Teamwork and Its Link to the Productivity Equation, Part 1

Norb Slowikowski

May 2007

Let’s start out by defining teamwork: An individual commitment to a group effort, which involves the blending of diverse talents to achieve predetermined goals or results.

In short, if your aim is to increase productivity, morale and profits, you must begin with teamwork. Before teamwork can become a reality in your company, you must have a clear understanding of what it is and how to develop a plan for implementing the team-building process.

First, teamwork requires that individual team members possess certain attributes: talent, education, a positive attitude and motivation.

Teamwork also requires that supervisors practice the Theory Z leadership style, which includes involvement, collaboration, accessibility, positive reinforcement, support, identifying and removing barriers, listening and an ongoing feedback system. When these traits are practiced correctly by individuals and supervisors, they build the foundation for effective teamwork and productivity.

Each member of a team must hold up their end of the bargain. For supervisors, this means effective planning and coordination. Planning is defined by knowing where we are, where we want to go and how we are going to get there. Coordination includes the allocation of resources to achieve desired results.

The field supervisor’s role in planning is to determine what must be done today or this week to meet the productivity requirements as established in the schedule. This requires thinking through such key elements as the scope of work: why the work is being performed, time frames and/or labor budget, working conditions, procedures and resources, and the action plan.

If supervisors fail to meet these key criteria, a sense of confusion filters down to the lower levels of the organization about what is expected of them. Employees are unsure of the correct process, so they simply do the best they know how. This usually occurs because of a lack of connection from the top down. The supervisor is detached from the employees who have to do the work. The traditional management style of telling people what to do and how to do it is archaic. Without employee "buy-in” and involvement in the process, the results are lack of productivity and inefficiency. The need for change is clear, and the extent to which productivity improves has much to do with management’s willingness to abandon the traditional approach of managing from the top down.

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-Cs: communication, cooperation and commitment. If any or all of these is missing in your relationship with your supervisor, then you should consider utilizing the following strategies toward building an upward power base with your boss:

Try to see reality from your boss’ point of view. Many times you interpret a situation wrongly because you look at it from your point of view without having all the facts. You may even perceive your boss in a negative light because you want him to act according to an image you have created. Change your perception, and you change your boss.

Become aware of the responsibilities, pressures and conflicting and competing demands that your boss has to deal with. Get a sense of your boss’ priorities.

Identify your boss’ pet peeves and learn to live with them.

In many instances, it will be your job to find out what your boss’ expectations are. These expectations can be both broad (What kind of problem does the boss want to be informed about and when?) as well as very specific (What projects will you be working on in the next 90 days?).

Next month we will explore the details of a total team organization.

About the Author
Norb Slowikowski is president of Slowikowski & Associates, Inc., Darien, Ill.