Building Teams

High-performance teams are no accident. There is a proven methodology to build these teams. The team building process includes ensuring a team has a defined project objective and deliverables and the resources to achieve its deliverables. The people comprising a team should represent the process under investigation (i.e., the scope). Ideally, the team should be diverse for effective problem solving and have a range of relevant skills. Facilitation is important. Proper facilitation ensures team members contribute and reach agreements using agreed-upon ground rules. Teams move through a maturation process that increases trust and understanding of each other’s perspectives when moving projects to closure.

Developing a high-performance work team is a process. The first step is to develop the team’s project charter. The project charter embodies the business justification for the project, including its benefits and its required resources. It also communicates to the organization where the team will work, what problems will be investigated, and the beneficial business outcomes expected from achieving the goals by solving the problem. Project charters also contain team members and information relevant for project coordination.

Project charters contain the four previously discussed metrics. These include the business and financial metrics showing leadership the positive impact expected from the project, as well as balancing metrics to ensure the team does not drive the other metrics to an extreme. As an example, if a team is reducing process rework expense, it should also measure returns and customer satisfaction to ensure one metric is not optimized at the expense of another one. Inventory turnover was previously provided as another example in which we discussed increasing the turnover ratio while maintaining customer service levels. As the project team works through root causes, they likely will also create project-focused metrics. As an example, inventory is usually increased by long lead times. Long lead times may have several causes, such as large lot sizes, scheduling misses, poor quality, maintenance issues, and other operational issues.

In these situations, the project charter will be updated to reflect changes in direction as the team works though its root-cause analysis. The project team must always ensure there is direct alignment between all four metrics as the root-cause analysis and solutioning proceeds so that different organizational levels can see the interrelationships. When the project team improves lower-level project metrics, leadership and stakeholders should clearly see direct improvements in higher-level financial and business metrics as well as operational changes without a deterioration of compensating metrics.

High-performance work teams should be selected to align with the project’s end-to-end scope as well as the processes immediately before or after the process being investigated. Team members should also have direct knowledge of their portion of the process to ensure full contribution. Once the team is organized, its dynamics will need to be facilitated. Teams mature through four stages: forming, storming, norming, and performing. In the formation stage, the team members start discussions of their project’s scope and objectives. During this first stage, there usually are no significant disagreements regarding how best to proceed with the work. However, as the team moves through the second maturation stage (i.e., storming), disagreements are likely to arise because of differing interpretations and perspectives of information and the best way to proceed with the project work. Facilitation can usually move the team past the storming stage through to the norming and performing stages to work together effectively and to efficiently coordinate the project’s work.

Initiatives provide a proven structured methodology useful to identify the root causes for issues and analyze them to identify solutions. The identification of root causes requires tools and methods specific to the investigation. These vary across industries and functions. Manufacturing systems may require statistical models based on experimentation, and logistical issues may require the application of operations research tools and methods; for service systems, other specialized tools such as automated data collection across several IT platforms and applications may be needed. Regardless of the initiative, a root-cause analysis carefully defines the problem and eventually arrives at its solution. Common methodologies include Six Sigma’s Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve, and Control (DMAIC), Deming’s Wheel (i.e., Plan, Do, Check, Act), and Lean’s “understand value, create a value stream map, eliminate process waste, etc.” Most problem-solving methodologies use scoping, problem identification, data collection, data analysis, creating solutions, and controlling or sustaining the solutions.

Initiatives need to be periodically evaluated to maintain their effectiveness. A potential problem occurs if they are deployed independently of other initiatives and compete for scarce resources. There may also be overlapping tools and methods that create confusion. To avoid competition and confusion between initiatives, it is common to link them under an umbrella initiative as discussed earlier, i.e., operational excellence (ОРЕХ), which is used to coordinate and prioritize projects and resources.

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