Existing Team Renewal Exercise – the journey


journey

Existing teams often go through phases of renewal, which requires that new team members and existing members come together to create a new or changed vision and way forward. Elements that can hold the new team back include existing members holding on to the past too strongly and new members not understanding why some things are done in a certain way within the team. Lacking the background and context of the past and a shared vision for the future the team could easily remain divided between the “new comers” and the “old timers” who know everything.

Shared Resource Exercise for renewal of Existing Teams

This exercise has two parts and helps to make the past easier to understand especially in terms of how it may have shaped the current belief system of existing team members – i.e. what they believe works and what does not work. The second part of the exercise helps new teams map out the new way forward together, which helps all team members be a part of what they plan to achieve and do going forward.

Tips/Comments:

  • This exercise does not replace any classic team chartering activities i.e. crafting a new or changed purpose statement, or reviewing/creating new roles and responsibilities going forward or agreeing on key team performance indicators. This exercise forms more of a bridge towards renewing the team and its activities and path forward. This exercise can best be followed by some more classic team chartering activities and exercises.
  • Monitor the communication process closely during the first part of the exercise: the sharing that happens has to remain constructive vs existing team members slipping into defensive behavior and/or new team members being overly critical of the lessons learned from the past.
  • This exercise has also sometimes been used as an ice-breaker to start off a one- or two-day team-building activity. It would be good to schedule this just before a natural break to allow team members to spend unstructured social time together as an aftermath of this exercise.

Team building – Define individual roles and responsibilities


blocks final

When your team comes together for the first time there are several items you need to discuss with them including the main commercial terms of the contract, the agreed project scope of work for the team, the agreed and approved budget, the schedule etc. The next step, which flows from these basic project aspects is to establish who will be responsible for managing or accomplishing each of the key project outcomes.

The resource I am sharing here describes a process you can follow as part of an early team-building activity to clarify and agree team roles and responsibilities down to individual levels.

Team-building Activity – defining individual roles link

Additional thoughts:

  • You can use this activity after first running a sub-group responsibility definition activity which defines project interfaces or relative responsibilities for decisions and processes by functional or other sub-groups on the team. (see Defining team interfaces) Using this sequence means you drive home how the overall project outcomes are managed by sub-groups on the team and then right down to individual roles in those same processes.
  • This exercise can also be used when there is a change in phase or focus on the project or the composition of the team changes greatly. At those times it is important to keep the team’s momentum going by ensuring that roles and responsibilities remain clear throughout the changes.
  • Clarifying individual role and responsibilities also supports the performance management process. When individuals receive feedback regarding their performance it is important that they already understand what performance and role expectations are.
  • Having individual roles documented can also support bringing new team members up to speed fast. It helps explaining expected team functioning and who they should talk to while making their contributions to successful team outcomes.

Project teams simply function better when everyone understands how he or she is expected to contribute to the team’s goals. This activity does help greatly in clarifying expected individual contributions. I do suggest you distribute the final agreed pages with the team for reference purposes.

Team Activity – Defining Project Interfaces


Most projects are made up of several sub-groups of people. These sub-groups of people have interfaces with each other whereby they exchange and share information, documents and outcomes. They also provide and request support from other groups to start,complete and execute a project process. Most of the time project inefficiencies occur across the interfaces with other sub-groups on a project.

The best way to ensure efficiency and effectiveness across project interfaces is to increase transparency around assumptions that people within the various project sub-groups may be operating under and to test whether they are accurate and understood by others on the project.

Note that project interfaces can also refer to processes that involve others within the home office environment or the company structure. These “external” groups to the project may be setting high level processes and goals, which creates the environment that the project team needs to operate in. The diagram below shows how interfaces can be seen from a project perspective. The overlaps shown in the circles below indicate areas or processes where two or more project sub-groups have to participate in order to successfully complete the process.

team interfaces diagram

The Team-building activity that I am sharing helps various interfacing groups understand differences that may exist between how they think they should be interfacing with other groups and what the actual expectations from other groups are.

The Team-building activity to define project interfaces resource link.

This activity can be used in many different ways:

  • Clearing up interface issues among geographically dispersed groups working on the same processes or projects;
  • Clarifying how different functions should interface with other one another on a project, a work process or any other initiative/objective they are working towards;
  • Clarifying any differences in perspective among cultural groups or different shifts of people in the same function working on the same tasks as that function interfaces with other functions to complete specific work processes; (in this case it is a function checking itself for consistent execution of the same work processes performed at different locations or during different shifts.)
  • Getting clarity on how projects should interface with each other and/or the corporate groups they work with in order to successfully execute processes with multiple interfaces.

The reason that interfaces with other groups tend to be where delays and frustrations occur is because it is common for people to analyze and optimize processes only for the portion that they are responsible for. This perspective means they often overlook how their efforts impact others or how the efforts of others impact them and they fail to take the bigger picture into account. This activity will support efforts to improve the outcomes of inter-group processes as you work towards greater successes on your projects and initiatives.

Meeting Energizers – Examples


energy

Business meetings or group events can be exhausting especially if they span several days and contain mostly sessions where presentations are made and do not have any or many interactive sessions. It can be challenging to keep meeting participants engaged and energized during such meetings and it is not uncommon to spot people struggling to keep their eyes open during long afternoon sessions. The first session after lunch can be especially tough and don’t forget the impact of jet-lag on participants from other time-zones.

Business Meeting Energizers resource link

The Business Meeting Energizers resource shows some activities that can be done with meeting participants to help them feel re-energized during a meeting. These short exercises are best done between agenda items and can take anything from 2 to 7 minutes to complete so they are not a major disruption to your planned agenda. You would typically need an open space where participants can gather for these exercises. This space could be in the front between the projection screen and the first tables/chairs or it could be in the back of the room behind the last tables and chairs.  It is a good idea to mention that you need this space when you arrange the set-up of the room.

As the leader of the meeting or the facilitator you should always have a few of these quick energizer exercises on a sheet of paper or in the back of your mind to use on the spot. When you notice that the energy and responsiveness of the group is dropping you should be able to quickly conduct an energizing exercise to revive the energy and the alertness of the group attending your event or business meeting.

Organization Level Communication TEAM ACTIVITY


Communications within an organization is very often a challenge and managers are often unaware of how challenging it really can be for employees to fully understand a message. Working in a matrix style organization can further add to the complexity of correctly interpreting communicated messages from the various managerial directions.

The Organizational Level Communication activity  resource link

This team activity/exercise helps teams or groups to experience some of these challenges and therefore motivates participants to take a new look at how they are communicating in their own organizations and if they could possibly make improvements. The Organizational Level Communication activity can be run with groups of different sizes since the large group is split into smaller groups of 5 each for this exercise.persons org chart for activity

When you are left with less than 4 people after creating the small groups, add each of them to other small groups of 5 and give them the handout of Person E. Do not run the exercise with a small group of less than 4 people since it will impact the dynamics you are able to create for the small group.

Make sure you give the participants enough time to complete their reading of the handouts they each receive since the exercise is and looks simple, but it is very important that they understand the words and symbols they are to use for communicating with each other. Move among the reading groups of participants to answer any individual questions that may exist before you start the exercise.

The resource contains details of the set-up, the activity rules, the handouts that should be given to participants and also materials and room space needed. Debrief questions about the activity and discussion question options are also covered.

The indication is for the actual exercise to last between 10 and 15 minutes. You may need to use your own judgment regarding when to stop the exercise. Most of the small groups must have had the opportunity for all persons to exchange at least a few notes with those they are permitted to communicate with. This makes for a richer debrief and discussion session afterwards.

You can add your own discussion questions depending on the reasons why you felt this group of people needed to go through this activity and the changes you are hoping to bring about in the group/organization that they belong to.

Icebreaker Advertising boards


postersThis icebreaker works well with new teams or when you have had quite a few members of a team change.  The time, materials and space requirements are very economical so this is easy to combine with early team meetings. Running this exercise can help you lead a new team into the right discussions to break down barriers to trust among (new) team members.

Advertising board Icebreaker resource link

The Advertising board Icebreaker is a simple exercise which requires very limited instructions to get started and completed. The most valuable part is most likely the debriefing questions you (as the facilitator) choose to use: (some options)

  • Did anyone see something on an advertising board that was surprising about team members?
  • What are the strengths you think this team has?
  • Where do you think this team could get into trouble (given these team members and what you now know about them?)

I would recommend that you use this exercise as part of a series of exercises to help new teams succeed in the long run. The Team Effectiveness Snapshot can be a great follow-up tool to introduce to the new team to help them on their journey of trust building and achieving a high level of performance.

Brand-new teams typically work well since most of the team members are “playing nice” at first, but as the team moves through the various stages of team formation  things can change. Most teams never make it out of the Storming phase so early introduction of team orientation, induction and assessment tools to help teams understand naturally occurring team dysfunctions can help them deal with these situations successfully. The advertising board icebreaker is a great way for teams in forming mode to break through the “niceness” and go a little deeper into the “who are you really” and “what do you bring to this team” discussion.

Conflict Resolution between Teams ACTIVITY


Teams or groups mostly get upset with each other due to ill-defined or badly executed processes or unclear interface issues between them. There are of course other reasons too, but whatever the cause inter-team upsets can cause an overall failure to perform according to expectations and a project/location not achieving planned business objectives and targets.

Intergroup conflict and effectiveness

The resource I am sharing is a process that can be used to help two (or more) teams/groups work through their issues with each other and how they are impacting each other.

The Conflict Resolution Activity is described in terms of set-up, process steps including some estimated timing for each of the steps along the way.  The timing is based on only two groups/teams working through the process. If you add teams/groups, do add additional presentation and discussion time to the combined portions of the process.

The process requires at least one facilitator provided the combined groups comprise of no more than 18 people. If you combine more than two groups I would also consider having an additional facilitator to assist in the breakout sessions. The opening and closing sessions should be attended by one senior manager or executive that interfaces with all of the attending groups – to make opening comments to set the scene and establish the importance of the meeting and also to close off the event with encouraging and appreciative comments.

Conflict Resolution Activity resource link

Note:

  • The process is flexible and it would be up to you, as the facilitator, to make judgment calls along the way. Looking at how you are doing on timing and how well the process is going you may choose to avoid the second breakout session and instead have that discussion in the combined-group setting.
  • This process may not work well if the inter-group/team dysfunctions have been going on for quite some time and the frustration levels are high. In such cases I would recommend that you prepare for the session by first doing a pre-session interview with all or most of the intended participants. That way you can prepare for the event having a clear understanding of the issues at hand and the mindsets of those that will be attending. This may cause you to choose for a more comprehensive intervention.
  • If more than one facilitator is involved, do make sure every facilitator is completely aware of how the process will work. This is especially important when you choose to make some changes along the way – i.e. skipping the 2nd breakout session in favor of a large group discussion on the same topic.  It can be quite frustrating for groups/teams when they receive mismatched instructions from different facilitators for the activity they are to complete.

Some Ice Breaker Questions


meeting (2)

Starting a meeting or dealing with the after-lunch session involving a group of people often requires that you use some sort of ice breaking exercise or activity to help participants get to know each other better, have some fun and in many cases move around the room a bit. Most facilitators have their own set of ice breaking activities and exercises in their mind in case they need it. If you are new at it, you may need some inspiration though.

Ice Breaker Questions resource link

This list of Ice Breaker Questions can be used to help you. You can do this in a few ways:

  1. Use it to start the meeting and incorporate the introductions and capture expectations at the same time. Ask each participant to share his/her name, location, role, expectations for the session/day and then answer one of the questions on the list. (There is a reason to ask them to share their answer to one of the questions AFTER they stated their expectations – so you have time to write down their expectations on a flip-chart before the next participant starts sharing)
  2. Use it at the start of the meeting. Ask participants to get up and introduce themselves to others sharing their answer to the question and asking the other person to share their answer. Let them mingle in this way for about 5 to 10 minutes (depending on the size of your group). Ask them to return to their seats and ask a volunteer (or a few) to share the most surprising response they heard.
  3. If the group is small (12 people or less). Ask each person to provide an answer to the question on a post-in note. Collect all of them. Read out the answer and have participants try to guess who responded in this way. (Rules for this exercise includes that the writer of the answer cannot participate in guessing who wrote it).
  4. If you have more time, you can do this: ask each participant to guess what others would answer to a question, and put it on a post-it note. [You can assign who should guess which other participant’s responses to ensure everyone in the room will be covered. I would not have anyone guess more than 3 responses or it will take a really long time to complete the activity.] Once everyone has guessed and wrote down their guesses, they start finding one of the people that they were assigned to guess a response for and discuss their guess with the other person. What did they guess and why? The other person shares his/her real answer to the question. Then they split and find the next person that they have guessed an answer for. Sometimes some waiting may be involved if none of the people are available for a discussion around the guessed response. When everyone has completed the conversations you can debrief the group with questions like: How often were you right in what you guessed the other person would say? Did you learn anything surprising from those you talked to ? (aspects of his/her personality that you had no idea about?) How accurate do you think guessing is when it comes to how other people think?

Ice breakers can be really effective in breaking down barriers to making contact with people you have never met before at a meeting or training event. Yes, extroverts mostly don’t have any difficulties approaching and talking to strangers, but introverts often do. These kinds of exercises help everyone to get to know each other without feeling too inhibited during the initial contact moments.

Team Effectiveness Snapshot


The strength of teams lies in their ability to achieve more as a group working together than as individuals working independently on various parts of a project or activity.  The main obstacle to a team achieving the optimal performance level is the ability of the individual team members to work together collaboratively. You can select the right team members based on the knowledge you need, the skills and competencies you need and the experience levels you need for a project. And the team performance can still be very disappointing if the team members do not communicate effectively, are not sharing information in a comprehensible way, and are not clear on how to coordinate with each other to avoid rework or waste their efforts working on the wrong items.

Any team will go through developmental phases starting from the first day the team members spend together. If these phases are navigated successfully, they can help team members build a high level of trust which enables the team to achieve a high performance level. The leader of a team has an important role to play throughout the phases to help the team achieve their goals in the most effective and efficient manner. Team Success Measures
Measuring the progress of a team’s efforts is typically simply a case of setting and measuring KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) on a regular basis. These are typically set around costs, time to completion, quality of the product etc.

Measuring the cohesion between team members and how well the team is functioning is not that simple. Every team member most likely has his or her own opinion of how well the team is functioning and where improvements may be needed on interpersonal levels to enhance their experience of being on the team.

The Team Effectiveness Snapshot is a great way for leaders to take a quick look at how each of the team members see the team at that moment in time and identify where discussions may be needed to clarify or remove impressions that could hamper team functioning.

The purpose of this quick survey is to gather input from the team on their own perspectives. Remember that a perspective is just how one person sees things at that moment in time. It does not mean that the perspective of one person holds true for the rest of the team. It is important though that you understand whether one or more team members are not feeling included, engaged or able to contribute or understand what the team is trying to accomplish.

I suggest you, as the team leader, ask your team members to fill this out maybe once a month – more often if you are going through a difficult phase as a team and you are concerned about how well things are going for each team member. I would not do this more than once per week.

Note that your team dynamics will most likely change when you add members, remove members or when your project enters a completely new phase of functioning and performance expectations. At those moments you are likely to see a decline in previously recorded good scores for team effectiveness and functioning.

Use this tool as a way to quickly diagnose where the team is at and use it as a starting point for some team or one-on-one discussions to address concerns raised. Include an external person to facilitate difficult team discussions if you feel it may be helpful – someone from HR/Learning and Development may be able to use their expertise and skills in group dynamics, conflict resolution and interpersonal relationships to get your team out of a rough spot when it occurs.

Difficult Decisions


Making decisions is a key part of any leader or manager’s day. Most new leaders find this somewhat intimidating. There is the fear of making the wrong decision, the fear of not having enough time to make the decision, the fear of not having enough information to make the decision and the list goes on.

When it comes to commercial and operational decisions most of the time the difficulty in decision-making lies in the correct trade-off within the benefits triangle (shown to the left). Competing Benefit decisions If you can get the article/outcome within the time-frame that you would like and with the right quality that you would like to have, there may be a high cost trade-off. Similarly you can find yourself having a low cost at the right quality, but you may have to wait longer to receive the outcome or article. Understanding the trade-off as shown in the graphic above may make it easier to decide which of the three are non-negotiable and where a compromise may be appropriate.

Another challenging area for decision-making can be competing values. Imagine you value employee development (as a leader or manager) and you also value productivity. Choosing to develop your employees typically means you have to take them away from their daily activities to attend a development or learning event. This implies they are not able to produce the results you need during that time. This kind of choice often comes at the last minute. Imagine you had planned for Employee A to attend, but at the last moment he or she is out sick or otherwise unable to attend and HR asks you to nominate a substitute and thereby presents you with a decision-making dilemma.

Competing Values Decisions

The graphic shown the the left illustrates some competing value trade-off decisions that you may be called upon to consider as a leader or manager.  If you have already completed a review of your own values as a leader (Determining your own Values template) you may have the advantage of using that as a framework for decision-making.  You would also need to look at the values that the company represent to make sure your trade-off options also include that perspective. Finally when you do make a decision, be sure to explain your reasoning and make the values you are honoring clear to the impacted employee(s) or colleagues.

Leaders and managers also often fall into the trap of trying to use only one decision-making style and they neglect to consider the other options open to them. There is a time and a place for every type of decision-making style. Sometimes it may be appropriate to make autocratic decisions – this can be useful when the impact is limited, the need is immediate and the risk low of encountering resistance during implementation. Decision Making StylesAt other times a more collaborative and inclusive decision-making process may be appropriate – such as when there are many stakeholders, people need to change their behaviors or work methods, time is on your side etc. Selecting only one decision-making style as a leader can make decisions difficult since you may find you experience a lot of resistance from others to implement your decisions especially if you favor autocratic decision-making most of the time.

The main job of a leader and a manager is to make decisions and choices in order to move projects and initiatives forward, deal with risks and unplanned barriers to success and achieve the goals and objectives for the group/team or company. Many new leaders and managers need to learn how to make decisions and these models and pointers shared here may be helpful as new skills and confidence in decision-making is being learned.

Remember to add Decision-making to your personal development plan if this is particularly tough for you to do as a leader/manager! 🙂