The Magnificent Seven: Tips for Successful Team Management

The Magnificent Seven: Tips for Successful Team Management

A majority of business problem-solving efforts are taken on by teams, a group of individuals from various departments assembled at the direction of their supervisors/leaders to "fix it!" Each one of these team "events" will be unique in scope, involvement, time, participation, etc. However, there are certain basic elements that will help guarantee team success if well addressed. I call them the Magnificent Seven.
  1. Make sure that goals and expectations are well defined and communicated. Everyone on the team needs to know the what, why and when of the objective. What do we need to do, why do we need to do it, and when does it need to be done. The team itself is the who, and the how may be open to team decision, or be constrained by management or specific business imperatives. Any intermediate milestones or decision points need to be determined and understood by the team.
  2. Explain the differentiation of roles of members to all. Everyone needs to know who's doing what, who's providing input to their tasks, and who is taking their output and what they will do with it themselves. Understanding the inter-relationships in the effort goes a long way towards a cooperative and cohesive effort. Having everything out in the open avoids any future "I didn't know" excuses for missed tasks.
  3. The responsibilities and accountabilities of each member of the team need to be clearly

    identified, and individual performance monitored and managed. Individual performance is "magnified" in the ream setting. This can be (wonderfully) positive but also (disastrously) negative. Issues or performance problems need to be addressed in private, while keeping the appropriate supervisors in the loop (see #6).

  4. Team meetings should evolve into self-regulated events, while those in lead-activity positions should be encouraged to take the floor and lead the meeting. The leader should operate primarily in a facilitation mode and only get into a direct-lead position when absolutely necessary.
  5. Plan the work and work the plan, but don't overload the team with excessive reporting requirements, charting, status reports, etc. Remember, the project isn't to complete documentation, but to implement a change or improvement. Let the scope of the project dictate the extensiveness of the documentation. Multi-month projects with large teams may require significant documentation, but in the end, it is a tool not an objective.
  6. Keep the sponsors in the loop. Touch base regularly with team members' supervisors, senior management, and any other project sponsors with status, issues, individuals' performance problems, etc. Get advanced approval of specific milestones and hurdles, including any sign-off or approval requirements. Nothing destroys a team's momentum and morale faster than an approval "holding pattern" that drags out.

7. Celebrate milestone completions with activities appropriate to the stage and scope of the project. It is very infrequent that kudos and awards take any cash forms. Parties, plaques, certificates, etc. are typical. Positive feedback and public recognition are priceless. Don't forget to include any citations in personnel files.

If you have been involved in underperforming teams, what was a key issue with the Team?

Coming Next: Communicating Expectations

(C) 2011 Martin Bergstedt. Used by permission. Magnificent Two by dragotter Tattoo by Hiddenpower Fireworks by brookscl


Robert S's picture

This is a great organizational framework. But like most managerial problems, the proof is in the execution. Having a check box for these items does not guarantee success. I just finished working on a somewhat dysfunctional team that followed these mantras to the letter. Member roles were differentiated and clearly defined, but this also meant that no one was allowed to contribute outside of their role - even if they had direct experience or relevant input. This can take away from the benefit of having a "team". They planned the plan and worked the plan. To the point that changes were not allowed to improve the work. This can be, and was, a touchy in-field decision. People spend a lot of time making the plan and it can be counter-productive to change plans at the last minute. Making a change to every suggestion that comes in dilutes the ability to send a consistent message to those that work for the team. But it seemed like plans changes were considered because it would make the team leaders look bad to change the plan. The project was successful, large part due to the planning and hierarchy of the team. But there were a couple of large mis-steps that would have been avoided if team members were allowed to contribute fully. And everyone would have ended the project happy instead of happy to leave. It could have been a great project, but due to execution was only a good project.

Marty Bergstedt's picture

Good input Robert; You’re right in that all of these points can be expanded and enhanced for a more thorough treatment. Specifically, “the “how” may be open to Team decision” in Tip one, and the self-regulating goal of Tip four may imply Team member involvement in task assignment and project structure, but more can certainly be said. Thanks for saying it! Marty