Be Careful What You Ask For
by Peter Block
Sorry We're Closed: Diary Of A Shutdown
Consultant Q & A
Let's assume that since Appleton Papers has a "team environment," the development of problem-solving skills has been a part of this process; this situation calls for the application of those skills. So, let's look at defining the current state, diagnosing potential root causes, then posing possible solution alternatives.
It is not clear from the question
whether the team referred to is a natural work group in
which members must work effectively together day-in and
day-out, a project or problem-solving team, or an "ad
hoc" team of short duration. Causes of the behavior
described and the solution options available will vary in
Even the questions begin to suggest
possible remedies. Potential Root Causes:
Possible Solution Alternatives
The entire team shares responsibility for effective teamwork. Include periodic but regular team self-assessment of its performance vis-à-vis its own agreed-upon ground rules, behavioral guidelines and results. Team diagnosis can be accomplished either through a series of confidential interviews followed by published results and discussion, or through open sharing of data and opinions. The latter alternative requires very skillful facilitation, both to elicit candid input, and to deal with the personal issues that are likely to arise.
Revisit your use of consensus as a decision-making model. To some degree, the failure to fully support a decision reached through apparent consensus is a failure of the decision-making process itself. The well-known Abilene Paradox may be at work here. Make sure that sufficient time is allowed, and that an environment is created, which enables full and open exploration of alternatives and concerns. Include in the consensus process sufficient detail so that not only the basic decision is clear, but also how it will be implemented, who has what responsibilities and when actions are due.
Then, hold all members accountable for their agreed-upon tasks to support the implementation. Report implementation status and roadblocks on a regular basis.
Develop a customized recognition program. Provide "different strokes for different folks." Recognize and reward those who make meaningful contributions.
Make teamwork an explicit performance expectation-build it into your performance management system. Hold people accountable for cooperative behaviors and for contributing to the success of the team. Avoid settling for mediocre or sub-par behavior, expect "top performance" and allow no one to pick up the slack for non-performers.
William Dyer, in his book "Team
Building, Issues and Alternatives," offers a succinct
list of strategies for addressing problem team member
Of course, a time may come when you have no other option than to help the individualist seek alternative employment opportunities. We need only recall for an example a certain former Chicago Bull and L.A. Laker whose individualism has become legendary. Even the most valuable individual contributor's behavior can become so destructive to the long-term objectives of the team that he must leave it.