Why Teams Don’t Work Posted In: Project Management 3 Jun 2010

The ideas of this article were principally taken from the book why teams don’t work by Harvey robbins and michael finley

 At work we are in teams all the time, on-going monthly cycles in finance, preparing for a big marketing exhibition or perhaps a longer-term assignment to implement a change programme.

Many things have been written on teams and how to make them perform in an effective way.  What we are looking at in this article are some of the key areas why teams don’t work.

Consider these whilst forming your team and refer back to them during the teams life; they may help you resolve issues before they effect the outcome of the teams objectives:

 Badly set or No goals.  If the end goal of your team are not clearly laid out then what are the team working towards? Goals for a team cant just be one end goal “our aim is to implement the new finance system”.  You need a series of connected goals that support and work towards the end goal.

Lack of Vision “The vision is the thing the team exists to do…it is the thing that leadership makes happen.”  When the team hits tough times it’s the vision that can pull the troops together.  Hitting your goal targets without understanding the bigger picture can undermine the teams’ progress.  The vision of the team must be in line with the vision of the organisation.

Miss Communication If you are managing a change programme at your business, many business consultants will tell you the first three priorities are communication, communication and communication.  In cannot be underestimated how important it is to communicate to all the stakeholders of the teams’ activities. If you are not managing the communication correctly, human nature will fill in the blanks with negative assumptions.

Different – conflicting agendas Teams are made up of individuals, and individuals have differing agendas.  As, for example, the business consultant reviewing/coaching or working with a team you should try to ascertain if there are external pressures on the individual project participants that do not fit with the end goal of the team.

No or Poor Feedback loops As the team moves through its different phases it is beneficial to take the time and feedback to each other.  That can be e.g. peer to peer or 360 degree; you must assess what is best for your team – but without it you are missing a vital ingredient to successfully move your team forwards.

Inadequate role definition “it’s not my job”.  You want to avoid creating an atmosphere where each individual is only interested in their immediate responsibilities; but better that then an environment where the left hand doesn’t know what the right is doing.

Bad Leadership The buck stops here.  Thousands of pages have been written on what makes a great leader, it can be hard to define.  But somehow we all know when the boss sucks!  If you are leading your team badly you can pull down the best functioning team.

Inappropriate reward system: Balance between the teams’ needs and individual needs.  If you set your sales team up to be rewarded for individual success you perhaps should not be surprised when the team ethic goes out the window.

Poor Resourcing Resourcing impacts on a team in many ways.  For example if a team member is being taken from their line role be sure to have the appropriate temporary resource in place to fill the line role or you’ll be losing a team member to complete the tasks they always had to do.  It’s de-motivating for the employee and has a negative impact on the team.

Teams are all over our organisations, they don’t operate without challenges.  Assessing why teams don’t work may help ensure yours does.