The dictionary defines a “process” as: a series of actions or steps taken in order to achieve a particular end. Within any activity - be it work, relationship, creative pursuits, etc. - there is a process, a way of doing the task in a methodical, repeatable fashion. Some of our processes are ineffective. The political primary season is proof of that. We have a traditional process of electing presidential nominees, yet the process is ineffective; overly complicated and fraught with inconsistencies. I think it is fair to say that both the major parties in US politics are unhappy with the process. Hopefully, your team is less agitated with the processes they need to go through to get their shared work accomplished.
The processes that need to be clear and effective for your team to thrive within fall into four categories: decision making, communication, handling disagreement and planning/coordinating.
Everyone on your team has a function - a specific role to play in making the team work. Many roles require us to make decisions, yet in different situations our authority to make decisions changes. For example, Steve Kerr (Warriors Coach) can decide who will start each game, but he cannot decide whom the team will draft next year. Yes he can influence it, but he is not the final decision maker.
Knowing where our decision-making authority begins, ends and has influence is vital for the individuals and team to know. Additionally, the individuals and team should be crystal clear about how decisions are made. Some decisions are easy and do not require input. Other decisions are complex and interconnected, requiring consensus for the decision to be successfully implemented. Below are questions individuals and the entire team should answer to be clear on how best to support your team in becoming highly effective:
● What will be our primary decision-making method? (e.g. consensus)
● What decisions will we make on our own?
● What decisions will require agreement among all team members?
Additionally, here are some powerful decision making tools to support your team in making decisions without getting mired in the quest for consensus:
Working together requires everyone who is part of the group to effectively communicate with one another. Given the myriad of challenges that groups face, it is critical to improve the easier aspects of communication - when, where and the such.
Every industry, group and individual has a preferred mode of communication. In the group setting it is vital that you and your colleagues agree on the following:
● What is the best way to communicate with each other and keep each other informed? (e.g. voicemail, e-mail)
● How quickly do we agree to return phone calls and e-mail?
● How and what will we communicate to our key constituents?
Disagreement, contrary to conventional thinking, is a sign of a healthy team. Teams that can disagree with one another, with civility, generate better ideas and experience higher levels of success. Healthy disagreement requires careful handling that is timely and direct. Before you find yourself, or group, in the midst of a disagreement, you can support yourselves by deciding in advance about how you want to handle the inevitable conflicts. The last thing you want to do is allow small pinches to turn into large crunches that ferment resentment, gossip, factions being created, fear, or any of the many other group dysfunctions that can erode the team’s cohesion.
To prevent your team from devolving into warring factions, take a few minutes to gather your people and ask them the following:
● How will we resolve disagreements?
● What will we do if we do not follow through with our agreements?
Getting all the individuals within your group to agree on the above questions is an important proactive step in mitigating conflicts and providing the group with a clear framework within which they can healthfully disagree, debate and generate solutions.
Planning & Coordinating
Did you know there are over 25 million meetings daily in the US? This means that about 15% of an organization’s collective time is spent meeting. Suffice it to say, much of our professional life is spent in meetings - planning, coordinating, updating and ideating. To support the individuals on your team (all with unique perspectives, learning styles, communication patterns and behavioral quirks) gain clarity about the meetings they participate in, it is extremely helpful to have all stakeholders share an understanding of how the planning, coordinating and meetings will take place. Having structure helps individuals avoid flailing in uncertainty. A few questions that the individuals on your team should know are:
● How often will we meet? For how long? When & where?
● How will we develop meeting agendas?
● Who will lead or facilitate our meetings?
● How will we keep track of our decisions and agreed-upon actions?
● How and when will we evaluate our team performance?
Additionally, I strongly encourage meeting conveners to support the group in accomplishing the objectives of the meeting by following the tried and true meeting rules of thumb:
● Send an agenda out in advance of the meeting and include the meeting objective at the top on the agenda.
● Keep meetings under 45 minutes (or break at 45 minutes)
● Start each meeting with a personal check-in, allowing each member of the team to talk
● As much as possible, have staff members develop the agenda and actively facilitate, note take and manage the meetings. Let them own the meetings as much as possible.
The importance of clear processes cannot be overstated. By making explicit aspects of your work and your practice, habits are built, standards are met, and performance becomes consistent - Daniel Weinzveg, M.A, Organizational Development