You’ve been with your team for a few weeks, months or even years now. Have you ever stopped to think about how well do you function as a team? Maybe or maybe not? Who does that anyway? Who should take the time to do that? Shouldn’t that be my manager or lead’s concern?
Though it is one of the biggest concern for a manager or lead, it is everybody’s responsibility. Everyone should understand their environment and improve it so they can be the best they can be. We must all contribute our part and strive to build a high functioning team. A team where everybody knows their role, does it to the best of their abilities and improves each other.
In your team, does everyone know their roles? Do you know how each role relate to each other? Do you know how your task and how affects the team? Does the team know what is their purpose? Do you have short term and long term goals? Does everyone know their responsibility to achieving those goals? Should we ask simpler questions? Does your team even know each other? Is there constant arguments? Are you able to deliver value at all?
The High Functioning Team
Those are great questions to ponder on but what does a high functioning team really look like?
Although it might be a tired cliche, a sports team is no different from your office one. The sports team has a short term goals - to win games and long term goals - to win the championship. A good team sets clear understanding of each member’s roles. One player's focus is to defend while another to take on the scoring load. Players work on different skillsets in practice. These skills service the team needs (while being beneficial for their career). Behind the scenes, there are managers, coaches and trainers. Their focus is to prepare the players to be in peak condition once they hit the field.
The whole team takes time to understand each other’s skills. What is this player good at? What does he need to improve on? They also become aware of each other's tendencies. What does this team member like to do? What do they prefer? How do they react in different situations? How do they take communicate? How do they take feedback? When managers are building out the team they consider a lot of factors. The skillset of an individual is only one small factor. They also consider how that individual meshes and compliments the rest.
The team has plays they can only execute if they work together. Good teams have plays that make the most of their players skillset. They each have different tasks depending on the situation of the game. They each have an area that they are accountable for. The whole team studies the opponent and develops strategies to deal with them. With these things in place, the team moves like one.
In the clip above, watch how the players react to each situation. The player with the ball always has a teammate they can pass to. They know where their teammate is going to be. They pass until they get the best shot available.
What About Your Team?
How does this relate to your team? If your team played a sport, would they be just as in-sync? What about in your day to day work? Do you work well together?
As with the sports team, doesn't your team have short and long term goals? Does everyone know what are those goals? A high functioning team knows what they need to deliver and what they need to accomplish.
How well does your team know each other? Can you list down basic information like education and cultural background? What about preferrences and personality? How do they like to work? To work well with each other, you have to know each other.
How does your team distribute the work? What is the different roles of each teammate? Are their skillsets used in the most efficient way for the team? People need the willingness to improve their skills. There needs dedicated time to learn and grow skills. We know how fast tech changes. We need the time to catch up. A high functioning team challenges each other to grow.
Chemistry isn't just for atoms but it's also for people. Once you have the right people, how well do they work together? Like atoms do they form bonds? A group of individuals isn't a high-functioning team. A high functioning team has strong bonds that binds them together. It doesn't mean that they never have conflict or issues. A high functioning team can see the issues and resolve them.
Lastly, a high functioning team can consistently deliver value. They can work with the pressure of deadlines. They know how to be productive. They consistenly improve. They enjoy working together.
An Opportunity to Improve
Is a high functioning team common? I don't know. Building a high functioning takes time and effort. With the constant churn of tech world, it's hard to have a team that stays together long enough. With the constant change in tech, there's a tendency to focus only improving on programming languages, tools and frameworks. There's less focus on people skills. There's less focus on building out the right processes for the team to succeed. There's less focus on things that create a high functioning team.
Have you taken a step back and evaluated your team? Is it a high performing team? Are there conflicts with each other? Are you able to deliver value consistently? Are people in sync with each other?
Can you envision your team being a high functioning team? It surely can. How can you turn your team into one?