Using the concepts and frameworks presented in the Leading Teams course, I will analyze the effectiveness of my team’s ability to engage in a consulting process to assess the team-based needs of and provide solutions to a client of an independent business. Context
A four-member team was designed to participate in a number of group activities during the Leading Teams course; however, the majority of team interactions were related to activities associated with leading a consulting project. Each member of this team, including myself, worked interdependently (reciprocal-type) to assess team-based needs of a client, and to produce deliverables for both the client and the course. Given the complexity of the task, it was clear that indeed a team was needed to produce the necessary deliverables. Team members were selected from a pool of classmates in the course. Team Objective
The team’s objectives were to: 1) to assess the team-based needs of the client; and 2) to provide key recommendations to the client to help him improve his team’s effectiveness. Organizing Towards an Objective
Designing a team with high performance
Based on the project requirements, I determined that the team should consist of individuals who have strong interpersonal, tactical, and problem-solving abilities. My previous work-experience informed these team selection criteria. Working with clients in a short-time frame presents a number of challenges. A major challenge is building a meaningful trusting relationship with the client to facilitate timely access to information and data to inform the deliverable. I also understood that having access to a client was essential to the success of this project. The Original Team
Considering the scope and complexity of the project, I sought to create a diverse team with tactical, interpersonal, and problem-solving competencies who also had a broad network. My original team consisted of 5 individuals, including 3 women and 2 men from diverse work, education, and cultural backgrounds. The Final Team
Despite my efforts in designing a team, the selection process only resulted in one member (Member A) from my original list making it on to my final team. Member A selected two other members (Members B and C) who he had previous interactions with. Although, I had no knowledge of these individuals’ competencies, I trusted the judgment of Member A and therefore supported his selection decision. My new self-managing team consisted of 3 male members and myself, a female. Contrast Between the Two-Team Designs
Upon reflection, my original team was not as diverse as I thought. The team consisted of individuals who had attributes that were much more similar to me than compared to my final team. Although the original team was heterogeneous in its intrinsic characteristics (age, gender and ethnicity), team members ultimately shared similar interpersonal characteristics (amiable) and motivations (goal of challenging oneself to gain the most out of the Rotman experience) to me. In contrast, my final team was quite different from me and diverse in terms of each member’s educational experience, interpersonal and technical competencies, and motivations for the completing the project. Team Dynamics resulting in ‘Her versus Them’
The dynamic between all the male members of my team definitely resulted in a “me versus them” fault line, at the beginning of the consulting project process. The informal communication and public images conveyed by the male members at team meetings generated a male ‘slacker’ stereotype. At times, the three males tended to joke around with each other, make fun of the exercises, and did not seem focused on the task at hand. The dynamic between the three male members caused me to feel like an outsider. I felt that my opinions did not matter and that my team saw me as an ‘over achiever’. A Highly Functioning Team Leading to Strong Outcomes
Improving Team Dynamics
Instead of perpetuating the fault lines that were resulting from the team dynamics, I initiated meeting structures (via regularly scheduled meetings, agendas, gantt charts, meeting summaries), and decision-making processes to adjust the team dynamic, from an informal nature to a more formal one.
Additionally, the recognition of team members’ strengths early in the process, helped to establish clear roles and responsibilities that were interdependent. Team members were assigned roles, which leveraged their interpersonal and technical competencies as well as their goals for the project. The roles included the following: Client Relations (Member A), Communications (Member B), and Process Methodologist (Member C), and Project Management (Member D-myself). As a result of clearly defined roles, each team member was given a clear responsibility with corresponding subtasks that were necessary to produce the deliverable. A Culture of Team Collaboration and Communication
Defining roles and responsibilities played a critical role in identifying key opportunities for collaboration among team members, which helped to enhance team effectiveness. Clarity around roles and tasks also helped to diminished fault lines due to the identification of synergies in subtasks. Strong partnerships between Member A and Member B were established to engage the client.
Member C worked closely with me to determine methodological processes around data collection that met the overall timelines and objectives of the client. Due to the nature of project management, I also served as a knowledge broker to facilitate communication between team members as well as with the overall team. My role also earned the respect of the team and I became ‘one of them’. Each team member often reached out to me to understand where we were in the process as well as get feedback on deliverables relative to other team members. Ongoing and effective communication was another key factor that helped the team’s performance.
The team faced a challenge early on in identifying a client for the project, which resulted in significant delays in getting the project started. The team had only 3 weeks to identify a client, conduct the consulting process, and produce deliverables. The structured regular meetings help to bring the team together with a focused agenda. Prior to the first official structured team meeting, I sent the relevant information (project agenda with objective, Gantt chart with key timelines and deliverables, and project resources) to the entire team for review and feedback.
This set a precedent for future meetings. All team members subsequently provided their process deliverables a day before each team meeting. Having the information in advance, allowed people to prepare relevant feedback for discussion. The process supported the delivery of feedback that was specific, and actionable. As a result each meeting was focused, and fruitful. Furthermore, a formalized Gantt chart allowed the team to have a clear understanding of the key timelines within which to produce deliverables to meet the objective (ends). Given their roles, team members were able to develop subtasks to meet the necessary deliverables within the allotted timelines.
The timeline was referenced at each regularly scheduled meeting, holding each team member accountable to the task at hand. As a result, the team was able to perform effectively to meet all timelines and deliverables (engage the client, collect data, and produce and deliver recommendations to the client). Creating Alignment and Commitment of the Team Towards the Objective A formalized team process helped to coordinate team members and establish their commitment towards the objective.
The first structured team meeting (held via webconferencing [Skype]) allowed the team to discuss their roles and responsibilities and establish a clear commitment to the deliverables. Regular meetings helped to engage each of the members throughout the process and coordinated the efforts of each. Furthermore, the process design, which required one member to complete his task before handing it off to the next member, held each member (s) accountable to the task and objective.
At each hand-off, a team meeting was scheduled for the entire team to review the deliverable and thereby indirectly evaluate the team member’s performance. Additionally, the expectation was for the team to send the respective deliverable prior to the meeting to afford the opportunity for feedback. Although there was no formal individual team feedback process, the meetings served as a key “check-in” point that increased each team member’s accountability to the subtask. Ultimately, this process design facilitated both intrinsic and extrinsic motivation to enhance the commitment of each team member to produce a deliverable that met the objective. Optimizing Problem-Solving
The collaborative culture and optimal dynamics of the team facilitated effective problem-solving among team-members throughout the consulting process to produce a deliverable that the client found valuable. Given the stringent timelines, there was pressure to produce deliverables and
accomplish sub-tasks in a timely and high-quality manner.
The partnerships between team members fostered relationships to support the production of quality deliverables without judgment. As a project manager, I often reviewed the material of each member before sending out to the entire team. I would often provide feedback directly to my team-member to address any gaps that I identified in the deliverable.
We would work collectively to fix the deliverable before sending out to the entire team. Team-members also coached each other and helped solve problems related to engaging the client to collect data and information to support the deliverable. Initially, Member A was unable to get the client to communicate the project to his staff in a timely manner.
The client was extremely busy. Our team wanted him to bring his team members together so that we could introduce the project. Member A reached out to the rest of the team to help address the problem. The team worked collaboratively to identify strategies that would engage the client’s team with minimal effort. The team members developed tools (a communication letter, and data collection forms) and coached member A on how to approach the client to build the trust of allowing us to directly contact his team.
The client was able to the use the tools to engage his team with minimal effort and allowed us to access his team to obtain the relevant data needed in a timely manner. Overall, each team member was open to bringing forward challenges as well as learning from each other’s area of expertise (e.g. writing, communication, analysis). This brought about cohesion among team member, promoted collaboration, and integrated the team to create a product that was useful to the client. Summary
Analyzing my team in this particular context gave me strong insights into how to create an effective team to achieve successful outcomes. Establishing a clear objective at the start of the team is essential to align the team and create a commitment among its members. Team design is an important aspect of creating a strong team. However, even when one has no control on the design of the team, clearly defined roles and responsibilities, established structures, problem-solving processes, on-going communication, and accountability can optimize team performance and dynamics to achieve quality outcomes. In my future role on a team, implementing these approaches to support the development of an effective team will be a key priority.