Creating a Team Mentality

By Jay Bahel  |  Posted 08-28-2009 Print Email
Developing a culture of openness without taking things personally is critical to success.

Tired of the usual corporate politicking turf wars, useless meetings and lack of accountability? There's a way to overcome these obstacles to execution.

To successfully complete a project, businesses and their CIOs must have clear and realistic strategies, as well as clear roles and responsibilities. They also need to institute success measures and meaningfully deploy change-management plans.

But before we do that, we encourage companies to build "team rules." Sound too squishy and abstract? They aren't--in fact, they're critical to success. Organizations that execute like heck build rules for interaction and execution before they build and carry out their plans.

A large global services firm recently embarked on a critical IT strategy. Before it started, we interviewed senior IT leadership and heard them talk about siloed activities, diminished trust and redundant assignments.

These types of sentiments are not unusual. We helped this company overcome these barriers by implementing five simple rules for all team members to use. When one of these rules is broken, other leaders should call it out.

1. We welcome all questions and stay solution-oriented. The tendency of some leaders may be to just present issues and to criticize. With this rule, this organization encouraged leaders to present their questions or issues, but asked that all issues be presented with a corresponding potential solution.

2. We strive for consensus. Having all leaders agree on a solution is unlikely 100 percent of the time. However, effective leaders ask themselves, "Can I support that decision?" If so, then you've achieved consensus. This organization assigned other small teams/subject matter experts to develop consensus when the leadership team couldn't achieve consensus.

3. We focus on results, not activities. Many organizations often structure meetings to talk about extraneous activities instead of focusing on meaningful results. For example, is it really important to discuss "last week's activities" or "next week's activities" instead of discussing key issues in support of a meaningful result? This organization didn't think so--and from our best practices guidelines, they were correct.

4. We commit to objective, candid and frequent communications. Being transparent is critical. Why leave an issue on the table when it can and should be discussed in a specific group meeting? Developing a culture of openness without taking things personally is critical to success. Certain team rules interplay with each other. Being open also requires trust that other leaders are solely presenting their views in support of being solution-oriented.

5. We continually demonstrate that we care. For this organization, demonstrating that it cares meant a total commitment and trust to these team rules, doing everything that it can to meet promises: "If I have to work all night to get this done, I will, as I promised I would." The company also insisted on limited-to-no use of BlackBerrys in meetings.

This organization is now on the path toward executing its IT strategy. These team rules were critical to its success. Most of all, team members trust each other and are having fun.

This approach doesn't cost a lot of time or money. When done properly, good team rules become the heart of the organization's culture--and are present everywhere you go. The question you should ask is, Why not have team rules for our organization?

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