Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Team "concessions" by the UAW at Chrysler.

I notice in today's paper that among the UAW's concessions for the Chrysler restructuring, the union has agreed to consolidate non-skilled labor job classifications into a team concept at all remaining factories. It's a pity that the union has resisted giving this 'concession' for the past 40-years!

Introducing the team concept at Chrysler won't be as easy and simple as it sounds. Human beings are flawed and fallible; they're imperfect beings. Imperfections at the individual level are one thing. But put a team together with all the various dynamics, toss in people's inherent human flaws, and you get a host of bizarre behaviors and outcomes. Because individuals behave dysfunctionally, teams can't help but operate the same way. In addition, companies often fail to follow through with their teambuilding efforts. They start out with great enthusiasm and lofty goals, and then somewhere along the way the batteries start to run down. More than anything, successful teambuilding requires a sustained effort and follow-through on the important guidelines listed below.

A major reason why so many teambuilding efforts fizzle out has to do with the mindset of the CEO or the senior management team. Often, they're following some highly complex theory or "flavor-of-the-month" approach that they hope will magically transform the workforce into high-performing teams. However, I believe that to have any hope at success, you have to keep it simple.

Interestingly, the best teams look and sound messy. They have more unstructured conversation. They engage in more ideological conflict. They put difficult issues on the table and spend time passionately debating them. As a result, outsiders looking in on high performing teams often get the wrong impression. In contrast, most dysfunctional teams look very neat and tidy. They rarely mix it up. Their meetings have clear, organized agendas and they always end on time. Nobody gets upset, people don't raise their voices, and they avoid conflict like the plague. Dysfunctional teams are a lot like the old Ozzie and Harriet television family, where everything is "nice." Unfortunately, "nice" only works on TV, not in the real world.

Good conflict focuses on issues; bad conflict focuses on people. More important, good conflict gets addressed in the moment, so that people walk away from it finished and with no residual impact. Bad conflict lingers on and on. It continues behind closed doors after the meeting is over. Few things will kill a team quicker than unresolved conflict. Regardless of the nature of the conflict, great teams always deal with it when it occurs. They don't try to shove it back down, hide it under the table or pretend it doesn't exist.

High performing teams usually try to follow these guidelines:

1. Team members make decisions unselfishly for the greater good, not for their own self-interest.

2. Team members are aligned on mission, strategy, goals and priorities.

3, Team members assume best intentions in one another, even when they disagree.

4. Team members openly discuss vital issues in team meetings.

5. When decisions are made in team meetings, everyone owns the decisions and fully supports them outside the meeting room.

6. Team members walk the talk and live by the firm’s stated values.

7. Team members are acutely aware of the shadow they cast on the rest of the organization.

8. Team members fully participate in initiatives to generate constructive change.

Do your colleagues engage in these eight healthy behaviors? If not, perhaps they need to invest some quality time in their own development, thereby improving their effectiveness.

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