In the recent Team Excellence Symposium (TES) organised by the Singapore Productivity Asssociation, I was one of the Assessors called to check several team project reports and presentations.
If one will to check through the Assessment Checksheet, you will find 12 mentions of the word ‘team’ in the 40-item Assessment Checksheet. This is hardly surprising. The reason for the emphasis on team is this – getting a project to yield results is not the end of it. A WIT team is a group of people coming together to work towards a common goal or objective and achieving savings or generating revenue results; but that is not the ultimate goal. The real goal of Work Improvement Team is participating and contributing. The Work Improvement Team is a channel to allow the team members to learn to work as a contributing unit.
As each person plays a complementary role, the result is a team which can yields output that is more the sum of the individuals’ contribution. This is commonly known as synergy, but synergy needs a ‘super-structure’. Individuals are by nature self-serving, and until they develop an understanding for each other’s role they may not be able to synergise. And in reality, the development of team-ness (team spirit) is not a simple growth path.
The simplest way to describe this is that … things will get worst before they get better. In my classes I often show this chart to help explain to them the development of teams (adopted from Tuckman):
Once a team is formed, the productivity of the team (output) actually goes down. This is the stage when people in the team are finding their personal position in the team; every member is learning how to combine their strengths with the rest; determining who is strong in which area, and who needs help in which.
That is where conflict comes into the picture. At this stage (named ‘storming’, according to Tuckman), team members must learn to manage conflicts or they will not progress. If conflicts are resolved in a healthy manner, all will benefit and move forward. The Leaders play a key role in helping the team set some extraordinary goal for this to happen. There are many ways and approaches the leader can use.
There are several conflict resolution options which can be chosen and there are fundamental steps to develop healthy conflict resolution process; resolution strategies should be designed according to the team’s composition, their areas of strength, maintenance of internal power balance, a micro-culture or norm of group behavior starts; and eventually the team members find a positive ‘fit-in’ in team.
So conflict in teams can be expected. But the are ways to resolve them. There are steps and tools that all members should learn.
Once the initial conflict is resolved positively, the team will go onto a steep upswing of the curve!