ASQ - Team and Workplace Excellence Forum

Online Edition - May 2001


Behind the Teams: We've provided you with the tools and resources that will help you in your fight to keep team efforts alive, to build a greater sense of community and unity in your organization.
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  In This Issue...

A Purpose And A Place
Do Upper Managers Earn Their Keep?
Pageturners: Effective Training Strategies
Proof Positive
Brief Cases

 One From Column B —
My Kingdom for a Team

Peter Block explores the durability of teams and why they remain fascinating after all these years.

  Behind the Teams:

Just What the Doctor Ordered
In Support of Teams
Cynthia Minor and Mike Levenhagen

Highlights of Winning Teams
Views For A Change
Pam Walsh's Unofficial Quality Tips

Return to NFC Index

Views For A Change

Consultant Q&A

H. James Harrington Responds:

This is a hard question to answer without knowing more about the type of team you are talking about and their mission. Teams can be put into four major classifications:

1. Natural Work Teams—These teams meet on a scheduled basis to communicate and solve problems that will improve the performance of the natural work team’s output. They are often called department improvement teams and include all members of the department.

2. Quality Circle—This is a group of people that come together to solve a specific problem that they all will benefit from if the problem is corrected. They last for two to six months and are voluntary with management approval.

3. Process Improvement Teams (PIT)—The team members are assigned by management to analyze and improve a specific process. The teams last for 2-12 months depending upon the methodology used. Typical methodologies are reengineering, redesign or benchmarking.

4. Tasks Teams—The members are selected by management to solve a specific problem, then the team is disbanded.

What Teams Are Made Of
In natural work teams, members exist to make the natural work team more cohesive and productive. I find that natural work teams have problems with some members because the team meetings start off on the wrong foot. All natural work teams should start off by doing an area activity analysis that defines the natural work teams purpose, customers, process and measurement. This promotes buy-in to the team process and only involves people that make up the process that is being improved. Uninterested parties need not be invited to the solution meetings, but everyone is involved in the communication and measurement related to the team’s activities.

 The members of quality circle teams are purely voluntary. Anyone that does not want to participate can drop off at any time. If someone is disruptive, the chairman should have a private meeting with that individual to express the team’s concern. If the problem continues, the quality circle members can vote the individual off the team.

 With process improvement teams and task teams, team selection is a very straightforward management assignment for the individuals that will make up the team and their compensation should be directly related to the return on investment that results from the team’s activities. In this case, you have an obligation to let management know about the inappropriate behavior of an individual so that the member can be replaced.

Getting Down to Business
A team at work is not a social club. If someone does not put his or her best effort forward, they should be replaced because they can detract from the team’s return on investment. All members need to get a minimum of a four to one return on the investment of the team’s time, the cost of correcting the problem, and the improvement, quality and productivity that the improved communications bring about. Team makeup is an important part of our business culture today, but they must be cost justified if they are to exist. Members that detract from the overall performance of the team need to be replaced. It is not a personal issue; it is purely a business issue.

H. JAMES HARRINGTON has written seven books including the best-selling “The Improvement Process,” “Business Process Improvement,” and “Total Improvement Management: The Next Generation in Performance Management.” Harrington is the CEO of The Performance Improvement Network in Los Gatos, Calif. He is considered a leading authority in process management.


Nancy Coleman Responds

May 2001Homepage


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