ASQ - Team and Workplace Excellence Forum


Online Edition - July 2001

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Issue Highlight — Turnabout Is Fair Play
- Take a look back at one of Peter Block's best columns as he helps bridge the gap between employee and manager and offers his invaluable "Employee Manifesto."

 In This Issue...
Getting Back To Basics
Change Of Space
Banking On Quality
Is Your Quality Process "Running On Empty?"

Recommended By A Friend


 Features...
Peter Block Column
Views for a Change

Pageturners
Brief Cases


Return to NFC Index


Views For A Change


Consultant Q&A

H. James Harrington Responds:

Team burnout is a real problem. Teams start out strong; they identify many problems, some real and others imaginary. The team members are learning new skills and receiving additional responsibilities, but after a time, “the cherries are all picked” and the excitement of team activities becomes old hat. This is the place where team activities give way to teamwork. This is the point where empowerment takes over in place of consensus. This is the point where individuals have embraced the problem solving tools and techniques to the point that they are automatically used.

   In this case the weekly team meetings allow for discussions related to specific problems or for implementation of specific improvement opportunities. Frequently, the total team is not involved, but only the people necessary to make the change happen.

   In addition, individuals are empowered and encouraged to make decisions on their own without management or other team members’ approval. This is possible because the team experience has prepared the individual to make much better decisions and has provided them with an understanding of how they interface and impact the other members of their natural work team.
It is a lot like being promoted from grade school to high school. It is not bad, but it is different, and after you adjust, it is even more exciting and rewarding. In this case, the old team meeting becomes a lot like your homeroom in high school. It is a place to come together for very short periods of time (10-15 minutes) to be updated, get assignments and share what is going on in the business.

   In the teamwork environment, teams are formed quickly based upon a specific need and disbanded equally as fast. In today’s environment these teams are often virtual and never have the time to sit down in a meeting room together. Many organizations have problems in shifting from the team activities stage to the teamwork environment stage. This usually occurs when the natural work team did not start out by doing an area activity analysis. A key part of the team activity phase is to define the processes that the natural work team is responsible for, then develop an efficiency and effectiveness measurement and performance standard for each of the processes. This is absolutely essential in order to determine where the real business improvement needs are and to establish a real value proposition related to each problem addressed. For example, in your case, one of the processes would be filling orders. Two of the efficiency measurements would be employee minutes to fill an order and order fulfillment cycle time. Team activities that focus on reducing either of these by 5-15 percent will usually be highly supported by management. After four years of team activity, I would expect that you would have a documented history proving the team activity reduced both of these key measurements a minimum of 25 percent. You need to use this historical data with a firm commitment to reduce them even further to convince management the time spent in team/teamwork environments is not only justified but a high priority.

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.


W. Pearl Maxwell Responds



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