answer: Do you want to have someone fill this role?
  2. If so, perform the previous Action Box for this role.

Maximum: 20 minutes.

Other Roles

Teams have defined many other roles, such as Liaison, Quality Manager, or Point of Contact. If you have an Administrative Task Checklist from your manager, some that you need may become obvious. Now or as your team thinks of roles that would be helpful, add them per the following action box.

Action

  1. Answer: Are there other team roles you think need to be created?
    Tip: For ideas, see the “Administrative Tasks Checklist.”
  2. If so, for each role:
    1. Write a description.
    2. Perform the earlier Action Box.

Maximum: 30 minutes per role.

Procedures

Procedures are another type of business control that people may dislike because they have had bad experiences with them. Procedures that are not flexible enough for changing conditions or are not updated to meet new team circumstances can cause stress and poor performance. But procedures can be very valuable if they are created and maintained correctly. There is no substitute for good procedures in quality control: Every method of process improvement, from Total Quality Management to Six Sigma, includes the writing down or diagramming of procedures. That effort tends to create instant improvement as members question their different ways of doing a task and whether certain steps are necessary. Procedures can save a lot of time, because you do not have to start from scratch every time you face a given situation. They help keep things going when people are out of the office and substitutes must fill in. They reduce training time for new members. But that does not mean you cannot diverge from them—unless they are designed to help you meet safety, legal or regulatory requirements, of course.

Well-written procedures are short, easy to follow, and allow for some wiggle room, but provide a ready answer to the question, “How do we handle this?” Think of them as best practices that will not apply to every situation, but are appropriate 80% of the time. Bear in mind this quote from two team researchers: “Policies and procedures are supposed to serve the team, not the other way around.”[9]

In the course of this training program, the team will address two types of procedures. First, for purposes of the charter, focus on administrative tasks such as team meetings or how to handle mistakes regarding the team rules. Some standard ones are described in the next section. Later you will tackle how you do your work by creating or updating work procedures if you have not done so recently.

Use the questions in the next action box to guide the team in creating each procedure. As much as possible, base your procedures on any company or division procedures that already exist. Procedures can be in the form of a flow chart, a written procedure, or ideally both (to support both visual and text learners).

Procedure Creation Steps

  1. If a related procedure document already exists:
    1. Read through the procedure with the team.
    2. Answer: Does this reflect the way things really happen?
    3. If so, the team’s procedure should just say “See company procedure” and note any team-specific information.
    4. If not, have the team indicate the differences, and include the revised procedure as the team procedure.
  2. If there is no procedure, or if the existing procedure is out of date, start the discussion by asking:
    1. What triggers this action?
      Example: If you were creating an “Equipment Selection” procedure, your question might be, “What event causes us to start looking for new equipment?” The trigger becomes the first step in the procedure.
    2. What happens (or “should happen”) next?
      Suggestion: Focus first on recording how things happen now. Use that as a starting point for improving the process later.
    3. Repeat the previous question until all steps are covered for producing the deliverable.
  3. When done, answer: Did we leave out any logical steps?
    Tip: Make sure every “if” has a step for the “if not” alternative, like the substeps under Step 1 above.
  4. Set an action item for someone to create a flow chart and/or procedure document with numbered steps.
  5. At the next meeting, review and revise the procedure as needed before formally adopting it.
  6. For a team procedure, set an action item to add this information to a “Procedures” section of the charter.

Maximum: 30 minutes per team procedure, 60 per work procedure (initially, not counting later improvement work).

Team Procedures

Overview

Not all teams will need all of the team (or “administrative”) procedures in the rest of this section. I strongly recommend the “Member Conflicts” procedure, but the immediate need for the others should be open to discussion based on team type (project versus advisory, for example), the Administrative Tasks Checklist, company policies, and so forth. Your team may choose to write up other procedures as well. For example, maybe you want to set criteria for spreading around new-skill training for members.

Member Conflicts

I suggest you come up with a “safe” method of raising concerns about another team member. People must feel comfortable making mistakes with each other—that is how we grow, by learning from our mistakes. Direct communication about mistakes is best, but takes courage and sometimes does not work. In either case, it is important to have a method within the team for helping members talk things out.

One way to do so is through a third party in the role of mediator. You could assign a mediator within the team, or have a mediation role that people volunteer for and/or rotate through, or allow the parties to agree on a mediator. Perhaps, too, you would like the issue to come to the team as a whole if mediation fails, rather than going directly to the boss. See “Mediation” for an example of how mediation works, and the “Sample Team Charter” in the Forms section at the end of the site to learn how one team approached this issue.

Keep in mind that anything the company could get sued for—sexual or religious harassment, racial comments, potential violence, and such—has to be raised with your Human Resources Department immediately.

Discussion

  1. How many of you have heard about something you did wrong from your boss instead of hearing it from a colleague who was affected?
  2. How did that affect the level of trust you had for that colleague?

Maximum: 10 minutes.

Action

  1. Decide as a team whether you want to create a procedure for member conflicts.
  2. If so, do so using the “Procedure Creation Steps.”

Maximum: 10 minutes for Step 1.

Reporting Progress

The team manager and other stakeholders need to be informed what you are doing as a team. Create a procedure that incorporates both manager and team desires regarding the who, what and how of these communications. A standard method is to send a “Manager’s Report” on a regular basis that indicates topics discussed, decisions made, and questions for the manager. Other stakeholders may need less-detailed or less frequent reports. For help, see “Stakeholder Complaints” in the “Troubleshooting” section for a Communications Plan procedure.

Action

  1. Decide as a team whether you want to create a procedure for progress reporting.
  2. If so, do so using the “Procedure Creation Steps.”

Maximum: 10 minutes for Step 1.

New Member Orientation

When you bring a new member onto the team, it will be very important to remember what it is like to start a new job. Even if the person was already an employee of the company, he or she might have to adjust not only to the job, and possibly to working on a team, but to working on this team. The team is best served by striking a balance between helping the new hire fit into the existing culture of the team and giving the team the benefits of a fresh perspective.

Create a procedure for easing the transition by giving him or her a chance to review and request changes to the Team Charter and Mission Plan.

Action

  1. Decide as a team whether you want to create a procedure for new member orientations.
  2. If so, do so using the “Procedure Creation Steps.”

Maximum: 10 minutes for Step 1.

Problem-Solving and Decision-Making

You may want to create a high-level procedure for dealing with major issues, covering both:

  • Problem-Solving—defined in The SuddenTeams Program as coming up with options for solving a problem.
  • Decision-Making—defined as choosing a solution from among the possible options.

One scientist[10] has recommended these basic steps for solving major issues:

  • outline strategies in advance,
  • discuss multiple alternative solutions at length,
  • involve all affected members,
  • ensure implementation, and
  • include evaluation.

At the very least, you could look through the “Problem-Solving” and “Decision-Making” topics of the “Troubleshooting” section and choose preferred techniques.

Action

  1. Decide as a team whether you want to create a procedure for solving problems and making decisions.
  2. If so, do so using the “Procedure Creation Steps.”

Maximum: 10 minutes for Step 1.

Other Procedures

Action

  1. Discuss: “Are there any other administrative tasks the team needs to do on a regular basis for which procedures would be helpful?”
  2. If so, create the procedures before moving on to the next section.

Work Procedures

If your work processes are not documented already, or you have not reviewed those documents within the past year, you should create or update work procedures for:

  • All major deliverables the team provides routinely, to use the documents in process improvement;
  • Complex jobs done only on occasion, so you do not lose time recalling how to do them; and
  • Likely emergency situations, because you do not want to be figuring out what to do while in a crisis.

Example: How would your team meet its obligations if the power went out for more than a day?

However, start with the “80/80 Rule.” First do procedures covering 80% of the team’s labor time, and only make them detailed enough to cover 80% of the times the process is used (allowing people to flex when circumstances warrant it).

Action

  1. Decide as a team what work processes you want to create procedures for.
  2. Do so for each using the “Procedure Creation Steps” or schedule those procedures in your Mission Plan.

Maximum: 30 minutes for Step 1.

Communications Plan

Most complaints about communication in and among teams boil down to the “5 Ws and an H” done wrongly:

  • Wrong Who—The content went to the wrong person(s).
  • Wrong What—The content was not what the receiver needed.
  • Wrong When—The content did not get there in time to be useful.
  • Wrong Why—The sender missed the point: A message can be 95% of what the recipient needed but still fail because of the missing 5%.
  • Wrong Where—The sender used the wrong medium to reach the receiver, such as e-mailing instead of calling when an immediate response was needed.
  • Wrong How—The way the message was worded upset the receiver.

Only one of these has to go wrong for the message to fail to meet the receiver’s needs, and therefore the sender’s. You can prevent or reduce the impact of miscommunications by identifying your communication needs as team members and the needs of your stakeholders. A Communications Plan helps you do so and decide the best way to meet those needs, as shown in the next Action Box.

Action

  1. Assign a subteam to:
    1. Meet with each primary stakeholder: at minimum, the team manager, direct customers, and partner groups within the company.
    2. Using the “Communications Plan” form under “Forms and Samples” at the end of this site, find out what information each stakeholder wants, when, and how.
    3. Complete the form for all stakeholders and bring it to the full team for approval.
  2. As a team, assign responsibility for each row of the form.
  3. Set action items to review the plan with the stakeholders in one month, three months, and yearly after that.

Maximum: 60 minutes for steps 2 and 3.

Action

Set an action item for all team members to read the next section, “Mission Plan,” before the next meeting (stopping at “Complete the Training”).

Mission Plan

Overview

The “Mission Plan” is a project plan for achieving the team’s mission statement. It is critical to making that statement part of your daily work life, and creating the plan will also give you some practice in identifying problems and options, decision-making, and prioritizing as a group.

If your company is accustomed to formal project management, feel free to replace the terms and process outlined in this section with those the team is accustomed to. If the company uses project management but the team has not, this is a good opportunity to learn the company’s method. Simply creating a schedule for every project is not project management. Browse a site[11] on the topic if you are not sure how your company stacks up to true project management. Otherwise, stick to the script below.

Note: For a project team, you can skip to the “Complete the Training” section, since your project plan is your Mission Plan.

Goals

Keep it SMART

The first step is to create three to five goals for the next one to three years. Goals and their supporting objectives should be SMART, a common term in the business world which I define as:

  • Specific—Use wording so clear that everyone on the team will be able to agree when it has been achieved.
  • Measurable—Include numbers that anyone could use to declare the item “done.”
  • Action-based—Include an action verb like “add,” “increase,” or “reduce.”
  • Realistic—Though the item should be hard to achieve, it should also be possible given the team’s resources (people, time, money, and so on).
  • Time-bound—Put a date on the item to maintain a sense of urgency.

For example, say your team had a mission to “Be the best delivery team in the company.” This raises a series of questions:

  • What does it mean to be “the best?”
  • How can you measure “best-ness?”
  • How does that measure have to change for you to become the best?
  • Is this goal possible, given the team’s resources and work assignments?
  • By when do you want to achieve this? If some members think “next year” and some think “ten years from now,” conflicts over priorities are guaranteed.

A SMART version of this goal might be: “Achieve the highest on-time delivery rates in the company in one year.” The next two sections go into detail about “M,” “R,” and “T.”

Make it Measurable

To create the “M,” you need three elements:

  • A measurable standard, such as 12 widgets per hour.
    Example performance standards:

    • Customer support: Cost per field technician, cost per warranty callback, service cost per unit shipped.
    • Data processing: Computer instructions per program, computer operations employees per systems design employees, data-processing expense to company expense, data-processing expense per CPU hour.
    • Materials storage: Parts picking time, storage per square foot, stockout rate.
    • Order processing: Orders processed per employee, sales per order-processing employee.
    • Personnel: Rate of offers accepted, hires per recruiter, department expense to total company expense.
    • Plant engineering: Diagrams produced to number of designers, diagrams produced to design engineering staff.
    • Production control: Inventory turnover rate, items in inventory to items not moved in 12 months, order cycle time, machine utilization, total production to production schedule.
    • Quality assurance: Units returned for warranty repairs as a percentage of units shipped.
    • Receiving: Section handled-to-unloading labor hours, receipts per workday.
    • Shipping: Orders shipped on time, demurrage charges to total non-labor expense, packing expense to total shipping expenses.
    • Testing: Labor hours per run-hour, test-equipment calibration time, test expense to rework expense.[12]
  • A process or system for doing the measuring: In other words, if the standard relates to errors made, what method do you have to count errors? Or if you are producing services, how will you gather the data?
  • A system for analyzing that data: Does someone on the team know how to run spreadsheet charts, or can you get help from another team?

Realistic and Time-Bound

Spend some time on your dates. Being realistic—maybe even pessimistic—how long could it take you to achieve this goal? Do not forget the labor hours it will take to achieve the other goals and to do your daily work. You want to feel challenged, but not overwhelmed.

Also ask yourselves, is there a maximum cost you are willing to expend? In other words, is there a number of labor hours or dollars that, if reached, should trigger a review of the goal? How does that number fit into the resources available to the team within the proposed dates? If you foresee a problem, you will need to lower the goal, push back the date, or ask for more resources. Do so before making your final decisions.

Action

  1. Review any company, division, or team manager goals to align the team goals with them.
  2. Come up with specific goals that support the mission—at least two, but no more than five.
    Note: Make sure each goal is SMART and the time frame is no longer than three years.
  3. Assign an action item for someone to draft the Mission Plan by adding the team’s mission statement and goals.
    Note: If the team assigned a Project Manager (PM) in the “Team Roles” section above, that person should take this on.
  4. After the item is due, review and approve the goals as a team.

Maximum: 3 hours for steps 1 and 2; one hour for Step 4.

Objectives

Next the team (or a subteam or the PM with team approval) needs to create objectives for each goal—basically, smaller steps on the way to the goal. Make sure they are realistic “chunks.” Err on the side of being too small. The team will need some successes in the next three to six months to feel like they are achieving something. In other words, the objectives should be as SMART as each goal.

Action

  1. For each goal, define two to five high-level, SMART objectives it will take to reach the goal.
  2. If the whole team did not draft the objectives, present them to the team for revision and approval.
  3. Set an action item to record them in the Mission Plan.

Maximum: 10 minutes per objective, if creating them as a team, or 60 minutes for Step 2.

Tasks

Finally, the team, subteam, or PM should define the detailed steps or “tasks” needed to achieve each objective. For each task, you need to assign a responsible party and a date, as with an action item. Pay close attention to tasks that need to be done before other tasks can start or be finished.

Action

  1. Define as many tasks as you wish to reach each objective.
  2. Assign a responsible person or subteam to each.
  3. Assign a due date, or create an action item for the responsible party to report back with a date within one week.
  4. If the whole team did not draft the tasks, present them to the team for revision and approval.
  5. Set an action item to record them in the Mission Plan (or if the team is using formal project management, to create a project schedule).

Maximum: 15 minutes per task, if creating the tasks as a team, or 60 minutes for Step 4.

Follow-Up

To make sure Mission Plan tasks do not fall through the cracks, it is the job of the PM or responsible party to inform the facilitator when tasks are coming due before the next team meeting. Like action items, these should be added to the “Old Issues” section of the agenda. In order to make sure you stay on track, and to show off your progress to the company, you should also hold a formal progress review of the Mission Plan with the team manager at least every six months (see “Progress Reviews”).

Complete the Training

Finalize Drafts

Congratulations! You are done with the first phase of the team’s development. The next step is to finish the Team Charter, Mission Plan, and any work procedure documents you have drafted so far. Then you will come back to clean them up and give final approval. All of these are living documents—they will never really be “done,” because as circumstances change or you grow as a team, the documents will have to change. Nonetheless, completing these drafts will point the way forward.

Action

  1. Set an action item for someone to edit and distribute the documents.
  2. Set another for the team to read the documents and bring comments to the next meeting after Step 1 is done.
    Note: Allow at least a few days after the Step 1 deadline.
  3. At that meeting, start at the first section and ask, “Does anyone have any comments?”
  4. If no one comments after a few seconds, move onto the next section, and continue until you are done.
  5. If there are comments, negotiate changes acceptable to all.

Maximum: 60 minutes for steps 3–5.

Verify Approval

Approval of the team documents is a big moment. Tying your individual success to everyone on the team through the documents is a leap of faith. Give everyone a chance to voice their approval as shown in the next Action Box.

You will increase your manager’s support for your teamwork efforts if you ask him or her to approve the documents as well and offer to negotiate desired changes. There is no need to wait for that approval, however, unless the manager has required it. Instead, ask the manager for the date by which he or she can complete the review, and say you will implement the documents the day after unless you hear otherwise. If after a week you hear nothing back, send a reminder but say the team is moving forward unless he or she objects.

Action

  1. One person at a time, have each member either state their commitment to the plans or raise further objections.
  2. If objections are raised, repeat Step 5 in the previous action box and restart this box.
  3. When everyone has approved the documents, decide on a location for the “official” versions where everyone can get to them.
  4. Set an action item for sending an e-mail or memo to all team members, your human resources representative, and the team manager confirming the approval and providing the document locations.

Maximum: 15 minutes for Step 1.

Conduct a Post-Test

If you conducted a pre-test using the Teamwork Status Questionnaire, create an action item for someone to conduct a post-test using the procedure in the “Consider a Pre-Test” section. Schedule it for thirty days after the documents are approved and at least annually after that. If you did not conduct a pre-test, consider conducting a test now to look for problems and give you a baseline for checking how the team is doing using the annual tests.

Celebrate with a Social Event

A special accomplishment deserves a special celebration. Beyond that, getting to know each other as people will improve communication, cooperation, and understanding on the job. To those ends, consider holding a Social Night with guests after the team documents are approved. If the company is willing to pay for it, excellent! If not, you could hold a “pay your own way” event as a team, or a potluck. Some activities are suggested below, but this event is mostly about relaxing together and getting to know each other.

Allow each member to bring an adult guest, but consider carefully before including children. Parents have to pay attention to their children, obviously, so inviting youngsters may reduce the value of this work-related event. On the other hand, if parents cannot afford babysitting, inviting the children is better than excluding those team members. In that case, try to provide supervised activities or other safe distractions for the kids so the parents can focus on the adult activities.

Action

  1. As a team, decide on a type of event and location, and whether you should include children.
  2. Assign someone to serve as the planner and someone to facilitate the event (see below).
  3. Set an action item for everyone to check with their guests for their “schedule gaps” and send those to the planner by a certain date.
  4. After the action item is due, include final approval of the planner’s proposed date and location as an agenda item in the next team meeting.

Maximum: 20 minutes for steps 1 and 2.

Social Event Activities

  1. Ten minutes after the scheduled start time, get the group’s attention and have the members introduce themselves and their guests.
  2. Have the event facilitator say the following: “There is one rule at the moment: No work talk until I say otherwise. Team members introduced to a nonteam member may take exactly one minute—one minute, no more—to tell that person about your job. Then you have to move on to other topics.”
  3. If there are latecomers:
    1. Privately repeat to them the information from Step 2.
    2. At the start of Step 4, have them introduce themselves.
  4. While waiting for dinner, or after dinner, say: “To have some fun and get to know each other better, we are going to play a game called ‘Two Truths and a Lie.’ Take three minutes to think of three statements about yourself—only two of which are true. They can be about hobbies, former jobs, other things you did in the past, anything except your current work life. If you have trouble coming up with a false statement, use a fact about a friend or family member.
  5. “At the end of that time, we are going to go around the room. Each of you will tell us your three statements about yourself, and the rest of us are going to try to guess which one statement is a lie. The person you came here with does not get to guess during your turn. Any questions?”[13]
    Note
    : Make up rules on the spot to answer any questions.
  6. After answering any questions, start timing the three minutes.
  7. When the time is up, complete the game as described.
  8. After the game, tell them they can talk about work if they want to, but to keep the focus on fun.

[1] End users may be “paying customers” for businesses, “affected citizens” for government agencies, “members” for clubs and professional organizations, and “clients” for nonprofits.

[2] If a team of custodians in a software firm did not do its job right, consider everyone that could affect. For example, programmer productivity might eventually go down because trash was in the way, or because illnesses would increase, and/or the programmers would have to take time to clean up after themselves. In turn, their reduced productivity could result in product delays, higher costs, and/or lower quality; and this could force the end user to deal with less-advanced software, or higher prices, or more hassles from a poor-quality product.

[3] The definition of an “equitable owner” per Dictionary.com.

[4] Quoted in Martin 1993.

[5] Collins & Porras 1996.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Jackson 1995.

[8] Robbins & Finley 1995.

[9] Robbins & Finley 1995.

[10] Wheelan 1994.

[11] The best source is the “PMBOK Guide” to project management best practices (Project Management Institute 2008).

[12] Most items directly quoted from Ross & Ross 1982. List reordered alphabetically and shortened, and some terms updated.

[13] Source for game: Butler 1996.