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Nine Secrets to Successful Team Performance

Different types of teams have unique characteristics that give rise to issues for the team.

  • Process improvement teams
  • Work group teams
  • Problem solving teams
  • Cross functional teams
  • Integration teams

The following list addresses nine secrets to team success and how each can be addressed. There are also special issues for Integrated Product Teams (IPTs) at the end of the list.

Secret 1: Provide united, consistent top management support of team goals and objectives


  • Develop executive overviews for all senior managers so that they have a common understanding of team basics
  • Plan sessions for team implementation so that senior managers develop a common understanding of how they will support teams throughout the organization
  • Facilitate sessions that include senior representatives from program and functional management to clarify roles and responsibilities for teams, team leaders and functional organizations
  • Have regular senior management meetings to assess team implementation and support needed .

Secret 2: Capitalize on the varying levels of expertise and awareness of managers, team leaders and team members to optimize the team concept at the outset.


  • Involve managers in planning for team kick-off sessions. This necessitates that they learn more about teams and develop ideas on how the process, program or project will operate
  • Kick-off sessions should be facilitated by a team implementation expert who is not a regular member of the team
  • Structure team kick-off sessions so that the team leader facilitates key activities.
  • Conduct facilitated team kick-off sessions that include planning, role clarification, charter development and clarification of team operation
  • Customers and key suppliers may be included as members of the team especially if it is an Integrated Product Team
  • On-going facilitation and team expertise should be provided to the manager, team leader and members as they work to operate as a team

Secret 3: Establish priorities for assigning team members with critical skills that only a few employees have


  • Establish a senior oversite team to develop processes for staffing and de-staffing teams
  • The oversite team can prioritize and reassign team members when the teams and functional organizations cannot agree
  • Conduct facilitated working sessions between teams on the same project to determine how scarce resources will be shared

Secret 4: After teams go through a start up process, make sure they don't revert to old behaviors or ways of doing things.


  • Develop and conduct training for ?implementation support expertsî that can facilitate and coach teams
  • Coach team leaders on implementation issues
  • The implementation support expert facilitates initial team meetings so the team has a model of how to work together
  • Structure and facilitate team planning sessions to revise ground rules and clarify expectations of one another
  • As people become more experienced in team implementation, staff new teams with at least 1-2 experienced employees

Secret 5: align reward systems with team based results and structure.


  • Measure and quantify the value of improvements resulting from team actions
  • Develop a set of team-based rewards
  • Develop a process for including all team members in the possible rewards
  • If teams are used to do a significant portion of the work of the organization, make team based rewards a significant portion of the members? variable compensation
  • Communicate the potential rewards and criteria for receiving the reward

Secret 6 : Teams should never be viewed as a fad.


  • Ensure the team philosophy is widely known and consistently communicated by senior management
  • Teams must be distinguished from meetings
  • Teams should be considered when there are requirements: (1) for multi-functional expertise; (2) to address multi-faceted, complex situations or issues; (3) to address issues concerning the balancing of cost, schedule, and performance
  • Teams must have clear objectives that contribute to the organization
  • Provide toolkits to team leaders that address meeting management, best practices for teams, senior management reviews, and skill and knowledge requirements for their team

Secret 7: Empower your teams


  • All representatives assigned to a team must be empowered by their leadership and, therefore, able to speak for their superiors in the decision-making process.
  • Team members must make other team members aware of any limits to their ability to speak for the decision-maker they represent
  • Team members must seek direction on the limits of their authority and make recommendations within those limits
  • Superiors should enhance member effectiveness by granting the greatest possible authority
  • When issues arise that exceed the limits of empowerment, the team leader must allow members adequate time to coordinate issues and positions with their decision-maker.
  • Agreements reached by the team must be binding as long as they are within the team?s defined boundaries, unless new information warrants a review of prior agreements
  • Issues should be raised and discussed at the earliest possible opportunity. The objective is to achieve agreement and resolve issues rapidly at the lowest possible level, without hindering progress.
For                           Integrated Product Teams (IPTs)

Secret 8: Provide an environment to permit functional organizations and IPTs to work together rather than in conflict


  • Conduct working sessions with executive management to clarify new roles and responsibilities for both functional organizations and IPTs
  • Gain commitment from senior management that they will follow the new roles (e.g., if IPTs are responsible for solving technical problems, do not go to the functional organization for status on problem resolution)
  • Senior management must present the new roles to both IPT leaders and functional managers and hold them accountable
  • Establish a senior oversite team to establish methods for resolving conflicts between IPTs and functional organizations
  • The role of the functional organization must be defined so that managers feel they can contribute rather than only playing an IPT support role

Secret 9: Have clearly defined IPT empowerment boundaries


  • Clarify the IPT boundaries when the team is chartered by answering the question "What decisions by the team will require approval?" i.e., out of scope activities, capital dollars, and policy implementation
  • Make sure that the limitations on the IPTs ability to make decisions is minimized
  • Provide IPT members with the information, skills, and power to make decisions within the defined boundaries
  • Facilitate discussions between company and customer IPT members to define how and when they will report any problems to their management
  • Management must plan to support the IPT when decisions are made within the defined boundaries