Teamwork and Its Link to the Productivity Equation, Part 2

Norb Slowikowski

April 2005

Last month’s article discussed ways to strengthen the organization with teamwork. We covered the Supervisor’s responsibilities, now we will discuss the employee.

Team Member's Responsibilities

On the other side of the equation, employees have their own criteria to meet. For individual members, the most important aspect is developing trust. Through trust you can accomplish the "3-C’s"—communication, cooperation and commitment. If any or all of these is missing in an employee's relationship with the supervisor, there will be inefficiency. Encourage employees to:
  • Try to see reality from the boss’ point of view. Many times we interpret a situation wrongly because we look at it from the point of view without having all the facts. An employee may even perceive the boss in a negative light because he wants him/her to act according to an image he has created. If they change that perception, they can change the boss.
  • Become aware of the responsibilities, pressures and conflicting and competing demands that their boss has to deal with. Help them get a sense of the boss’ priorities.
  • Identify the boss’ pet peeves and learn to live with them.
  • Find out what the boss’ expectations are. These expectations can be both broad (e.g., what kinds of problems does the boss want to be informed about and when) as well as very specific (e.g., what projects will they be working on in the next 90 days.)

The Total Team’s Responsibilities

Now that we’ve defined the parameters of teamwork, let’s delve further into the details of a total team organization. After laying the foundation, teamwork becomes the company’s approach to getting things done. Under your guidance as business owner, the company as a whole should envision, unite, empower, explore and reflect. Teams believe that they share a common vision with other sectors and individuals. They have cooperative goals, complement each other, discuss problems, recommend solutions and strengthen their work relationships.

By creating a Team Organization, you will:
  1. Generate excitement about doing meaningful work
  2. Create an environment for people to speak their mind without repercussions
  3. Build respect and appreciation for team members as people and contributors
  4. Confront complex internal problems and blockages in a cooperative and positive manner
  5. Explore problems by exchanging information and discussing opposing views openly and candidly, with the intent to do what is best for everybody

Building teamwork requires establishing some new traditions and making sure that all team players understand them while making a commitment to follow them. These "new traditions” are summed up as follows:
  1. The Customer is the "Designated Driver.”
    • The organizations that change successfully are customer-driven instead of internally-driven. This allows them to quickly and continuously understand, meet and exceed their customer’s changing expectations.
    • Typically, the customer’s list now expands to "better, faster, cheaper.”
  2. Let’s Bridge the Gaps.
    • A "stuck” organization is too functionally focused—a collection of separate functions that don’t help each other.
    • Overall, the common effect of a functional focus is to reduce quality while increasing the schedule and costs.
    • A changing company must become process-focused. They need to consistently ask, "What is the best way to achieve desired results where everybody wins?”
  3. Lead, Follow or Get Out Of The Way.
    • Most "stuck” organizations are management-centered. Managers see themselves as the central players in the organization and assume that they need to control everything.
    • Employee involvement and teams must become the alternative because it is a better way to utilize all of the knowledge and skills of the entire organization.

Teamwork becomes the Management System that revolves around a process for improving productivity at all levels of the organization. The process is based on the concept of continuous improvement, which essentially means—"No matter where you’re at, you’re never there.” This gives the company a sense of motivation to strive for something better. It’s not a quick fix, but a process where both management and employees are involved in facilitating change through effective leadership. In turn, the middle management team becomes the "glue” that ties together the three keys to collective success: direction from the top, support from the middle and action by the employees at the bottom.

Leaders who are making the transition to this collaborative approach must buy into the Four Key Principles of Change.
  1. Change takes time and requires patience and perseverance.
  2. Change is a process, not a "hodge-podge” of individual activities.
  3. Change requires the persistence to stay on course while overcoming obstacles until everybody gets comfortable with the new way of doing things.
  4. Change requires ongoing support as people stumble in their efforts to execute new formula for day-to-day activities.
Patience and Execution

Above all, if managers and supervisors want to build teamwork, they must understand that the process of change requires patience. It becomes necessary for managers to move away from a culture where managers alone have all the answers, make all the decisions, and tell people what to do. They must begin to understand that building a team organization requires developing genuine relationships in a give-and-take atmosphere.

We must also keep in mind that leaders are at the center of creating a team organization. Leaders must be empowered to challenge the status-quo while overhauling obsolete practices. Then he/she can empower others to make a difference. The result—issues are explored thoroughly through the encouragement of diverse opinions, and opposing views can then be assembled into workable solutions. Workable solutions will inevitably move the organization toward increased productivity and efficiency.