ASQ - Team and Workplace Excellence Forum

Online Edition - January 2001


Surviving in The New Economy: From virtual workplaces to technology overload, this special feature takes an in-depth look at the changing demands of our workplaces and world.

  In This Issue...

Celebrating the Power of People
Tricks of the Trade—Unique Tranining Ideas
Views For A Change
Pageturners: Flawless Consulting Fieldbook

 One From Column B —
I Will Survive

 Peter Block explains why the new economy is just an economy, and why our relationships and our senses promise survival .

  Surviving In The New   Economy:

Working In A Virtual World
Defining The New Economy
Penny Sanchez- Burruss and Barry Johson, Ph.D

The 24/7 Work Invasion
Info, Info, Everywhere!
Brief Cases
Tips: It's About Time and Finding Time


Return to NFC Index

Views For A Change

Consultant Q&A

John Runyan Responds

If your organization in is its infancy of team development, you need to stay cognizant of that and work from this standpoint despite the inevitable pressures you will feel to rapidly accelerate the growth curve or jump over stages in the process. Nothing is more certain to short-circuit team growth than impatience and even intolerance from top-level leaders. You are in the position to coach your higher-level managers about what they need to do to help the teams blossom and develop.

 The only organizations that I have seen strong team cultures started and sustained are those where top managers have led by example.

Your top managers need to lead the way in:

Forming and improving their own teams.
Choosing and clarifying their roles, processes and decision-making.
Resolving their own differences and conflicts.
Assessing and learning from both their successes and failures.

 Ask your executives to open their meetings at times to participants and observers from other levels in the organization so that they can see first-hand how their bosses work as a team. Encourage your direction-setting leaders to make their case for teamwork to their workers and their union leader counterparts through deeds as much as words.

  You can help in other ways, too. When new teams are set up, go to their initial meetings and counsel with them about what topics, issues and decisions they intend to take up. Frequently, I have seen new work teams try to quickly take on all of the functions previously exercised by hierarchical managers and employees. Almost immediately, they have become swamped in a wide array of structural and procedural decisions, old and new tasks and operational detail that cannot be easily handled by any new group. This has led to discouragement and some of the "what's in this for me?-because it's so hard" reactivity you mention. Help them prioritize, pace and delegate some leadership and managerial functions to individuals and sub-groups. As a team they should initially tackle only the most important agenda items requiring the attention and decision making of the whole group.

  Don't ask your new and younger teams to learn too many things and develop expertise in too many areas too fast. Again, I have watched "early-childhood" teams in several organizations take on a combination of goal setting, process improving, problem solving and results measuring all at once while still trying to figure out the basics of group process and collective decision making. They simply could not do all of the substantive tasks with any speed, efficiency or effectiveness while struggling with the "forming, storming, norming" dynamics of early group life. So for example, instead of leaving them to their own devices, you or another competent consultant/facilitator, need to sit with these teams regularly to help them with the group processes and dynamics so essential to their development.

  Lastly, I urge you to include the members of your natural teams in the decision making about transitioning to self-directed work teams. Look for signs and words from participants in your natural work teams that they are hungry for the freedoms and responsibilities of self-direction as much as you look to direction from your top managers that they want to establish self-directed teams for structural and financial reasons.

JOHN RUNYAN is a Partner and Senior Consultant with the Leadership Group, LLC, in Seattle. An educator and consultant for 25 years, he now specializes in coaching leaders and helping to create "learning organizations." John's colleagues, Elaine Sullivan, Leopoldo Seguel, Rhonda Gordon, Rene Pino, Catherine Johnson and Merrilee Runyan inspire and help him to think carefully and write clearly in response to these questions.

David Farrell Responds

Question for Consultants

January 2001Homepage

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