|Do You Just Go To Work? (1291 words)|
Or. Team work improves efficiency.
By John Locke
How often have you heard the expression, "The Sales Team." or "The Production Team"? When you look closely are they a team, or just a collection of workers doing their job? Far too often we tend to use the jargon of the day and to believe that jargon, instead of the facts. When we do look closely, we find very few departments work as a team. They may work together to produce goods, or services, but rarely do they work as a team.
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If you were a fly on the wall of the vast majority of work environments, you would have an eye opener as to what goes on. The petty squabbles, the self interest, the jockeying for position and the personality clashes. Then there is currying favor with the department manager, who through no fault of their own, do not know the difference between a department manager and a team leader. If you think a department is efficient now with all this resistance going on, just think what it would be like if they were working as a team.
If you want to create a "Team" you have got to break down a considerable number of barriers before you can bring a department together. Prejudice, self interest, animosity must be dispensed with.
To attempt to do this from within can be extremely difficult. There will always be initial suspicion of the insider. Who’s side are they on? Why them? The person is a distant relative of a member of the department. It may well be ten times removed, but in the eyes of some, it will be seen as bias. It is therefore fair to say that in the main an outsider will have more success, it may be a manager from another department with the right experience, or someone brought in from outside the company. People are far more willing to accept truths from an outsider then they will ever be from an existing member of staff.
If you want to produce a winning team then certain unpalatable facts will have to be aired.
One of the reasons a number of Team Building courses are held off company grounds is to get away from the influences of the work environment. It is not uncommon to hear the cry go up. "It’s just an excuse for a day off." If you are going to strip everything down to the bones and work back up again from the bottom then you need no work environment influences. If you want people to open up, being away from their normal environment is a big step in the right direction. Included in this has to be the department manager. If he or she is to be a team leader then they to have to be involved in the cleansing process. Sometimes that cleansing process can be an eye opener to some work colleagues. On occasions there can be a major change in attitudes because of minor revelations, total misunderstanding can be reveled and corrected, all within the first hour.
When this process is complete we are ready to build this department into a Team. But why are we doing it? We have already stated that they may well already be efficient. But are they? How do you measure that efficiency? By the production figures, by them being under budget, or by how quickly they process customers? Are these truly a way of measuring efficiency, or are they convenient ways of cooking the figures so that they comply with department targets? Department targets, or management by results, whatever you want to call it, may well have been good in years past, but in today's economy it is not good enough.
Repeatedly you will find that departments will fudge figures and develop end of month practices to reach whatever targets have been set for them. Is this being efficient? No. In a large number of cases extra work is generated the following month to ensure the figures produced are correct and to catch up. How often do we see departments spending money as if it is going out of fashion at the end of the financial year, because they have not spent their budget and do not want a cut the following year. Should we really be penalizing frugal departments, or should we be encouraging them.
What if we changed the old ways and instead of hiding or fudging the short fall or the inefficiency we exposed it and looked for solutions as a team and the aim was for everyone to improve quality? No matter what industry or service we are in quality is the key to success. Way back in the fifties Dr Deming produced the Deming Chain. This shows how by improving processes, not inspection, how we can improve the bottom line. The way to improve processes is to involve every department member and for them to work as a team to solve problems and therefore increase productivity.
If you are going to build a team then the members must be told the objective of having a team as opposed to a department. The advantages must be shown to benefit them as well as the company. A visit from a senior executive during training is strongly advised so that the importance of the exercise is reinforced. A number of executives do not realize the importance of their presence and support, it was not for nothing that Jack Welch of GE regularly not only visited GE’s training establishment, but lectured there. He realized that for polices to be taken seriously he had to show that they had his full support.
Depending on the type of team you are building, be it production, service, project or management there must be a mission statement. Without that the group will meander aimlessly without any real results. The tools available must be looked at and the relevant ones used. Each individual must see how they fit into the scheme of things and how the way they do their duties has an effect on others. They must be shown how to collectively set goals and how the attaining of these goals results in not only success for the company, but how their job has suddenly become much easier.
Following the lecture room setting of how to asses and attain quality improvement through team work there must be some practical exercises to show how team work operates. These can take many forms, whatever form these exercises take, there must be a comparison between what happens with good team work and when there is disharmony.
Equally important is the follow up. Far to often companies pay out high fees for training and get little or no return. Why? Because the training given is not being monitored. It is far to easy for trainees to revert back to their old ways, unless supervisors, managers and executives respectively are on their toes this is sure to happen. It is for this reason that the appropriate manager above the new team is issued with his own team building criteria and questions, that will enable him to simply check that the team is working efficiently.
The pay back to companies for such a small outlay is tremendous. The Deming chain says it all. Improve the process. Improve the quality. Decrease costs. Improve productivity. Decrease prices. Increase market. Stay in business. Provide jobs and expand. Return on investment.
Your employees are the ones that will help you attain these goals. They are at the sharp end and know the answers, if you give them a chance to tell you. An employee of GE once said to Jack Welch. "You have paid for my hands for 24 years, but you could have had my brain for free."
|Copyright© by John Locke, An Englishman Abroad.|
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