Norb Slowikowski

June 2007

If you want to strengthen your organization through continuous improvement, the team approach is the way to go. Teamwork is successful because people want and need to be a part of something larger than the individual. People also feel the need to be respected by others. Teamwork provides a personal connection to others and allows us to feel accepted as key members of a worthwhile project. Only through a total team process can we face the challenge of growth and accomplish extraordinary things with ordinary people.

In short, if your aim is to increase productivity, morale and profits, you must begin with teamwork. But 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 teambuilding process.

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

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

Teamwork also requires that supervisors practice a leadership style that 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 his 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 the 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 and communicating 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 an action plan.

If supervisors fail to clarify and communicate these elements, 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 their best based on what they know. This usually occurs because of a lack of connection from the top down. 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 hand, 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.
- Become aware of the responsibilities, pressures and conflicting and competing demands that your boss has to deal with.
- 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 problems does the boss what to know about?) and very specific (finish the job in 90 days).

Only through a total team process can we face the challenge of growth and accomplish extraordinary things with ordinary people.

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