Team Building - Developing Performing Teams



Team Conflicts, Argyris, Team Learning, Peter Senge, skill, Team Building, Teamwork, collective work-products, leadership, Michael Dell, John Medica

The command and control style of leadership is becoming redundant and the team-based approach to work is increasingly becoming popular. The article explains the characteristics of great teams and the leadership approaches to building performing teams.

The Michael Dell, the founder and CEO of DELL Computers, believes that business is all about building teams and building talent in the organization. According to him, it is the most essential component of success as diversity of ideas and input helps a lot in making better decisions. Dell always encourages his teams, even if some of their products fail or have to be scrapped. He motivates them to work better on their next product.

In April 1993, John Medica, who led the development of Apple's PowerBook, was put in charge of the Notebook division of DELL. By the time he took over, one product had already been canceled and the development of other products was taking longer than expected. After a realistic assessment of the situation, it was felt that only one of the products under development - the Latitude XP - would be competitive in the market. The company decided to cancel several products that were in the development stage. This demotivated the engineers who had spent a lot of time and energy developing the products that had been canceled. To motivate them, Dell reinforced the company's strategy to the notebook group and encouraged them to pull together to make the Latitude XP a success.

Dell realized that aligning teams toward a common objective and creating the same incentive system across the entire company would help direct everyone's talent toward creating value for customers and shareholders. At Dell, people work in teams of two to receive, manufacture, and pack an order for delivery to a customer. The profit sharing incentive encourages them to be productive as a team. Hourly metrics are posted on monitors on the factory floor so that each team can see if its performance meets the company's goals. Dell also believes that 360 performance appraisals help identify areas that might require further development or improvement and also keep people focused on achieving their goals as a team. He believes that teamwork is all about people who are interested in each other's growth.

Moving From Command and Control to Teamwork

As more and more organizations move towards a team-based approach to work, the command and control style of leadership is becoming redundant. Leaders are playing the role of facilitators more and are now expected to teach their team members, and let them make decisions for the team. A team-based approach is expected to improve efficiency and productivity levels in an organization. However, the transformation from a command and control style to the team based approach can be confusing and grueling. Companies expect their middle level managers to transform themselves into team leaders. They are expected to coach, motivate, and empower their people.

However, very few managers or companies really understand the transformation process. Most managers find the transition difficult to make. Often, the things they were encouraged to do during the command and control days are no longer appropriate. These managers do not realize the shift in mindset and the behavioral skills required to be successful team leaders. Managers in their new role are not sure what long-term effect this team-based approach will have on their careers. Soft skills such as communication, conflict resolution, and coaching though crucial for success as team leaders may not add much value to their resumes. According to some, being an effective team leader does not guarantee promotion within a company or opportunities outside2. Managers should not worry if they are asked to make the transition from the command and control style to the team-based approach. They can acquire the skills needed to be effective team leaders: patience to share information, trust in others' abilities to make decisions, and willingness and ability to share power with team members.

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1] In a 360 performance appraisal, the top management, the employee's seniors as well as his subordinates assess his performance.
2] GSLL Caminiti, Susan, Sookdeo, Ricardo, What team leaders need to know, Fortune, 2/20/95.