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A Team Leader’s Challenge: Leading through the Four Stages of Team Development - Norming & Performing

Getting the Team to High Performing – Part 4 of 5

Read Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3 of this case study.

The team has now been together for nearly four months. While they have been performing well and have certainly been productive (Norming stage,) Joshua would love to improve that performance even further (move to High Performing stage.)

Norming & Performing

Exhibit 1

Certainly the team is doing well overall and are operating at Stage 3: Norming. This has been observed through the following:

  • A reduction in conflicts and better management of conflicts overall when they do occur
  • Team members collaborating effectively
  • Quicker problem solving since the start of the initiative

Additionally, the team leaders – Heather and Tony – are collaborating well and have worked out their differences; there is definitely an appreciation for each other’s skill sets.

There are some areas where improvement could still happen. In this part of the story, we’ll discuss two areas in particular:

  • While the team members are collaborating and using their strengths, there is limited sharing of knowledge across the team which is impacting the creativity in solutions to problems that arise on the project
  • A couple of cliques have formed in the group and, while they don’t explicitly exclude others, they do not easily incorporate others into the group (in particular new team members who have joined the group after project start)

Improving Team Performance

Even though a collaboration portal had been introduced and was used by the team, it was primarily being used for documentation, such as housing the project schedule, meeting minutes, and status reports. It was meant to be used for collaboration and knowledge sharing also, but that was not being done.

Joshua recalled a previous project at another organization where the collaboration portal was used to collaboratively solve problems, share best practices and get answers to questions. At the end of that previous project, a survey of team members showed that they believed the most value they received from working on the project was learning from others. In fact, one team member noted that he actually learned a number of new skills with the support of one of his peers and was able to contribute to the project even more than he expected. This individual also felt that, thanks to his peer, he was able to lead another project that relied on those newly acquired skills.

Joshua decided that knowledge sharing would be of value not just in increasing knowledge across the team members, but also in getting more input – and effectively using that great diversity on the team – to solve problems more creatively.

Additionally, the collaboration portal, if used for collaborating and not only for housing documentation, could work to reduce the cliques occurring among the team.

In an upcoming team meeting when the team was, once again, coming together in one location, Joshua decided to spend some time focusing on the collaboration portal. A brief survey sent to team members identified a few issues for him:

  • Newer team members were not trained in the use of the portal
  • Some team members (around since project start) had forgotten how to use the portal
  • Some of the IT departments in offices in which team members were located blocked access to the portal

Prior to the meeting, Joshua met with the project sponsor to help with one of the issues: IT departments blocking portal access. He needed the sponsor’s support to push the IT departments to enable access for team members.
The sponsor agreed to talk with his counterpart in the IT department to understand how to best enable for access to the collaboration portal for those engaged in the project.

Joshua also reached out to the project administrator, Jeremiah and tasked with him three things:

  • Developing a detailed training and usage guide for the portal that would enable a quick reference for those on the team and a guide for new team members who join the initiative
  • Developing a video to walk team members through the use of the collaboration portal
  • Leading the collaboration portal training session at the upcoming meeting

Reducing the Cliques

In examining the individuals in the cliques, Joshua noticed that these were:

  • Individuals working together on particular components of the project
  • Individuals who had worked closely together on previous initiatives

Given the current state of the project, it was actually a good time to reexamine roles and responsibilities and mix things up a bit.
Joshua reached out to the team leads – Heather and Tony – to discuss his idea and get their input. He shared with them that part of his goal was to reduce the cliques certainly, but he also wanted to:

  • Enable broader sharing of knowledge
  • Expose a variety of individuals to working with others with whom they may not normally get to work
  • Enable for more creativity and diversity in arising at solutions to problems that arise

He asked each of them to determine how they might shift roles and responsibilities on the team keeping in mind, of course, the strengths of each of the individuals as well as how they might shift responsibilities to enable pairing up of more junior individuals with more senior ones. And, adding some of the newer team members in to the mix (rather than having new team members work with other new team members.)
At the upcoming team meeting, Joshua will have Heather and Tony report on new roles and responsibilities among their teams as well as sub-team work.

Joshua believed that this meeting with the team would enable for him to increase the performance of the team and its members; thereby moving the team to a high performing team overall. He would be sure to let the team know that he, as well as the sponsor and other key stakeholders, were exceptionally pleased with what the team has accomplished to date. He was excited about how much more they could accomplish over the balance of the project.

Stay tuned for the final part of the story – Part 5: Lessons Learned in Team Development