Teams are a useful business tool for process and quality improvement, which may lead to higher customer satisfaction or cost reduction. Many managers recognize the benefits teams may bring but do not properly consider what it takes to get a team functioning in the direction management desires. When forming teams, manager should consider the team's purpose, member participation and placement, as well as team processes and plans. With the 5 P's of purpose, participation, placement, process, and plan, management can better design teams and determine development needs.
Purpose – Will the team clearly understand why it exists, what it is to do and how it will know they are successful? The team and management must agree to written purpose or mission statement so that they are working together in a common direction towards solutions that meet their overall purpose. Team goals and management deadlines should align with their overall purpose and will serve to guide the team performance and help them meet challenges.
Participation – Who would be the best people to include on the team and how large should the team be in order to accomplish its purpose? Management needs to consider necessary skill sets, professional attitudes, and process knowledge when selecting team members. In addition, for membership at the formation of team or as team personnel needs to grow, look for a balance between personality types for both task and people focus to be included so the solutions team may design will be more diverse and innovative to achieve team purpose and required work.
Placement – Where will the team members be physically located and how often should the team plan to have meetings? If the team is to be an intact work group, this may make some things simpler but the team will need a meeting room for complex problem solving. If the team is spread over multiple sites, managers will need to consider costs and possible problems team may have due to culture or time differences, and then determine whether travel for some meetings is required or if any special equipment is needed for members to meet regularly via phone or on-line.
Process – How will the team get to where it needs to go in order to accomplish its purpose? The team should develop and agree to their ground rules, any constraints that management may set related to decision-making authority or functional boundaries. Initial team training should include meeting management with a suggested meeting agenda and record-keeping formats, interpersonal communication, problem solving, and if relevant to team's work include process mapping.
Plan – Will the team acknowledge when its project or assignment will be complete and know what it needs to accomplish its tasks? If the team goals are specific to their purpose and the team agrees these are relevant and achievable goals, then the team needs to agree to a timeline for goals and a way to measure how they are doing towards goals. Not only should the team and their management define work deadlines and expected milestones in its goals and schedules, but it should also include necessary training to acquire team and task related skills.
Considering the 5 P's of purpose, participation, placement, process, and plan, management can design better teams and plan team development needs accordingly. Recognizing the benefits teams can bring to a business or organization is good, but teams are only effective when management understands what it may take to get their teams moving in the desired direction. Well designed and developed teams only become a useful for process and quality improvement when managers consider member selection for best participation and preferred placement along with the team's purpose, process and plan.