Teamwork and Its Link to the Productivity Equation, Part 2

Norb Slowikowski

October 2007

Last month we defined the parameters of teamwork, so now let’s delve further into the details of a total team organization. By creating a team organization, the following should occur:

1. An excitement about doing meaningful work.
2. An opportunity for people to speak their mind without repercussions.
3. Respecting and appreciating each other as people and contributors.
4. Confronting complex internal problems and blockages in a cooperative and positive manner.
5. Exploring 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.”
a) 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.
b) Typically, the customer’s list now expands to "better, faster, cheaper.”

2. Let’s bridge the gaps.
a) A "stuck” organization is too functionally focused—a collection of separate functions that don’t help each other.
b) Overall, the common effect of a functional focus is to reduce quality while increasing the schedule and costs.
c) 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.
a) Most "stuck” organizations are management-centered. Managers see themselves as the central players in the organization and assume that they need to control everything.
b) 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.

All in all, this is a collaborative course of action organized around four power points: focus, climate, alignment and deployment. It includes the key ingredients that mix together as a recipe of winning ideas, strategies and techniques

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 a new formula for day-to-day activities.

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

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