Team Managements Skills

Launching Teams

As a prerequisite to team formation, team members must have a reason to work together, accept an interdependent relationship and commit to team values. Management supports the team process by:

  • Ensuring a constancy of purpose
  • Reinforcing positive results
  • Sharing business results
  • Giving people a sense of mission
  • Developing a realistic and integrated plan
  • Providing direction and support

Management as part of some mechanism such as a steering committee should provide relief from potential team constraints such as work schedules, or lack of technology. A participative style of management is the best approach to ensure employee involvement in the improvement process. Today’s workforce has higher educational levels and is eager to participate in the decision-making process that affects them. There is no better way of motivating employees than to provide them with challenging jobs that make use of their talents and abilities. In spite of all the obvious advantages, team participation is one of the key areas where most companies fail. Dr. Ishikawa, a leading Japanese quality professional, said of team involvement, “a people-building philosophy will make the program successful, a people-using philosophy will make the program fail.”

Benefits of  working in a team Team

Usually, team members have diverse skills and experience and may represent various departments and functions in the organization. What they share in common is their involvement in the problem to be addressed. The benefits of a team approach to issues are numerous. Consider the role an individual plays in the organization. Team members may represent the role of supplier, processor, and customer. On a team, each member often brings different experiences, skills, know-how, and perspectives to the issues. Such diversity is important for most improvement teams. A single person trying to remove a problem or deficiency, no matter how skilled, has rarely mastered the intricacies of an entire work process. The most significant gains are usually achieved by teams — groups of individuals pooling their talents and expertise. Improvement teams can usually tackle larger issues than individuals working alone. Working in teams can build a fuller understanding of the process needing improvement and have immediate access to the technical skills and knowledge of all team members. The team members can rely on mutual support and cooperation that arises among team members as they work on a common project.

Benefits of Team Member 

Teamwork offers some obvious benefits to team members, including:

  • An opportunity for greater understanding of the issues affecting their work
  • A chance to be creative and share ideas
  • The opportunity to forge stronger working relationships with colleagues
  • The opportunity to learn new skills and enhance existing ones
  • A chance to work on a project with the support and interest of management
  • The satisfaction of solving a chronic problem
  • The opportunity to please customers, increase revenues, and reduce costs

Team Resources

Resources are time, talent, money, information, and materials. The development of productive teams will use considerable resources. Management must optimize the resources available to teams. The team charter is the best place to establish the team’s expectations concerning available resources.

Management Support

Management must give more than passive team support. This means that management, especially mid-management, must be educated to the degree that they are enthusiastic about the team concept. The implementation of project schedules and solutions originating from teams should be given precedence. In order for teams to be successful, management must recognize that there will be additional work created by their efforts. Leaders, facilitators, and team members should be thoroughly trained in improvement techniques, as required. In spite of the potential benefits, some people are skeptical of the long-term success of teams. These people point out that the traditional style of management carries with it such momentum that the team approach will have a little appreciable long-term effect. There are reasonable arguments that can be expressed either for or against teams. The important questions that need answers are: (1) Does the company have the proper environment in which teams can survive and thrive? and (2) Does management fully comprehend the value of teams, to make them work?

Team Roles

The Team Member Role

Each team member is responsible for:

  • Participating in training to become an effective team member
  • Attending team meetings, as required
  • Completing assignments between meetings
  • Participating actively during meetings by contributing information and ideas
  • Encouraging active participation by other team members
  • Benefitting from the experience, expertise, and perspectives of others
  • Applying the steps of the improvement process

The Leader Role

Some teams have both leaders and facilitators. This is common for manufacturing line teams. As a general rule, the team leader focuses on the team product (the results) and the facilitator is most concerned with the team process. Teams consisting of staff personnel will often have only one of these roles; generally a facilitator. Within the six sigma framework, the team leader is normally trained both as a facilitator and black belt. The leader will:

  • Provide direction and suggest assignments
  • Act as a communication hub and as a liaison with management
  • Handle administrative details like meeting sites and scheduling
  • Ensure that individual needs and expectations are considered
  • Recommends meeting agendas and conduct meetings
  • Assess group progress to plan, evaluate and initiate action
  • Take the steps necessary to ensure success
  • Possess an ability to encourage participation
  • Be genuinely concerned about people
  • Be encouraging and supportive
  • Be accepting and tolerant of mistakes
  • Work with, not over participants
  • Stick to the task at hand
  • Be a good listener

The Leader’s role is not to “boss” the team but to ensure implementation of the team mission and charter.

The Team Facilitator Role

As noted earlier, the team leader is often the facilitator: However, many companies find facilitators useful both for team start- ups and for a variety of other team arrangements. The team leader andlor facilitator must understand group dynamics and how a group moves through developmental stages (forming, storming, norming, and performing).Facilitators are useful in assisting a group in the following ways:

  • Identifying members of the group that need training or skill building
  • Avoiding team impasses before the task is completed
  • Providing feedback on group effectiveness
  • Summarizing points made by the group
  • Balancing group member activity so each member is able to provide inputs
  • Helping to secure resources that the team needs
  • Providing an outside neutral perspective
  • Clarifying points of view on issues
  • Keeping the team on track with the process
  • Helping with interpersonal difficulties that may arise
  • Focusing on progress
  • Assessing the change process
  • Assessing cultural barriers (attitudes, personalities)
  • Assessing how well groups are accomplishing their purpose
  • Asking for feelings on sensitive issues
  • Helping the leader to do his/her job more easily
  • Coaching the leader and participants

If there is no facilitator, the team leader, an assigned black belt, or a coach must assume many of the above duties. The facilitator must avoid being judgmental of team members or their ideas, comments, opinions. The facilitator must also avoid taking sides or becoming caught-up in the subject matter. He/ She must not dominate the group discussions, solve a problem or make suggestions on the task instead of on the process

The Recorder Role

The team recorder/secretary is normally a full-fledged team member. The recorder maintains the team’s minutes and agendas. Often selected by team members, the recorder also coordinates the preparation of letters, reports, and other documents. Often, this duty is rotated among team members. He/she also distributes relevant materials to team members. The recorder:

  • May or may not participate as a member
  • Takes clear notes including project responsibilities
  • Publishes and distributes the minutes
  •  May ask for clarification of issues (for the record)

The Timekeeper Role

The timekeeper’s role is an optional responsibility. This function sometimes becomes the responsibility of the facilitator, when a facilitator is assigned to a team. The timekeeper advises the team of the remaining time to review a project and enforces any time “norms” of the team

The Process Owner Role

Key processes should have a process owner. A process owner coordinates process improvement activities and monitors progress on a regular basis. Process owners work with black belts to improve the processes for which they are responsible. Process owners should have basic training in the core statistical tools but will typically only gain proficiency with those techniques used to improve their individual processes. In some organizations, process owners may be six sigma champions or sponsors. This upper-level manager should:

  • Be comfortable with the team’s capabilities
  • Believe in the team’s objectives
  • Support team members with resources and information
  • Share information with the team
  • Understand the team’s mission
  • Participate in project reviews
  • Believe that personal goals are aligned with the team’s goals

The Steering Committee Role

Establishing a steering committee is a logical first step when an organization lunches any improvement initiative. The steering committee is usually composed of upper management. In some companies, middle management and other employees are also represented. Some of the steering committee key roles include:

  • Setting goals. Top management identifies opportunities, improvement needs and sets strategic goals for the organization.
  • Identifying projects. The steering committee selects those major improvement projects critical to meeting quality and other goals.
  • Selecting teams. Once a project has been identified, the steering committee appoints a team to see the project through the remaining steps of the improvement process.
  • Supporting project teams. Six sigma techniques and processes are generally required to make significant improvements. It is up to the steering committee to see that improvement teams are well prepared and equipped to carry out their mission. Steering committee support may include:
    • Providing  training to the team
    • Providing training in team tools and techniques to other team members
    • Providing a trained leader or facilitator to help the team work efficientlyeviewing team progress
    • Approving revisions of the project mission
    • Identifying/helping with team-related problems
    • Helping with logistics, such as meeting sites
    • Providing expertise in data analysis and/or survey design.
    • Furnishing resources for unusually demanding data collection
    • Communicating project results throughout the organization
    • Monitoring progress.

The steering committee is generally responsible for keeping the improvement process on track, evaluating progress, and making mid-course corrections to improve the effectiveness of the entire process. Various companies call this committee the six sigma steering committee, the quality council, or the executive steering committee.

Belbin Team Roles

Meredith Belbin describes a pattern of behavior that characterizes relationships in team performance. People often have a mixture of roles and will have dominant and sub-dominant traits. The Belbin roles can be used to identify types when starting up teams and ensure there is a good membership balance or that the imbalances are known and can be managed.

  1. Action-oriented roles

    • Shaper: Shapers are highly motivated people with a lot of drive, energy, and need for achievement. They often seem to be aggressive extroverts.
    • Implementer: Implementers are well organized and have practical sense. They favour hard work and tackle problems in a systematic fashion.
    • Completer: Completers have a great capacity for follow-through and attention to detail. They seldom start what they cannot finish.
  2. People-oriented roles:

    • Coordiantor: Coordinators have the ability to cause others to attain shared goals. They spot individual talents and use them to pursue group objectives.
    • Team worker: Team workers are the most supportive members of a team. They are sociable and adaptive to different situations and people
    • .Investigator: Investigators are good communicators both inside and outside the organization. They are extroverted and enthusiastic.
  3. Problem-solving roles:

    • Planter or innovator: Plants are innovators and can be highly creative. They provide the seeds and ideas from which major developments spring.
    • Evaluator: Evaluators are serious, prudent, individuals. They are slow deciders and possess a critical thinking ability.
    • Specialist: Specialists are self-starting professionals. They pride themselves in acquiring technical skills and specialized knowledge.

Selecting Team Members

When selecting a team, upper management identifies those parts of the organization that are associated most closely with the problem. There are four places to look:

  1. Where the problem is observed or the pain is felt
  2. Where sources or causes of the problem might be found
  3. Among those with special knowledge, information, or skill
  4. In areas that can be helpful in developing the remedy

Often a cross functional team is assembled to accomplish significant results in a short period of time. The best and brightest people, the organization has to offer, should be chosen. What is required are people who believe that two or more minds are better than one, and who will contribute a diversity of perspective, experience and knowledge.

Adding New Team Members

Care must be taken when adding new people to existing teams. The rule is to not impose an individual on a team. This can be handled by involving the entire team in the selection process. Team members interview prospective new team members either one at a time or collectively. The team should be questioned about the skills they feel a new team member should bring to the team. When the team has a significant role in deciding on any new team member, the team will be much more committed to making sure the decision was the right decision.

Removing Team Members

Sometimes, despite everyone’s best efforts, a team member may need to be taken off the team. There is any number of reasons why this situation could occur. Perhaps one of the members lacks the required skills and shows little interest in developing them. Personality conflicts may exist between team members. Perhaps a team member is too stretched or stressed by other projects or personal problems, and can’t keep his/her commitments to the team. The result is a very delicate situation for the team leader or sponsoring manager. Both the team and the manager should have a series of frank discussions with the individual. The conversations should centre on what’s expected, what’s at stake, and what’s not happening that needs to happen, or what is happening that shouldn’t be happening. If the situation doesn’t improve, the team member must be removed.

Team Size

A team can consist of members from only one area, or it can be made up of a group of representatives from different parts of the organization. Each person may be a subject matter expert who understands the processes and activities at issue. It is usually impractical to include every person who could be involved. Conventional wisdom is that teams over 20 people, some think over 15, become too unwieldy and lose the active participation of all team members. Teams of 4 people or less may not generate enough ideas. A major change management principle embraces the notion that people will more readily accept and support a change if they are included in the development of the solution. This presents a major dilemma for teams: How can the team be kept small enough to effectively work together and at the same time involve everyone? This is not a trivial matter in large organizations that may have several hundred people actively supporting a work process. Extending the group to customers of the process generates an even larger group of people whose collective buy-in is needed to ensure successful change. Special efforts have to be used to involve the larger group in the understanding of the initial team’s charter and the collection of needed information. Input and ideas should be sought from the larger group as the solution set is developed. Successful teams organize, develop, and implement a communication plan to gain the participation, support, and ultimately, the commitment of an entire department or operation.

Team Diversity

To achieve optimum performance, a team often needs diversity in the orientation of its individual team members. Some team members are needed who are primarily oriented towards the task and target date accomplishment. Other team members will be needed who hold process, planning, organization and methods in the highest regard. Teams also need members who nurture, encourage and communicate well. Teams need some members who are creative and innovative. This quality is helpful when product design, inspiration, optimism, or humour is needed. It is important to understand that the above characteristics are not normally an assigned role. People naturally tend to orient their thinking along with one or more of the desired traits. A good understanding of the above strengths and the value each brings to a team provides much-needed guidance for team selection. Productive teams are sensitive to each other’s viewpoints. Refer to the following Belbin team role descriptions for additional insight into appropriate member selection.

 Team Building Activities

Three key characteristics of effective team building are mutual trust, respect, and support. Team members need to be coached in the need to trust and support each other. Support involves actively keeping an eye on the other team members and demonstrating a willingness to help each other out when help is needed–even when it might not be requested. Team members encourage each other to stretch beyond their comfort zone by offering advice or assistance when asked or when it is obvious that the fellow team member needs it. Teams must strive to improve the quality of their teamwork as well as the quality of their output. Teams often have a coach or facilitator. The facilitator is responsible for teaching team building behavior. Team leaders, facilitators, and coaches are also helpful in making certain that the team receives guidance and training as needs arise. Activities that improvement teams may undertake include:

  • Awareness and education: Additional instruction may be necessary to broaden the understanding of company goals and policies, the improvement process, ways to understand and solve problems, data collection, brainstorming, data analysis, etc.
  • Data collection and presentation: Often to highlight problems or show improvement, bar graphs, charts, and cause-and-effect diagrams are used. Pareto diagrams are also a very effective tool in problem definition, data analysis, and data presentation. Pareto diagrams form a comparison basis for the performance of a department or process over time.
  • Problem solving and decision-making: This is the most productive endeavour that teams can participate in. Each time a goal is achieved, it should be documented and the resulting cost savings calculated. The improvement should also be submitted to management for recognition and information shafing.
  • Organizing breakthroughs: The mentality that scraps and rework are inevitable is very deep rooted. Historically, each work area takes a certain percentage of scrap generation for granted. To counter this attitude with a “zero defect” mentality is not an easy task. The best approach is to brainstorm the process from the premise of how things would look if all waste were eliminated. In the six sigma team concept, meeting customers’ expectations is also extremely important.

Initial Project Selection

Management may define the team project. When the team chooses the improvement project, then the following considerations are important:

  • It should have broad appeal to members, co-workers, and management
  • It should be fairly simple but it should not be  trivial
  • It should be selected to show quick benefits (within 3 to 4 months)
  • It should be within the group’s control
  • It should consider time and resource constraints

The two major activities are project resolution and learning teamwork. The Problem (Project) Must be properly Defined. The problem must be defined. There is often a tendency to work on a down stream symptom of an upstream problem. Problem statements are often fuzzy. Statements such as “Poor communications”, “Excessive downtime”, “Low recovery”, “Lack of training”, “A car runs rough”, ” Too much scrap” must be avoided.

A problem is a gap between:

  •  What is? and What should be?
  • Current results and desired results.

A clearly defined problem statement that is measurable should be the initial product. Frequently, a target timetable is included. Consider the team to be working on a problem that is scheduled for the solution.

Team Stages

Most teams go through four development stages before they become productive: forming, storming, norming, and performing. These stages can also be cyclical. Individuals may be storming with one teammate and performing with another.

  1. Forming

    Forming is the beginning of team life. Expectations are unclear. Members test the water. Interactions are superficial. This is the honeymoon stage. When a team forms, its members typically start out by exploring the boundaries of acceptable group behaviour. As each member makes the transition from individual to team member, each looks to the team leader (or facilitator) for guidance as to his or her role and responsibilities.

  2. Storming

    The second phase consists of conflict and resistance to the group’s task and structure. There are healthy and unhealthy types of storming. Conflict often occurs in the following major areas: authority issues, vision and values dissonance, and personality and cultural differences. However, if dealt with appropriately, these stumbling blocks can be turned into performance enhancers later. This is the most difficult stage for any team to work through. Teams realize how much work lies ahead and feel overwhelmed. They want the project to move forward but are not yet experts at team improvement skills. They often cling to their own opinions, based on personal experience, and resist seeking the opinions of others. This can lead to hurt feelings and unnecessary disputes. Disciplined use of the quality improvement process and the proper tools and communication skills can assist teams members to express their various theories, lower their anxiety levels, and reduce the urge to assign blame.

  3. Norming

    During the third phase, a sense of group cohesion develops. Team members use more energy on data collection and analysis as they begin to test theories and identify root causes. Members accept other team members and develop norms for resolving conflicts, making decisions, and completing assignments. Norming takes place in three ways. First, as storming is overcome, the team becomes more relaxed and steady. Conflicts are no longer as frequent and no longer throw the team off course. Second, the team develops a routine. Scheduled team meetings give a sense of predictability and orientation. Third, norming is cultivated through team- building events and activities. Norming is a necessary transition stage. A team can’t perform if it doesn’t norm.

  4. Performing

    This is the payoff stage. The group has developed its relationships, structure, and purpose. The team begins to tackle the tasks at hand. The team begins to work effectively and cohesively. During this stage, the team may still have its ups and downs. Occasionally, feelings that surfaced during the storming stage may recur.

  5. Adjourning:

    At the end of most projects the team disbands. This step is called adjourning to rhyme with the four other team stages (forming, storming, norming and performing). Adjourning is also a very common practice for other project teams, task forces, and ad hoc teams.


Team life cycle characteristics:

  • Group will be uncertain
  • Group lacks cohesiveness
  • Group will not easily develop consensus
  • A leader exhibits a high-task/high-relationship style
  • Task related work is assumed by the group
  • The group must work to involve any non-participating members
  • A leader exhibits a low-task/high-relationship style
  • The team focuses on presentations, tasks, and relationships
  • Members prioritize and perform tasks
  • Members work out decisions in a caring way
  • Conflict is accepted, but cooperation is preferred
  • The team leader is a delegator and exhibits a low-task/low-relationship style
  • The team exhibits a high-task/high-relationship style

Team Motivation

The team process itself can be a highly effective, people-building, potential- releasing, the goal-achieving social system that is characterized by:

  • A climate of high support – Creative problem-solving
  • An open communication process – Individual achievement
  • Organizational goal achievement – Commitment

The fundamental purpose of establishing teams is to improve the internal and external efficiencies of the company. This is done through the efforts of the team members to improve quality, methods, and/or productivity. If teams are properly functioning, they will:

  • Improve employee morale
  • Remove areas of conflict
  • Develop creative skills of members
  • Improve communication and leadership skills of members
  • Develop problem-solving techniques
  • Improve attitudes of both management and team members
  • Indicate to team members that management will listen
  • Demonstrate that employees have good ideas
  • Improve management/employee relationships

Listed below are some of the reasons that teams have been successful in many companies:

  • If management has sanctioned teams in the company, they are more apt to listen to employees and believe they have ideas worthy of implementation.
  • The team procedure allows all team members to communicate and exercise creative expression.
  • The concept of teams is supported by modern motivational theory:
    • Maslow’s higher level of human needs
    • McGregor’s Theory Y which recognizes the worth of an individual
    • Herzberg’s theory that true motivation is found in the work itself

Motivation Techniques

Probably the most challenging management responsibility is how to both sustain and increase internal motivation in the work group.’ Management should recognize that people do have certain needs in common, which may often be met in basically the same way. For example, two such common needs are that of being needed and of being treated with dignity and respect. Effective managers must have confidence in both their subordinates and themselves. Workers tend to respond to and respect the manager who knows their capabilities, who is fair and consistent, and who respects them as individuals. There are many qualities that a leader must possess and many conditions that must be satisfied to best motivate people in the industry. Among the important factors are the ability to communicate, provide leadership, expertise, and appropriate working conditions. In order to more effectively understand motivation, a review of some of the more notable milestones in motivational history is warranted.

  1. The Hawthorne Studies

    In 1924, Western Electric Company started research on individual productivity at its Chicago Hawthorne facility. They allowed Elton Mayo of Harvard to conduct studies on the effects of worker fatigue and output. The results of this research left countless unanswered questions and opened up many new areas for industrial research. Two important points were revealed in this study:
    1. Group behavior has a powerful influence on individual members.
    2. The workgroup is a social group that fulfills certain human needs.One of the primary objectives of the study was to determine the effect of illumination on productivity. The study actually revealed a far more important and insightful factor — so long as people are treated as human beings, giving due consideration to individual needs, they tend to cooperate in increasing productivity. The “Hawthorne effect”  suggested that people who are singled out for special attention tend to perform as anticipated.

  2. Abraham Maslow

    A major theory on the needs and motivation of an individual is based on Abraham Maslow’s theory of human needs based on research conducted during World War II. He stated that there are five levels of human needs, and they are listed below from the highest to the lowest:

    1. Self-actualization: Maximum achievement for self-fulfillment
    2. Esteem: Respect, prestige, recognition, personal mastery
    3. Social: Love, affection, relationships
    4. Safety: Security, protection, and stability
    5. Physiological: Basic human needs; food, water, housing

      Maslow’s theory affirmed the view that individuals are motivated to lower-order needs until these are satisfied and then higher-order needs must be met. Today’s society with a safety net for the lowest need level makes the threat of losing a job less severe than in the depression years. The current generation of professional knowledge workers might already have self-actualization needs. His message for modern management is that more emphasis should be placed on higher-order needs for most employees.


3. Douglas McGregor

During the mid-1950s, Douglas McGregor began to introduce new theories, Theory X and Theory Y, to his students at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. McGregor contended that traditional management practices were rooted in certain basic negative assumptions about people (Theory X):

  • Are fundamentally lazy
  • Cannot direct their own behavior
  • Avoid responsibility
  • Are indifferent to organizational needs
  • Lack of integrity
  • Prefer to be directed by others
  • Are not very bright
  • Are not interested in achievement

By contrast, Theory Y contains the following important points:

  • The expenditure of physical effort in work is as natural as play or rest
  • The threat of punishment is not the only means to achieve objectives
  • Man can exercise self-direction and self-control
  • Commitment to objectives is a function of the associated rewards
  • The average human can learn to accept and seek responsibility
  • Imagination, ingenuity, and creativity are widely, not narrowly, distributed
  • Only a fraction of the intellectual potential of workers is utilized

McGregor viewed management’s job as one in which working conditions are created so that individuals can establish and integrate goals with those in the organization. McGregor stated that the following statements are true of Theory X organizations:

  • Operators don’t care about the operation and products (including quality)
  • Hostile relationships within and between departments are common
  • Emphasis is on who to blame if something goes wrong
  • An independent inspection group must be used to catch defects
  • Operators are not consulted for work-related improvements
  • A critical, fault finding upper management

A corresponding list of statements are true of Theory Y organizations:

  • Upper management empowers workers to improve the process
  • Supportive professional and friendly relationships abound
  • Employees share incentives, and individual leadership is encouraged
  • Emphasis is on what the problem is and how to fix it
  • Operators contribute to work-related improvements on a continuous basis
  • Operators care and are interested in their product and jobs

4. Frederick W. Herzberg

Frederick W. Herzberg and his colleagues at Western Reserve Institute conducted studies on the motivation to work. He proposed that motivation can be divided into two factors, which have been referred to by a variety of names such as:

  • Dissatisfiers and satisfiers, or
  • Maintenance factors and motivators, or
  • Hygiene factors and motivators

The dissatisfiers or hygiene factors do not provide strong motivation but do cause dissatisfaction if they are not present. On the other hand, satisfiers do provide strong motivation and satisfaction when they are present. For the manager, this is a reminder that salary is not a motivator, but the lack of an appropriate salary can dissatisfy an employee. Management should be aware of the need to balance both sides of the equation in order to keep an employee from being dissatisfied and still have motivators available to influence the employee in a positive way.


Team Facilitation

Job Enrichment

Herzberg’s theory of satisfiers and hygiene factors for understanding job satisfaction and performance are linked to job enrichment. In this job design, jobs that are boring or lack of content are given elements that will satisfy and enrich the employee. Hackman suggests that the following job characteristics are important.

Skill variety: a variety of tasks, and types of skills

Task identify: an ability to do the complete job

Task significance: the impact of the job on the firm

Autonomy: freedom from supervision, ability to schedule one’s own work

Job feedback: a person can see the direct results of their work

Employee Empowerment

Organizations have been searching for higher performance for many years. Research showed that most people desired increased involvement and participation. Organizations find that with empowerment, solutions are better, decisions have better acceptance, and performance is increased. Empowerment can be defined as “To empower is to give someone power, which is done by giving individuals the authority to make decisions, to contribute their ideas, to exert influence, and to be responsible.”Management can do a better job in erasing barriers to empowerment through:

  • Providing more support
  • Managing by walking around
  • Providing training
  • Responding quickly to recommendations
  • Being facilitators
  • Recognizing employee accomplishments
  •  Being role models

Organizational Empowerment

Management has the responsibility of setting the tone for organizational empowerment. The purpose of this action is to engage the entire workforce in the activity of making things better. The need for continuous improvement includes productivity, cost containment, product and service quality, outstanding customer treatment, and respect for all employees of the company.


Management Actions

Without adequate consideration of the quality of work-life (by enriching it, enlarging it, or other methods) the individual worker will probably not be satisfied. Efforts at higher levels of empowerment may be doomed. Among the various concepts that management can use are:

  • Getting others involved in their own work assignments
  • Encouraging others to obtain the results of work assignments
  • Providing an environment of cooperation and information sharing
  • Sharing the ownership of results
  • Encouraging others to take initiative in the workplace
  • Allowing others to make decisions and solve their own problems
  • Letting others implement their ideas
  • Recognizing successes and contributors

Know thyself: Managers must understand their own motivation, strengths, and weaknesses.

Know your employees: A motivating manager knows their most valuable resource is people. They should talk to and listen to them.

Establish a positive attitude: Respect and sensitivity toward others is essential to the development of positive attitudes. Feedback should, for the most part (say 85-90%), be positive. Asking for and acting on employee opinions also builds an effective, cooperative atmosphere.

Share the goals: A motivated workforce needs well-defined goals that address both individual and organizational needs.

Monitor progress: Managers should periodically review performance.

Develop interesting work: Managers should consider altering an employee’s work by means of job rotation, job enlargement, and job enrichment.

Job rotation permits employees to switch jobs, reducing boredom and building process knowledge

Job enlargement combines tasks horizontally for growth

Job enrichment combines tasks vertically for growth

Communicate effectively: Managers should provide employees with work-related information rather than reliance on grapevine information.

Celebrate success: Recognizing employee achievement is perhaps the most powerful management tool available.

Team Communications

For any organization to be successful there must be effective internal and external communications. This concept certainly extends to team-based communications as well. Among other items, management must relay information regarding:

  • The vision and mission of the company
  • Team-based policies and procedures
  • Team performance feedback
  • The extent of project support
  • Satisfaction or dissatisfaction with team performance
  • Any shifts in priorities
  • The project’s progress and current status
  • Any requests for any change in resources
  • Items that may impact other teams or departments
  • Any significant shifts in project direction
  • Any pertinent stakeholder information

Any requests for assistance (both internal or external) based on the type of team organization, oral communication can take a variety of forms such as the telephone, face-to-face meetings, formal briefings, videotapes, and the internet. Examples of written communications include letters, reports, computer messages, and e-mails. The written forms can be described as one-way channels. That is, with one-way channels, feedback to a report or a posting is not immediate. Face-to-face meetings generally allow for immediate feedback from the receiver to the sender (two-way communications). The skillful use of questioning is of great value to both management and Continual improvement teams. The following key questions should be asked:

  • Why? Use the Japanese technique of asking “why” five times.
  • What is the purpose?
  • What will it take to accomplish the project?
  • Who will care or benefit if the project is completed?
  • What data is available?
  • Where did the data come from?
  • Avoid leading questions: let the group or individual draw their own conclusion
  • Phrase questions in a positive manner

Prepare questions in advance whenever possible The use of open-ended questions will allow for some discussion and probing rather than just a simple “yes” or “no” answer. Listening, the other half of the communication concept often receives far too little attention. Verbal information can often be very difficult to understand, even when active listening takes place. Management, including team leadership, should spend a substantial amount of time being listeners. Active listening is defined as helping find the source of problems or meaning. A passive listener will respond in a manner that will discourage the message sender from saying more.

  • Put the message sender at ease
  • Show that you want to listen
  • Remove listening distractions
  • Empathize with the speaker
  • Be patient with your own response
  • Hold your own temper
  • Avoid arguing and criticism
  • Ask questions
  • Stop talking

Many individuals would rather hear themselves speak than listening to another person. The good news is listening skills can be learned and developed by practice. Project reports are a great way to communicate team project status. However, a growing number of hospitals, hardware manufacturers, and service organizations are using condensed reporting formats such as the A3 report format

Team Performance Evaluation

Teams are established to accomplish something within a time frame. A clear understanding of the team’s objectives is a very important element of creating a successful team. The objectives may or may not be clear. Management may indicate that they desire a significant improvement in overall organizational performance (new business, reduced costs, or improved services). In this instance, the team has some serious work to do defining and refining performance measures. A team can and should be expected to develop and refine its objectives and measures of performance. Even when management provides simple instructions such as a desire to reduce costs, many questions remain: Reduce costs at the expense of sales? Reduce our own costs, but push costs off on some other source (i.e. supplier or customer)? Larger objectives quickly come into play. The team may need to understand the company’s overall strategy. Once the strategy is set or understood by the team members, work can proceed on refining performance measures. Teams are often chartered to improve performance in some way. Performance is associated with speed, quality, cost, and effectiveness. Finding good measures on these variables is not always easy. Most organizations count what can be easily counted, without regard to the organization’s performance. Getting a better handle on performance usually means starting with the customer’s point of view. Finding out what is important to customers and building a set of measures around these variables is usually effective. An example team performance checklist is shown below.


Team Reward and Recognition

Team rewards, which are material items and are given to the team, should be the same for all members of the team. Many intangible rewards are not formally given by someone, but people can still receive and appreciate them. The ultimate reason that rewards and recognition are given is to provide positive reinforcement for good performance, with the expectation that this performance will be repeated in the future. The effect of the reward will depend on the perception of the person receiving the reward. Rewards and recognition are best received when they are personal to the individual receiving them. This is more difficult to achieve as the team size increases or as the number of awards increase. If the award is unique, it has greater value than the same recognition a second or third time. If the company gives out a certificate of achievement to one-third of the employees each month, the employees will very quickly think of the certificate as worthless and a waste of time. Management recognition of a team for successful completion of their objectives can be very positive and can encourage other teams to strive for excellence. If the team’s efforts are viewed by other teams as being less significant than were made by teams not receiving recognition, then the outcome can be counterproductive. Team and individual rewards and recognition are important to both the organization and to the individuals. However, rewards are often difficult to implement. While a reward may motivate one group, failure to receive a similar reward may discourage another group. The same reward, given under different conditions or at different times, may have totally different results. Probably one of the best rewards is “thank you” when it is sincerely meant. Yet “thank you” often seems to be taken for granted by the person receiving the benefits. Employees who are aware that their efforts are appreciated are often eager to do more than if they were to receive a large financial award. (But don’t turn down the cash if it is offered.) One way to offer recognition and support for teams is to encourage them to present their accomplishments to upper management. Presentation objectives include:

  • Displaying skills
  • Showing accomplishments
  • Summarizing project results
  • Gaining necessary approvals
  • Opening lines of communication
  • Knowing the customer’s true needs

Presentation guidelines include many of the following:

  • Have a handout report and a leader
  • Introduce everyone and give them a chance to speak
  • Capture key problems and action steps
  • Indicate the costs and benefits of recommendations
  • Present an implementation plan
  • Use visual aids – be professional
  • Emphasize achievements and accomplishments
  • Start and end on time (about one-half hour duration)
  • Present no sudden surprises.

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