BB8. Innovative Team Building

Being part of a team or a group that provides security, acceptance, and a sense of belonging is a basic need for most human beings.

H. James Harrington


Teams - what can I say new and interesting about teams? Every problem solving and management book you pick up talks about teams and how important they are to the organization. Thousands of teams have worked on improvement opportunities and/or problems that have generated massive return on investment. Many teams have existed that accomplished nothing and whose return on investment was negative.

“Teams” is not a new concept. Moses organized his followers in groups of 10. In reality, the caveman’s group of people who shared a cave with him could easily be classified as a team. Jesus and his disciples met the team requirements. Every classroom in every school could be considered a team.

To start this chapter, let us explain that all positive innovations by definition are improvements and, in the broadest sense, all improvements are innovative. Keeping this in mind, the words improvement and innovation can be used interchangeably.


This chapter is about making teams hum. Humming has long been used to describe the efficiency, timeliness, and effectiveness of the working process. Humming can be detected by the senses and evaluated by instinct. You can actually see, feel, smell, taste, and hear humming. By instinct, you can easily distinguish positive from negative humming. Positive and negative humming are comparable to what we think about when we contrast a bee hive with a wasp nest.

Another example is provided to us by the seven dwarfs in Snow White who taught many of us to whistle while we work. They also gave us a message that there is tremendous advantage to the positively humming team over a negatively humming team, and a ho-hum team. This is all humming.

Definition: Team - Two or more entities (people, houses, oxen, dogs, etc.) bound together or dependent upon each other to achieve a specific goal.

So, what is a team in an organizational environment? A team is an organized group committed to work together to complete a well-defined piece of tedious work to achieve a shared goal. Many of our teams are committed more to play than to work. It helps to think that physically, there is little difference between work and play except in one’s mind. To you and I, basketball is play. To Michael Jordan, it is work. Making teams is for achieving involvement in, and ownership of, appropriately delegated and assigned work.

There are 3 basic types of teams. They are:

  • • Type 1 - Golf Team - each team member does his or her own thing.
  • • Type 2 - Baseball Team - some interdependence.
  • • Type 3 - Football Team - everyone must work together.

There are 7 activities that we all perform naturally, which can be done better by a positively humming team. These activities are:

  • 1. New product development - Determining new product opportunities, creation of a new and unique product or sendee.
  • 2. Goal setting - Determining the desired end result.
  • 3. Problem solving - Determining why actual doesn’t equal expected and finding root cause.
  • 4. Decision making - Determining the best balanced choice from all options.
  • 5. Implementation - Transforming the concepts into value-added output.
  • 6. Change - Determining what to stop, what to start, and what to do differently.
  • 7. Action - Completing tasks that are too large for one person to do by themselves.

People and teams are naturals at problem solving and new product development. Let them solve a problem or develop a new product and they will want to move on to decision making. Change creates a whole new set of problems to be resolved and this restarts the natural cycle for continuous improvement that is driven by the human condition to be and do better. Individuals readily react by working together to accomplish tasks that they agree need to be done. This chapter is about how to build teams for new product development, opportunity development, problem solving, decision making, goal setting, making changes, and completing assignments because this is the work and the reward that people cherish. It is a natural predisposition of people and teams, which can be enhanced by providing appropriate resources such as capital, time, training, and tools.

In the 1980s and 90s, we learned how important teams were to the overall success of an organization. In the ensuing years, hundreds of organizations throughout the world have validated this. In the 90s, we realized that they have much more to offer than just their ability to solve problems. We gave them the authority to make decisions and manage their own actives. By doing this, we increased our return on assets (ROI) and increased the overall organization morale. It was a win-win for everyone.

Dr Kaoru Ishikawa, the “father” of the Japanese quality approach and quality circles, is no longer with us but the legacy he left is one of a more humanistic approach to management. We no longer need to answer the question, “Are teams right for our organization?” Of course, they are. “Should teams be expected to solve all problems that the organization has?” Of course not. A survey entitled “The International Quality Study” found that for organizations just starting their improvement efforts, building the human resource infrastructure and organizing teams into effective work unit is one of the best strategies. Very advanced organizations focus on empowering each individual to take advantage of the opportunity that they discovered. These advanced organizations focus on developing self-reliance in their people ahead of team problem solving. In these advanced organizations, teams are used primarily as a communication tool for individuals reporting their activities. Cooperation is a key ingredient in a team structure for these advanced organizations.

A team’s reaction to a threat can be heard in a low, ominous drone. A team’s reaction to an opportunity can be heard in an excited, higher pitched tone. This is how you know the state of the humming. This chapter is about how to achieve high-pitch humming. Humming is our way to describe getting the results that are desired for the minimum resources that are required within a planned timeframe and to the ultimate satisfaction of all the stakeholders in the process. When a team is really humming, the members get pleasure from the work that they do and the customers get added-value in the products and sendees that they receive.


Task Teams - Teams that are assigned to complete a specific work or problem assignment.

Organizational Teams - Teams that are defined by the way the organization is organized.

One premise of this chapter is that all teams have processes for work or play that convert resources from suppliers into products and services for customers and stakeholders. Another premise is that all teams can be categorized as either task teams or organizational teams. Task teams are teams chartered to complete a defined piece of work. Organizational teams are teams chartered to decide globally the nature of the organization’s work, and how the work will be completed. Because decisions are products or services of a defined piece of work, organizational teams can be considered as the second category. From these premises, it is possible to make all teams hum using the same basic approaches, resources, processes, tools, and levels of team work. The objective of this chapter is to present in a systematic and logical way the information that is fundamental to planning and achieving the “humming” potential of all teams. To accomplish this objective, this chapter will address leadership, teams, team techniques, and team tools. The premises, theories, and concepts introduced in this chapter are ver)' important to the operation of any organization.


Let’s change the way we look at problems. Let’s think about each problem we face each day as an opportunity to contribute to making the organization more successful. As these opportunities arise, we need to have a systematic way of addressing them so that they are not just put to bed, but buried. If you put a problem to bed, it can and will get up some time in the future to cause the organization more disruptions. It may be next week or next month or next year, or perhaps in five years, but it will come back unless the process that allowed the problem to occur initially is error-proofed. When you have error-proofed the process that allowed the problem to occur, then and only then have you buried the problem so that it will not come back. That’s what the “Team Opportunity Cycle” is all about. (See Figure BB8.1.) Teams are designed to not only solve problems but also to identify and take advantage of other opportunities to make the organization successful. For the rest of this chapter, we will refer to opportunities rather than problems.



The Opportunity Cycle.

When you investigate each opportunity, go through the six distinct phases of the Opportunity Cycle as indicated in Figure BB8.1. Each phase contains a number of individual activities. The total cycle consists of 25 different activities.

Begin the opportunity cycle by selecting the opportunity that is a bottleneck, represents wasted effort, is not meeting customer expectations, or provides a means to add value to the organization’s product and process. Team activity is most appropriate when applied to solving a long-standing, nontrivial problem or when developing a new product and/or service.

When teams follow these six phases (or a similar process), their life becomes much easier. Unfortunately, the more experienced the team becomes, the more likely they are to take shortcuts. Process shortcuts have probably led to the demise of more teams than can be counted.

When a team elects to circumvent the correct problem-solving process, they automatically reduce their ability to function in an innovative (continuous improvement) environment. The team may ultimately be successful, but it will be by accident, not by design. I would estimate that more than seventy five percent of the team meetings I have attended are not managed in keeping with good team practices.

There are four stages of team development.

  • • Getting Together,
  • • Staying Together,
  • • Working Together,
  • • Growing Together.

Effective team leadership and management of these four stages of team development are key to making teams hum.

There are personal and professional benefits for enhancing your knowledge, skills, and abilities in the areas of helping teams get together, stay together, work together, and grow together. Committing yourself to making teams hum will help you to accomplish spiritual, physical, family, work, financial, and learning goals in your life. You may not even be aware of some of your goals until after you have accomplished them. Accomplishing something, even before you know that you want it, is a very rewarding experience.


Making teams hum is focused on teams that are involved in value-added activity. This requires that the experts be in charge at all times to provide focus and to inspire innovation, efficiency, and teamwork. The members of the team expect position leadership to provide initial direction and support for the team, and need shared leadership by the experts on the team to achieve the goal.


The team leader position enhances the team’s direction by providing focus through a shared vision, mission, goals, and objectives. Focus requires more than a one-time communication. It requires constant emphasis so that all team members know the direction for the team and see the path that lies in front of the team. Focus is a shared responsibility within the team. Focus can be attained by providing the employees with a clear vision, mission, goals, and objectives that they understand and believe are important and relevant to their assignment. Focus can be maintained and sustained by posting critical team measurements and current status against the team plan. Sharing one-by-one, the team members can help to focus on how they can help the team reach goals on an individual basis.

Leaders-and take everyone from Roosevelt to Churchill to Reagan, inspire people with clear visions of how things can be done better. Some managers, on the other hand, muddle things with pointless complexity and detail. They acquaint it with sophistication, with sounding smarter than anyone else. They inspire no one.

Jack Welch, CEO of General Electric

Creativity and Innovation

Shared team leadership encourages creativity and innovation in teams by recognizing and improving methods, the efficient use of materials, mastery of machines and technology, achieving key measures, and the development of the members and the team. Shared team leadership fosters an appreciation for diversity within the group by encouraging challenging of the status quo and helping all members to think out of the box.


Shared team leadership promotes the enhancement of team functions and tasks in order to exceed customer and other stakeholder needs by setting high expectations for the efficient use of resources and processes. Team members need to encourage simplicity of the team processes and passion for cycle-time reduction without compromising the quality of the output.


Shared team leadership promotes teamwork and totally involves people in their work. The position leader must be a part of the team and be perceived as a steward of the team’s efforts. Without teamwork, a talented group cannot achieve synergy, a phenomenon where the whole is greater than the sum of the parts, which leads to achieving the full team potential.


There are four functions that are absolutely essential to making teams hum. The greatest leaders are revered for their unique ability, usually in only one or two of the functional areas. The functions are: communicate, motivate, educate, and administrate.


  • • Communicate - To transfer understanding.
  • • Motivate - To draw out the potential of another person.
  • • Educate - To transfer knowledge and skill.
  • • Administrate - To direct and manage resources.

President Ronald Reagan is known as the “great communicator.” One example of his communication ability helped the nation to see the growing national debt. He described the debt in terms of 27 stacks of 1,000 dollar bills each equally as tall as the Empire State Building. Only a few questioned the math. Everyone acknowledged that the debt was huge.

President John F. Kennedy is known as a powerful motivational speaker. He told a nation to “ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.” Only a few questioned the origin of the words or the fact that he trembled from fear of public speaking. Everyone was motivated and the nation became a nation of volunteers.

President Bill Clinton is known as a great educator. He told the nation that “we can do better.” Only a few questioned if we really could do better. As a nation, we have done better in education, government, and business.

President Harry Truman is known as a great administrator. He told the nation “I have a job to do” and “the buck stops here.” Only a few questioned his record and his credentials. He did the job and the buck did stop there.

In an ideal world, an ideal leader would allocate personal time to each function with approximately thirty percent to communicate, thirty percent to motivate, thirty percent to educate, and ten percent to administrate. Studies by Dr. Warren Bennis of the world’s greatest leaders document that they average spending sixty percent of their scheduled time communicating. In reality, at lower levels of leadership, administration usually consumes far more than ten percent of the leader’s time. The challenge then is to focus on creative and innovative ways to reduce the demands of administration in order to have more time to spend on communicating, motivating, and educating.

Why not pause here and reflect on your knowledge and experience with the leadership functions? Record your answers on a sheet of paper.

  • • Think of ways that shared leadership can contribute to enhancing the leadership functions.
  • • Identify ways that the leadership functions can be assigned within the team.
  • • Identify ways that the leadership functions can be delegated within the team.
  • • Decide your priorities for the leadership functions by percentage of your schedule for each.
  • • Set targets for allocating your time to the leadership functions to match your priorities.

Now let’s reflect on your knowledge and experience with leadership behavior. Record your answers on a sheet of paper.

  • • Identify examples of other leaders for each function.
  • • Think about their effectiveness as behavior for you to model.
  • • Where are you most effective? Least effective?
  • • How can you enhance your strengths and eliminate your weaknesses?

Now that we know the four things that we must do to lead, we need to know our preferred leadership style for doing the work.


The Executive Improvement Team (EIT) should either pick or approve the task the team wants to focus on. Once this is decided, the EIT should determine a preliminary mission of the team. The team mission should simply give the team a clear perspective of why it (the team) exists. Very early in the team meetings the team should prepare their mission statement and have it reviewed by the appropriate individual on the executive team.

One of the most frustrating experiences a team can have is to be assigned an unclear task or opportunity by the EIT. An example of this is forming a team to look at the “communication” issue. This is referred to as a divergent opportunity or a opportunity that tends to grow in size and complexity as the team moves forward in their efforts to solve, develop, and control it. In other words, it keeps getting bigger and bigger. It’s up to the EIT to ensure the team is working on opportunities that are convergent or those that tend to become more clearly defined as a team moves toward solution and implementation. In the case of “communication,” a more convergent problem would be, “We have a problem communicating between management and the employees.” The EIT would then give the team a mission that might say:

The mission of the communication task team is to identify ways to enhance communication and understanding between management and employees.

The mission sets the stage for how you want the opportunity or issue to change. It should be very brief, no more than two or three sentences.

Once the mission is set, the team can establish the rest of its own Team Charter. The charter consists of three key elements:

  • • The mission - why the team exists
  • • Team goals - what the team hopes to accomplish
  • • Team guidelines (or Code of Conduct) - how the team will manage and measure itself

As you can see, the clearer the team mission the easier it will be for the team to complete a team charter. Once the team charter is established, it is typically signed off by each team member and the team’s EIT sponsor. This sign-off shows “ownership” by both the team and their sponsor and helps the team in identifying team process issues that may inhibit their performance.

Another element that supports the team charter is the project plan. This plan gives the team specific direction in the following areas:

  • • Team meeting schedule
  • • Resources required
  • • Schedule of activities
  • • Completion time frame
  • • Measures of success

Both the completed Team Charter and the Team Project Plan should be reviewed and approved by the EIT. This review and approval authorizes the use of the organization’s resources for a specific period of time to complete a specific task.

Team participation should never occur until the management team is participating in the cultural change activities, if you don’t want the employee to believe that they are being manipulated. Management must provide visible evidence of the organization’s total commitment to a policy of encouraging change, rather than reacting to change.

H. James Harrington

Does every opportunity require a formal team structure? The answer is a resounding no. It should be the objective of the management team to develop the individuals to the point that they can be empowered to make decisions on their own and take advantage of the opportunities they observe. In other cases, the team meets for one meeting. At this meeting, the opportunity is defined and assignments are made. Each individual has a commitment and honesty to live up to his or her commitment without team follow-up to be sure it gets done. The single team meeting is becoming a larger and larger percentage of the team activities in the more advanced and proficient organizations.

Teams operate on the basic assumption that 1+1=3. This assumption indicates that two people working together will accomplish the work of three individuals working separately. This is often true but we have seen occasions where 1+1=0.5. This occurs when two individuals have had different approaches to taking advantage of an opportunity. In order to get a consensus, a third idea is developed that is not as effective as either one of the other two by themselves. A good example of that is when a group of people trying to make up their mind about if and where there go for supper. James is tired and just wants to go to bed. Bob likes Chinese food and he suggested going to his favorite Chinese restaurant. Tom suggests going to a smorgasbord because he’s ver)' hungry. Mary suggests going to San Francisco that is 60 miles away. After hours of discussion, the team agrees that the compromised position is to go to Sunnyvale only 30 miles away for corned beef hash. No one is really excited about the compromise but no one feels that their suggestion was turned down in favor of someone else’s suggestion.


We find there are four key elements in the team environment. The elements that must be in place prior to teams being formed is the Executive Improvement Team’s (EIT) commitment to the process. The second is the team member’s themselves. The third is the team leader, and last, but certainly not least, is the facilitator. Let’s look at one of them - the Executive Improvement Team.

The Executive Improvement Team (EIT)

The Executive Team has overall responsibility for the entire improvement effort. If the effort succeeds, much of the credit should go to them, and, if it fails, all of the blame should be directed at them. Why?

When the team environment is first being established in an organization, its early success will depend on the amount of support and encouragement given teams and team members by management. Early team planning by the EIT will eliminate many of the problems that plague organizations with a poorly organized team structure. However, there is one ingredient that comes before establishing the team, and that’s training.

Basic Team Effectiveness Training

The smart executive team will train as many employees as possible in the basics. By basics, we mean:

  • • Understanding the organization’s goals and objectives
  • • Understand the improvement process
  • • Team dynamics
  • • Team effectiveness
  • • Effective meeting skills


In every organization where we have conducted opportunity development assessments, the tactic that always made the employees’ “top 5” list is “training” or the lack thereof. However, it most often isn’t their number one issue. At Xerox, effective Improvement Teams participation grows, in part, from the affected opportunity development training. At a minimum, ever)' Xerox employee had received 28 hours of training. Xerox initial training investment is estimated at more than 4 million employee hours and $125 million. The training of teams is just as important as training individuals to do their job. There are two primary ways of providing training. The most popular is formal classroom training and the other is on the job training.

Formal Classroom Training

Teams can be trained as a group, where all members of the team go through training together; or as individual participants, where several (normally 10 to 20) employees are trained together and assigned a team at a later date. Either way works well; however, in both cases, the training should not be conducted until the participants are within 30 days of using what they have learned. Don’t waste valuable organizational resources by training and waiting three to six months to put the training to use.

An additional word of caution: Timid or less aggressive team members may never become completely competent through this approach. We recommend team and opportunity development training be a part of the New Employee Orientation process, thereby providing everyone in the organization with a common language and approach.

For more than 40 years, teams have been effectively used to solve problems. The approach used varies based upon the product, process, complexity, and skills of the team. Teams should evolve through the following 6 levels:

  • 1) Seven Basic Tools
  • 2) Plan-Do-Check-Act - the basic problem-solving cycle defined by Shewhart
  • 3) Same as #1 and#2 plus the Seven Management Tools
  • 4) Add Statistical Analysis and Design of Experiments
  • 5) Add Simulation Modeling, Structured Analysis, and Causal Modeling
  • 6) TRIZ (Russian acronym for “Theory of Solving Problems Inventively”)

Of course, not all teams need to or should progress through all six opportunity development levels. In fact, many teams can stop at level 2.

All employees should be trained in the seven basic tools. They are:

  • • Brainstorming
  • • Checksheets
  • • Graphs
  • • Nominal Group Technique (NGT)
  • • Force Field Analysis
  • • Cause-and-Effect Diagram
  • • Pareto Diagram
  • • Flow-Charting

There are a number of other tools that ever)' member of a formal team should be trained to use. They are:

. 5W’s and 2H’s

  • • Delphi Narrowing Technique
  • • Failure Mode and Effect Analysis
  • • Five S’s
  • • Histogram
  • • Milestone Graph
  • • Mind Map
  • • Shewhart Cycle
  • • Root Cause Analysis
  • • Run Charts
  • • Business Process Improvement (BPI)

The more advanced teams need to be trained in the seven new management tools. They are:

  • • Affinity Diagram
  • • Interrelationship Diagram
  • • Tree Diagram
  • • Matrix Diagram
  • • Prioritization Matrix
  • • Process Decision Program Chart (PDPC)
  • • Arrow Diagrams

Process Improvement Teams, which are involved in Reengineering, Redesign, or Benchmarking, need to be trained in the following 12 basic Business Process Improvement Tools:

  • • BPI concepts
  • • Flowcharts
  • • Interviewing Techniques
  • • Value-Added Analysis (VA)
  • • Bureaucracy Elimination Method
  • • Process and Paperwork Simplification Techniques
  • • Simple Language Analysis and Improvement Methods
  • • Process Walkthrough Methods
  • • Cost and Cycle-Time Analysis
  • • Statistical Process Control (SPC)
  • • Organizational Change Management (OCM)
  • • Knowledge Management (KM)

In addition, the process owners, who chair Process Improvement Teams, should be trained in the 12 sophisticated tools. They are:

  • • Quality Function Deployment (QFD)
  • • Program Evaluation and Review Technique (PERT) Charting
  • • Business Systems Planning
  • • Process Analysis Technique
  • • Structured Analysis/Design
  • • Value Analysis/Control
  • • Information Engineering
  • • Process Benchmarking
  • • Poor-Quality Cost (PQC)
  • • Design of Experiments
  • • Simulation Modeling
  • • Project Management

In Appendix B, we provide a list of 77 innovation tools that have been divided up into 3 categories. They are:

  • 1. Creative Tools, Methods, and Techniques That Ever)' Innovator Must Know
  • 2. Evolutionary Tools, Methods, and Techniques That Every Innovator Must Know
  • 3. Organizational and Operational Tools, Methods, and Techniques That Every Innovator Must Know

Establishing the Team Process

Establishing the team process should take place prior to forming the first team. The EIT should know what type of team is being established. (See Figure BB8.2.) The EIT should also decide how the team process will be managed. For example, will EIT itself be responsible for team training and day-to-day management? Probably not, but it is important to decide who is! Listed below are several areas an EIT should consider in establishing the team process.

  • 1. Who is responsible for overall management of the teams?
  • 2. Who is responsible for setting the team mission?
  • 3. How empowered is the team?
  • 4. What type of team reporting will be required?

Each team, however, should be required to submit for approval their Team Charter and Project Plan. In addition, minutes of all team meetings should be prepared and distributed to members as soon as possible.

For organizations just starting their improvement efforts, we recommend the EIT set up and/or approve each individual opportunity team mission statement.


The EIT should be willing to run interference for the team and guide them on policy issues and potential barriers. As the team progresses, the EIT should hold periodic reviews on progress to eliminate any surprises during the Innovation Systems Cycle. Team recommendations should be reviewed and approved by the EIT prior to implementation. This should not make the team feel less empowered. Remember, the EIT still has final responsibility for utilizing the organization’s resources wisely.

Last, but certainly not least, the EIT helps drive the implementation effort. This becomes much easier, even for a team totally empowered, when management has been a part of the process from start to finish.

Team Leader

The individual selected to lead the team may be elected by the team, or more often, appointed by the EIT. In the case of natural work group teams, it may be the supervisor or manager of that organization or department. It is usually someone with a deeper knowledge of the opportunity area, someone having more experience in the Innovation Systems Cycle or someone that has an excellent understanding of the team process.

For those of you with a more autocratic management style, learning to be an effective team leader can be a challenge. While it is one of the harder jobs in the team process, we feel it is one of the most rewarding. Two of the most important traits that an effective team leader should have are being able to guide the team without dominating it and acting as an effective role model to the team.

Some of the duties of the team leader are to:

  • • Coordinate team meetings and activities
  • • Teach members
  • • Promote and sustain the team synergy
  • • Encourage individual member participation without coercion
  • • Follow up on meeting action items
  • • Assist the team in monitoring and measuring its progress
  • • Ensure the team process is being followed

Frequently, the team leader does not take a position related to a debate or disagreement between two or more of the team members. This neutral position encourages both sides of the discussion to be creative and not feel overpowered by the team leader. In most cases, the only time the team leader will vote on an issue is when there is an equal vote for both proposed action. The team leader is responsible for being the tie breaker when there is a time between two proposals.

Team Members

The team member is certainly the “heart” of the team. The idea of “Participative Management” is based on allowing employees to help management make better decisions. The whole concept of “synergy” is based on two heads being better than one. If the team leader is there to guide, the team members should assume responsibility for successfully completing the tasks. Some specific team member responsibilities are:

  • • Willingness to express opinions or feelings
  • • Active participation
  • • Listen attentively
  • • Think creatively
  • • Avoid disruptive communication
  • • Be willing to call a time-out when necessary
  • • Be protective of the rights of other members
  • • Be responsible for meeting the goals and objectives of the team

Team Facilitator

Probably the most difficult role in the team environment is that of the facilitator. There are several different thoughts as to what the role of the facilitator should be. Some organizations use the facilitator as a full member of the team. Other organizations believe the facilitator should be an expert or have a lot of knowledge in the team issue.

There are essentially three types of facilitators. They are:

  • 1. Integrator/coordinator
  • 2. Group process specialist
  • 3. Session leader

The Integrator/Coordinator can, and in many cases, does fill the role of assistant team leader. Duties for this individual are typically in the administration of the team processes and in communicating with others outside the team process. It has been said that this role is that of the Team Secretary or Team Assistant.

The Group Process Specialist is the more traditional facilitator role and is primarily that of facilitating the team meeting with a focus on process. This is the facilitator role that was developed as part of the Quality Circle and group problem-solving process developing in Japan. This facilitator is not a full-time member of the team. His or her role can be described as that of teaching, coaching, and supporting the team.

The Session Leader Facilitator is simply one who leads a session, often in the form of a training session or workshop where a more traditional facilitator is not required. He or she is usually a subject matter expert on the opportunity or activity being presented.

We believe the more traditional view of the team facilitator, the Group Process Specialist, is best when an organization is developing a team culture. First of all, the team facilitator should not be part of the team. The key responsibility of the team facilitator is to assist the team in focusing on process, not content. The most effective facilitators are those with the ability to tune out most of the team’s content discussion and focus on the overall effectiveness of the team. In other words, is the team reaching its goals and objectives? Do they stay on track? Do they start and end on time? Are they using the proper tools and techniques at the proper time?

We have included a chart that shows the team roles and responsibilities. (See Figure BB8.2.) The key is to remember that the team leader’s



Team Roles and Responsibilities.

and members’ major concern is what decisions are made (content) and the facilitator’s concern is how decisions are made (process).


The first step in the Innovation Systems Cycle is Opportunity Identification. Most of us come in contact with many potential improvement opportunities every day. However, we don’t take the time and effort to evaluate them to determine if we reacted to them, would they create significant value-added or not. I’m sure that a high percentage of the improvement opportunities that you will identify will be outside your realm of responsibility/capabilities. The question is, “In the cases where the improvement opportunity is outside your responsibility/ capabilities, is it your responsibility to make the appropriate individuals aware of the opportunity?” The answer is sometimes it is and sometimes it isn’t. It all depends upon the culture that has developed within your organization. The truly innovative organization wants to know and understand all the potential improvement opportunities that anyone has so they can select the ones to attack that will create the greatest value-added content.

The team environment really exists for one reason only - to improve the organization’s performance. Let’s face it; we probably wouldn’t have a participative management process like teams if it only gave the organization a “warm and fuzzy good feeling” and didn’t produce tangible results that translate into dollars and/or customers satisfaction. In other words, “If it doesn’t make the organization money, don’t do it!”

There are as many approaches to opportunity development as there are to structuring teams. The one we’ve chosen is probably the most detailed approach.


One of the quickest paybacks to the team process is better meeting management. A study conducted a few years ago identifies ineffective meetings as the number-one time waster of management in American businesses. (This includes conference call also.) Most of us can quickly relate to this since we all spend an inordinate amount of time in meetings.

If you are a senior-level manager, you probably spend anywhere from sixty to eighty five percent of your time in meetings. Mid-management spends from fifty to seventy percent of their time in meetings. When asked, most managers will tell you that maybe ten percent of the meetings they attend are beneficial and those would be more valuable if they were conducted with some structure.

We feel there are three pieces to the meeting “pie.” They are:

  • 1. Logistics. This includes the where; that is, things such as getting the meeting notice out on time, preparing the meeting room, etc., look out for conferences that are scheduled for one or two hours; they often are poorly planned and poorly managed. Meeting schedule should be based upon covering the agenda, which, in most cases, is not an exact hour or two hours. A typical well-planned and manage meeting with the scheduled to start at 1:10 PM and end at 1:40 PM.
  • 2. Process. This is the how. Here we’re looking at how the meeting is conducted, what type of meeting style is in use. What tools and techniques will be required and how do we use them?
  • 3. Content. Here is the heart of the meeting, or the what. What do we hope to accomplish, what action do we need to take, etc.?

Five Elements of a Successful Meeting

Equally important are what we call the Five Elements of a Successful Meeting.

1. Before the meeting:

a. Plan the meeting.

b. Develop a complete agenda.

c. Prepare for the meeting.

2. At the beginning of the meeting

a. Start the meeting on time.

b. Utilize a scribe or recorder.

c. Reach agreement on the agenda and the key objective of the meeting.

d. Define each participant’s role.

e. Define the meeting process style. There are basically four types of meeting styles. They are; informational, discussion, problemsolving, and decision-making.

3. During the meeting

a. Be as positive as possible.

b. Stick to the agenda and meeting time limits.

c. Keep the discussions on track.

d. When necessary, conduct a process check or “time-out.”

e. If new items come up, post them on an “Issues List” (parking lot) for discussion at a later date.

4. At the end of the meeting

a. Beach agreement on the results.

b. Establish action items.

c. Review the process. Take time to evaluate the meeting.

d. If required, set a time and place for the next meeting.

e. Prepare the agenda for the next meeting.

f. End the meeting on time.

5. After the meeting

a. Follow up on any items.

b. Prepare and distribute the minutes of the meeting.

Team Benefits for the Organization

There are many benefits of teams from the organization’s standpoint. Some of them are:

  • • Makes the team more effective and efficient.
  • • Aligns the team’s activities with the organization’s objectives.
  • • Improves the problem-solving cycle by providing better solutions.
  • • Improves morale.
  • • Improves trust in management.
  • • Improves communications.
  • • Develops new leaders.


There is more than one way to lead. There are at least six styles of leadership that are effective for making teams hum.

They are force, seduction, persuasion, integrity, empowerment, and wisdom. Style can be, and often is, selected to fit the immediate situation. However, force, seduction, and persuasion do not have the staying power of integrity, empowerment, and wisdom.

Integrity, empowerment, and wisdom are the only true leadership styles for making teams hum and for helping other people.

  • • Force - Force inspires fear. The forceful leader compels others by physical, moral, or intellectual means. People will flee from forceful leaders at the first opportunity.
  • • Seduction - Seduction inspires expectations. The seductive leader entices others by attracting or charming. People turn away from seductive leaders when reality falls short of expectations.
  • • Persuasion - Persuasion inspires demands. The persuasive leader moves others with promises or arguments. People become hostile when promises are broken and arguments are defeated.
  • • Integrity - Integrity inspires trust. The leader with integrity moves others by consistency of words and deeds. People admire honest leaders and support often continues to grow after the situation.
  • • Empowerment - Empowerment inspires development. The empowering leader moves by giving authority and power. People need to feel responsible and accountable to self-actualize. They always remain loyal to the leader who makes a positive difference in their lives.
  • • Wisdom - Wisdom inspires confidence. The wise leader moves others by applying great understanding of people and situations.

Saddam Hussein is perceived by many to be a forceful leader. The power of force is that it moves the team in the leader’s desired direction. The problem with force is team resentment.

President Lyndon Johnson is perceived by many to have been a great persuader. The power of persuasion is that people are moved by expectations. The problem with persuasion is that the expectations continue to grow and the team is angered when they are not fulfilled.

Madonna, the pop star, is perceived by many to be a seducer. The power of seduction is the hypnotic control over people. The problem with seduction is the brevity of the control.

General Colin Powell is perceived by many to have great integrity. The power of integrity is the trust that it instills in people. The problem with integrity is that it must be sustained.

President George Bush is perceived by many to be an individual who was effective at empowering people. The power of empowerment is that it fosters creativity and innovation and attracts self-managing people. With empowerment people can rightfully say “we did it.” The problem with empowerment is that the leader is still held accountable for the outcome even if he or she did not make the decision.

Albert Einstein is perceived by many to have possessed great wisdom. The power of wisdom is that it is respected. The problem with wisdom is that it is expected in all areas.

Leaders are by nature the type of people that make things happen.

It has been said that there are three kinds of people: those who make it happen, those who do the work, and those who sit by and say, what happened? A good leader makes it happen but does it in a way that others think it was their idea and that they made it happen. People work hardest when they are implementing their own ideas. A good leader helps people mold their ideas so that both parties win.

Why not pause here and reflect on your knowledge and experience with the leadership styles? Record your answers on a sheet of paper.

  • • Identify other models for each leadership style.
  • • Describe situations where each style could be most effective.
  • • Describe situations where each style could be ineffective.
  • • Decide your preferred style.


A single finger and a piece of string to teach you all you need to know about leadership. (See Figure BB8.3.) The pleasures finger at the end of the string and move your finger forward the string follows were ever you want to take it. If you push back on a string, all it does is wad up and you make no progress.

We now know the key functions of a leader and six leadership styles. The next task is becoming a leader. A cartoon character, Pogo, once said that the quickest way to become a leader is to find a parade and step in front of it. There is more to leadership than Pogo is telling us. Today, great parades are being created by people who have compelling visions for how things and the world can be and the rest of us are stepping in behind them as they parade into the future.

There are definite paths and accountability to leadership. Although the paths can vary from leader to leader, and situation to situation, the accountability for leadership behavior is always predictable.



Impact of Pushing/Pulling.

  • • Inherited - If you are an inherited leader, the family is forever accountable.
  • • Appointed - If you are an appointed leader, the appointer is always accountable.
  • • Promoted - If you are a promoted leader, the promoter is held accountable.
  • • Elected - If you are an elected leader, the voters are reluctantly accountable.
  • • Earned - If you have earned leadership, you are expected to be accountable.

Stepping up to shared leadership brings with it the responsibility and accountability for making teams hum. All leaders, regardless of position, role, team level, and path to leadership, can enhance personal knowledge, skills, and abilities by mastering the basic concepts, strategies, tools, and techniques for making teams hum. This in effect can put all paths to leadership on the earned leadership path. (See Figure BB8.4.)

A team leader evolves through four steps. They are:

Step 1 - Controller

Step 2 - Facilitator

Step 3 - Advisor

Step 4 - Leader



Unlocking Your Leadership Potential.

What step are you at? If you are not at step 4, what are you going to do to move up to the next step? (See Figure BB8.5.)

Now let’s pause to reflect on your knowledge and experience with earned leadership. Record your answers on a sheet of paper.

  • • List positives and negatives of earned leadership accountability.
  • • List how you can “accentuate the positives and eliminate the negatives.”
  • • Decide your level of commitment to earned leadership.


The Stairway to Leadership.


Shared leadership can make teams hum by meeting the needs of the member, team, and organization. This is how to do it.

  • • Member - Use skills that increase the sense of dignity and self-esteem.
  • • Team - Use skills that increase team cohesiveness and team spirit.
  • • Organization - Use skills that motivate productivity and the achievement of organizational and team goals. Use skills that help members and teams reach goals.


Member needs must be met on five levels, one person at a time. Each level builds on the level just below it. A person is severely challenged when expected to perform at a higher level when the lower level does not provide a solid foundation. If there is a secret to motivating people, it is in helping them to identify and then to meet their own needs. Motivation is the art of balancing the emotions of desire and fear to bring out the best that is within another person. (See Figure BB8.6.)



Hierarchy of Needs.

There are five categories of needs that Abraham Maslow describes as the “hierarchy of needs.” (See Figure BB8.6.)

  • 1. Physiological - Physiological needs are met by the team member on an individual level. Physiological needs are things like hunger, shelter, and thirst.
  • 2. Safety - Safety needs are met through greater control of work and environment.
  • 3. Social - Social needs are met through team acceptance. People need a sense of belonging and pursue it through family, friends, work group, sports teams, and religious affiliations.
  • 4. Self-Esteem - Self-esteem is enhanced by rewarding work, responsibility, achievement, recognition, and advancement. A well-developed sense of self-esteem is fundamental to development.
  • 5. Self-Actualization - Self-actualization is achieved by self-direction, self-learning, self-management, and self-rewarding. Providing opportunities for self-actualization is a great motivational tool because it provides the greatest sense of accomplishment.


There are four needs that must be addressed if the team is going to hum.

Teams Need #1 - Culture

All cultures have four components in common.

  • • Institutions - Places and procedures to assemble, interact, and govern.
  • • Language - How to talk to each other.
  • • Technology - The tools, hardware and software, to do the work.
  • • Arts - The means for artistic expression. High achievement in work is artistic.

Institutions provide structure, direction, and support for the team. Other names for institutions are meetings, procedures, routines, charters, regulations, and contracts. The chapter entitled “The Team Process” provides more information on institutions.

Teams Need #2 - Resources

Teams need ample time, timely and relevant training, and the best in technology (tools) to do the team’s work. Knowledge, information, power, and rewards are key enablers for making teams hum.

Teams Need #3 - Processes

The fundamental processes are procure, protect, promote, and propel. Methodologies like Business Process Improvement, TIME and Six Sigma define the approaches to streamlining and reducing costs for the organization processes. We suggest reading the book entitled Business Process Improvement produced by McGraw-Hill to provide more information on processes improvement.

Teams Need #4 - Routines

Time, training, and technology are used most effectively by teams that have team spirit and group cohesiveness. Group cohesiveness and team spirit can be achieved and enhanced with icebreakers, warm-ups, activities and exercises, and closures that direct and support the work of the team.


We tend to forget that teams and organizations are man’s creations to serve man. Meeting organizational needs enhances the service to the people who are the stakeholders in the organization. The people can be customers, employees, suppliers, management, investors, regulators, and neighbors (communities). These people are all caretakers and care providers of the environment where the team works.

The leader, the team, and the other stakeholders meet organizational needs by continuously improving the inputs, processes, and products and services. There are five inputs and four processes that are common to all teams, organizations, and cultures. (See Figure BB8.7.) By focusing on these inputs and processes, the leader and team can accomplish approximately eighty percent of the planning and work required to meet the organizational needs.



Input, Process, and Output Model.

The organization’s process takes inputs, adds value to them, and provides output to its customer. The objective of all organizations is to increase the value of the output while consuming less and less resources. This allows the organization to make more profits while providing their customers with products and services that are more valuable to the individuals and organizations that receive them.

Innovative products and sendees are achieved with innovative inputs through innovative processes. A systems view, to look at the whole, is essential to success. Improving one input could be a detriment to the whole. Improving only one process can do the same. A balanced approach is best for achieving products and services to exceed customer expectations and to meet the organizational needs. Other chapters will provide more information.

Now, why not pause to apply your current knowledge and experience to meeting organizational needs by using the process model?

  • • Select an output (product or service) that your team provides.
  • • Describe the inputs and processes with team words (e.g., procure becomes recruit, store becomes protect, transport becomes propel, refine becomes promote, or, develop).
  • • Compare your completed model with your actual experiences.
  • • Identify the gaps between the model you just developed and your experiences.
  • • Ask yourself “how do I feel about the gaps?” and “what would I do differently?”
  • • List three to five leadership things to do to close the gaps, with target start and completion dates.

All the teams that have ever been, and all the teams that will ever be, will hum from desire and from fear. Creating fear and desire are leadership approaches for making teams hum. The leader decides which approach is appropriate. They both work. Fear is difficult to sustain and desire is challenging to maintain. Fear can be effective short term for goals that do not require individual commitment to achieve full potential. Desire takes longer to nurture but is more effective in achieving maximum potential through individual discretionary effort over longer periods of time. The challenge is finding new things to desire. The team’s purpose and situation should always govern the decision when selecting fear or desire.

The essential tools and techniques for making teams hum have always been, and always will be available to all teams. This has been documented in, and validated by, the ruins of prehistoric society around the globe. These tools and techniques have been in use for thousands and thousands of years. Cultural anthropologists tell us that the tools are common to all cultures in all ages. The leading question might then be “why have there been winners and losers in the human race for improvement?” Part of the answer, of course, is the misuse and abuse by leaders of fear and desire as motivators for change. Another answer is the imposed limitation by leaders on information, knowledge, power, and rewards, which are the cornerstones of successful teams. Yet another answer is that each individual and each team must learn to use the tools effectively for the team to achieve its full potential. An answer for the information age is expressed in comic wisdom by an insightful, successful business executive. He likes to say, “I now know so much stuff that I can’t remember a lot of it, and I can’t use a third of what I do remember.” Many of us do feel almost overwhelmed by information overload. This provides another reason for Making Teams Hum. It can be a resource and reference book for the tools and techniques that have transcended time and culture translated into current business terms. The team that is most successful with the tools is usually the winner.

The essential tools and techniques are used for identifying, collecting, analyzing, evaluating, and applying relevant information. The tools are interaction, creativity, innovation, diagnosis, prognosis, and measurement. They are fundamental to communication, motivation, education, and administration for making teams hum. There are many, many ways to design and apply the tools and techniques. More ways are being developed and promoted daily as the “latest and greatest.” This can lead to analysis paralysis and prolific paranoia. The bottom line is that when the approach is appropriate and the tools and techniques are clear, concise, and correct, teams can hum at five different levels, which we call the Team Alphabet Soup. Ever)' team has the right to decide its desired “humming” level as one of its driving goals.

Team Alphabet Soup

The Alphabet Soup of teams, or measures of humming, can be described in an easy-to-remember alphabetic order. The levels are:

  • • A - Aware
  • • B - Believe
  • • C - Comprehend

. D - Do

. E - Excel

These levels apply to all teams and to all work. Identifying, planning for, and ensuring the achievement of the desired level of humming is the most important work of the team. In the simplest organizational form, it is almost totally the leader’s responsibility. As the organizational form and the technology becomes more complex, the responsibility must be increasingly shared by the leader with the team members. For a team to be aware requires the team leader to be an informed and effective communicator. Awareness is the lowest level of humming and obviously requires less energy from the team and the leader. To get a team to believe that something is happening, could happen, or should happen requires a higher energy level from the team and the leader. The knowledge, skill, and ability requirements of the team and the leader have to expand exponentially to achieve the believe level. The leader must be able to motivate others toward the desired decision making and goal setting. The team members must be ready to enhance their capability for informed decision making and goal setting.

To reach the comprehend level, the team needs to gain understanding of the work the team does and purpose of the team. To fully comprehend requires awareness and belief. The knowledge, skill, and ability requirements of the team members and the team leader must take another exponential leap forward. The leader needs to become an educator. This requires knowing how to gain and transfer understanding of the technical and behavioral information needed by the team in an effective and timely manner. The team needs the capability to process and apply the transferred knowledge.

After comprehension comes the do level. To do something well requires passage through the levels of to be aware, to believe, and to comprehend. The leader now needs to have the knowledge, skill, and abilities to effectively administrate the process. This requires understanding the technical and behavioral information requirements well enough to identify, track, analyze, and apply the key drivers of continuous improvement to your process. The team members need the knowledge, skills, and abilities to take informed risks, recover from failure, and to find new reasons to continuously improve. Doing well requires goal-setting capabilities of the leader and the team members to continuously “raise the bar,” “look beyond the horizon,” and to “commit to a compelling vision.”

The very essence of leadership is that you have to have a vision. It’s got to be a vision you articulate clearly and forcefully on every occasion. You cannot blow an uncertain trumpet.

Father Theodore Hesburg Former President of Notre Dame University

The fifth level of making teams hum is the excel level. This requires the team members and the team leader to acquire and develop the knowledge, skills, and abilities to self-learn, self-direct, self-manage, and selfreward. To make teams hum at the excel level requires awareness, belief, comprehension, and doing. This is further complicated by the natural laws of teaming.

Law No. 1 is that most team members never report to the team leader that they would prefer to follow and most team leaders never have exactly the team members that they would select. Birds of a feather like to flock together. This tendency discourages diversity that can limit creativity and innovation. Law No. 2 is that none of us can be as great as all of us.

It is true that two heads are better than one, especially when they’re humming by thinking differently and complementarily. However, you have to get to excel from where you are. So, this chapter is really about determining where you are on your journey to make teams hum, deciding where you need to be, and determining how to get there. To excel requires the team leader and the team members have the capability to change.

Team Benefits for the Individual

There are many benefits of being a member or a leader of a team to the individual. Some of them are:

  • • Learn better ways to solve problems.
  • • Develop better interpersonal skills.
  • • Get more satisfaction from finding better answers to problems.
  • • Get a better understanding of the organization.
  • • Develop friendships.
  • • Develop leadership skills.
  • • Become more satisfied with their job.


We talked about implementation of the team concept. We like to do it in the following four target areas in the order presented below:

  • 1. Focusing on changing executive behavior patterns.
  • 2. Focusing on increasing external customer satisfaction levels.
  • 3. Focusing on Improving Internal Organization Interfaces.
  • 4. Focusing on lowering operating costs.

Focusing on Changing Executive Behavior Patterns

All major initiatives within an organization need to start with the executive team leading the way, setting the example, and living up to the initiatives concepts. For this reason, the team initiative starts with the executive team and, better still, both the executive team and the board of directors implementing an error measurement for themselves.

1. Executive Team Error Measurement

The executive team assignment is to lead the organization and make major decisions related to how the organization functions. This results in them having the possibility of making two types of error. These are:

  • • Decision Making Errors.
  • • Behavioral Errors.

Decision-making errors are extremely expensive to the organization and the executive team needs to be expert in risk analysis and the functions they are assigned to. It is unfortunate that most decisionmaking errors are not immediately recognizable. In an attempt to quantify decision making, we have looked at the decisions that were made by the executive team 6 months after they were made. We classify each decision as a poor decision, an acceptable decision, and the best-possible decision. In this case, only 8.5 percent of the decisions were the best-possible decision. The difference between an acceptable decision and best-possible decision can be hundreds of million dollars a year for a major company.

2. Increasing External Customer Satisfaction Levels.

The second priority is forming a dedicated task team to improve customer satisfaction level to the point it meets its goal. The goal we like to set is ninety percent of the customers rate the organization as “exceeds requirements.” Organizations that meet requirements or exceeds requirements at times are not going to have loyal customers, unless the customer has no better opportunity and often will try other brands in hopes that they will find one that consistently exceeds the requirements. Of course, anything below meeting requirements is a reflection of customers that are actively looking for other organizations to fill their needs and requirements. This usually is accomplished with assigning a task team to each major product to study what the customer wants but is not getting. They asked the question of external customers, “What would it take to make the organization as outstanding?”

3. Focusing on improving internal organization interfaces

The four most important tools in building an innovative culture in order are:

  • 1. Measuring executive behavior errors
  • 2. Brainstorming
  • 3. Area Activity Analysis
  • 4. Business Process Improvement

Developing a cohesive internal supplier-customer relationship is the basis that all team activities should be directed at. Many books on team building stress the importance of establishing both the external and internal customer-supplier interface. A great deal of emphasis has been placed on building the external partnership but few tools have been affected for developing the internal supplier-customer relationship between the natural work teams that make up the organization. The only tool that we have found effective at developing the customer-supplier internal relationships is the Area Activity Analysis (AAA) methodology. The following are the four major improvements that AAA usually brings about in an organization when it is implemented.

a. Establishes agreed-to efficiency measurements throughout the organization.

b. Establishes four-way communication links.

c. Establishes performance standards.

d. Establishes internal supplier-customer relationships.

4. Focusing on lowering operating costs


I cannot overemphasize the importance and effectiveness of this tool in improving innovation and internal organizational support. The only effective way we have found in establishing an organization-wide customer supplier relationship is through the use of Area Activity Analysis (AAA). I strongly suggest that AAA is the best starting point to change the culture and habits within the organization. It quickly defines all of the overlaps and establishes efficiency and effectiveness measures for frequently used processes. It affects everything from payroll, to snow removal, customer retention, and all the activities in between.


Area Activity Analysis (AAA), sometimes called “Department Activity Analysis,” is the most effective approach developed today to establish the internal and external supplier/customer relationships. It also establishes Individual Performance Indicators (IPI) related to major activities that go on in all of the organization’s natural work teams (NWTs). These individual performance indicators define and measure what each level of management and all employees do and what they are responsible for. This allows improvement efforts to be focused upon real problems and to take advantage of real opportunities that impact the total organization’s performance.


Definition: Area Activity Analysis is a methodology to establish agreed-to, understandable efficiency and effectiveness measurement systems and communication links throughout the organization. It is designed to define and set up all of the internal and external supplier/ customer relationships and measurements. (See Figure BB8.8.)

The methodology consists of seven phases. The first six phases of AAA process usually have fixed start- and end-points; only the last phase, Continuous Improvement, is a continuous process. The first six phases are normally treated as an innovation project and they are included in the organization’s strategic business plan. This by no means indicates that the measurements and associated requirements are developed and not updated on a regular basis. It provides a set of IIPs that are relative to the activities going on within each natural work team and presents



The Cascading Customer/Supplier Model.

the results in a way that is easily understood by the employees. At least one of the IPIs should be an innovation measurement related to the natural work team’s activities. (See Figure BB8.8.)

By monitoring the IPIs, the people that can realize they have a problem at least 30 days before the problem can be recognized in the Key Performance Indicators (KPIs).

Benefits of AAA

AAA has many benefits to an organization. Some of them are:

  • • It aligns the mission statement throughout the organization from the president’s office all the way down to first-line-foremen’s group (Natural Work Team).
  • • It ensures that the individual Natural Work Teams (NWT) are conducting activities that are in line with their mission statements.
  • • It provides a good understanding by all of the NWT members of what is going on within the NWT and how its innovation is measured and reported.
  • • It provides agreed-to, understandable output requirements as viewed by the internal and external customers.
  • • It establishes a performance-feedback system from the internal and external customers.
  • • It establishes agreed-to and documented work standards for all major processes within the NWT scope of work.
  • • It documents the major processes that go on within each NWT.
  • • It sets up a visual, innovation opportunity and performance tracking system for each NWT.

Definition: Natural Work Team (NWT) or Natural Work Group (NWG) is a group of people who are assigned to work together and who report to the same manager or supervisor. AAA projects are implemented by NWTs.

Features of AAA

The features of a typical AAA methodology include:

  • • It develops aligned, interdependent mission statements for NWTs at all levels within the organization from the CEOs NWT to the janitorial NWT.
  • • It defines the major processes that are going on in each NWT.
  • • It documents customer agreed-to, signed-off output requirements for the major processes that each NWT is involved in.
  • • It defines and documents the performance feedback loop for the internal and external customers for each output from the major NWT processes.
  • • It defines and documents signed-off work standards for the major processes for each NWT.
  • • It documents the processes that create the output for each NWT.
  • • It documents a set of supplier agreed-to input requirements for each major process for each NWT.

Few incentives are more powerful than membership in a small group engaged in a common task, sharing the risks of defeat and the potential rewards of victory.

Robert B. Reich, The Work of Nations: Preparing Ourselves for the 21st Century Capitalism (Vintage Books 1992)

The AAA Methodology

The AAA methodology has been divided into seven different phases to make it simple for the NWT to implement the concept. Each of these phases contains a set of steps that will progressively lead the NWT through the methodology. (See Figure BB8.9.) These seven phases are:

We will briefly describe each of the seven phases AAA. Implementing these 7 phases will bring about a major improvement in the organization’s measurement systems, increase understanding and cooperation, and lead to reduced cost and improved quality throughout the organization.

Phase I - Preparation for AAA

This phase is normally conducted in BB2 - Innovation Organizational Assessment, BB3 - Executive Leadership, and BB6 - Project Management Systems.

AAA is most effective when it precedes other innovation improvement. It is also best to implement the AAA methodology throughout the organization. This does not mean that it will not work if other



AAA Phases.

improvement activities are underway or if it is only used by one area within the total organization. In the preparation phase, the good and bad considerations related to implementing AAA within an organization should be evaluated. A decision is made whether or not to use AAA within the organization. If the decision is made to use AAA, an implementation strategy is developed and approved by management. Phase I - Preparation for AAA is divided into 5 steps.

Phase II - Develop Area Mission Statement

This is normally conducted during BB15 - Innovative Organizational Structure.

Definition: Mission Statement - A mission statement is used to document the reasons for the organization’s or area’s existence. It is usually prepared prior to the organization or area being formed, and is seldom changed. Normally, it is changed only when the organization or area decides to pursue new or different set of activities.

For the AAA methodology, a mission statement is a short paragraph, no more than two or three sentences, that defines the area’s role and its relationship with the rest of the organization and/or the external customer. An area’s mission statement must reflect a part of the mission statement that the area reports to. A manager can’t delegate responsibilities to a group that reports to him/her that the delegating manager is not responsible for. (See Figure BB 8.10.)



How AAA Worked in a Five-Level Organization.

Ever)' area should have a mission statement that defines why it was created. It is used to provide the area manager and the area employees with guidance related to the activities on which the area should expend its resources. Standard good business practice calls for the area’s mission statement to be prepared before an area is formed. The mission statement should be reviewed each time there is a change to the organization’s structure or a change to the area’s responsibilities. It should also be reviewed about every four years, even if the organization’s structure has remained unchanged, to be sure that the mission statement reflects the current activities that are performed within the area.

During Phase II, the NWT will review and update the area’s mission statement. If a mission statement does not exist, the NWT will prepare a mission statement. In all cases, any change to the mission statement must be approved by upper management before it is finalized. Phase II - Develop Area Mission Statement, is divided into 6 steps.

Phase III - Define Area Activities

This phase is normally conducted during BB15 - Innovative Organizational Structure.

During this phase, the NWT will define the activities that are performed within the area. For each major activity, the NWT will define the activity’s output(s) and the customers that receive that output. Phase III - Define Area Activities is divided into 8 steps.

Phase IV - Develop Customer Relationships

This is normally done during the time BB14 - Comprehensive Measurement System.

During this phase, the NWT will meet with the internal and external customers who are receiving the outputs from the major activities conducted by the area to:

  • • Define the customer’s requirements.
  • • Develop how compliance to the requirements will be measured.
  • • Define acceptable performance levels (performance standards).
  • • Define the customer feedback process.

Phase IV - Develop Customer Relationships, is divided into 7 steps.

Phase V - Analyze the Activity's Efficiency

This is normally conducted during BB14 - Comprehensive Measurement Systems.

For each major activity, the NWT will define and understand the tasks that make up the activity. This is accomplished by analyzing each major activity for its value-added content. This can be accomplished by flowcharting or value-stream mapping the process and collecting efficiency information related to each task and the total process. Typical information that would be collected is:

  • • Innovation-related information cycle time
  • • Processing time
  • • Cost
  • • Rework rates
  • • Items processed per time period

Using this information, the NWT will establish efficiency measurements and performance targets for each efficiency measurement, these targets/ measurement are signed oft by the person that the area reports to and the work standards group, if there is one. These work standards are often used to calculate the area’s work load and budget,

Phase V - Analyze the Activity’s Efficiency is divided into 6 steps

Phase VI - Develop Supplier Partnerships

This is normally conducted during BB10 - Supplier Partnerships and BB14 - Comprehensive Measurement Systems.

Using the flowcharts generated in Phase V, the NWT identifies the supplier that provides input into the major activities. This phase uses the same approach discussed in Phase IV, but turns the customer/supplier relationship around. In this phase, the area is told to view itself in the role of the customer. The organizations that are providing the inputs to the NWT are called internal or external suppliers. The area (the customer) then meets with its suppliers to develop agreed-to input requirements. As a result of these negotiations, a supplier specification is prepared that includes a measurement system, performance standard, and feedback system for each input. This completes the customer/supplier chain for the area.

Definition: Supplier - An organization which provides a product (input) to the customer (source ISO 8402).

Definition: Internal Supplier - Areas within an organizational structure that provide input into other areas within the same organizational structure.

Definition: External Supplier - Suppliers that are not part of the customer’s organizational structure.

Phase VI - Develop Supplier Partnerships is divided into 5 steps.

Phase VII - Performance Improvement

This is normally conducted during BB8 - Team Building and BB9 -Individual Innovation, Creativity and Excellence.

This is the continuous opportunity development phase that should always come after a process has been defined and the related measurements are put in place. It may be a full innovation effort or just a redesign activity. It could be a minimum program of error correction and cost reduction or a full-blown TIME project.

During Phase VII, the NWT will enter into the Opportunity Development and error prevention mode of operation. The measurement system should now be used to set challenge improvement targets. The NWT should now be trained to solve problems and take advantage of improvement opportunities. The individual efficiency and effectiveness measurements will be combined into a single performance index for the area. Typically, the area’s key measurement graphs will be posted and updated regularly.

During Phase VII, management should show its appreciation to the NWTs and individuals who expended exceptional effort during the AAA project or who implemented major improvements.

Phase VII - Performance Improvement is divided into 8 steps.

Benefits of AAA

The AAA methodology provides you with five major benefits. They are:

1. Understanding

Often the authority and responsibilities of an area are not defined and understood by the area and the other parts of the organization that interfaces with them. This often leads to activity voids and overlaps that are very costly. With AAA each NWT has a defined and documented mission statement that defines what activities it is responsible for. A NWT should not perform activities that are not directly in line with their mission statement.

The AAA methodology is needed because most individuals and groups do not really understand just why they do the things they do. They don’t know who their suppliers are, nor who their customers are. Even if they do know, it is unlikely that they and their customers, suppliers, and management have a common, agreed-to understanding of how their output should be measured and what is acceptable performance related to each of these measures. Improvements cannot be made without understanding these items. AAA can provide this understanding because it is a systematic and disciplined method of looking at the inputs from the suppliers, the value-added content of the area, and the outputs the customers receive.

2. Involvement

AAA is a methodology that involves managers and nonmanagers (administrative personnel, accountants, salespeople, operators, technicians, engineers, etc.) in analyzing what goes on within an area and defining what acceptable performance is.

3. Opportunity

AAA’s structure makes it an ideal tool for opportunity discovery, and opportunity development. Defining improvement opportunities is one of the first steps in the improvement journey. Too often, organizations train people to identify opportunities and then tell them to go out and find an opportunity that will add value to the stakeholders. With AAA, the employees are provided with information that defines if they have business-related opportunities, as well as defining the magnitude of the opportunity. If they do have business-related opportunity and/or improvement opportunities, the employees are then trained to take advantage of these opportunities. Using this approach, problem solving is truly a value-added business activity.

4. Communication

AAA is designed to capture vital information and keep management and the employees aware of how the area is integrated with the overall goals and strategies of the organization.

5. Measurement

AAA is a methodology that will help an area develop and use meaningful measurements and performance standards. Typically, each area will have its innovation standard, 3-6 effectiveness measurements and 3-6 efficiency measurements with their associated performance standards. Often, these measurements are combined mathematically to develop a single improvement measurement for the many activities that go on within the area. This measurement system will help to integrate what is done within the area with the overall strategies and goals of the organization. Each area should have its own performance board. (See Figure BB8.11.)



Performance Board.


Using AAA has many advantages over some of the other improvement techniques. Some of these include:

  • • All individuals in the organization can be actively involved in the innovative AAA process.
  • • Those employees that contribute to the success of the organization can be identified and rewarded appropriately.
  • • The organization’s operating skills are improved, especially leadership skills.
  • • Burning issues and problems are addressed.
  • • A team environment is established within the area.
  • • Teamwork between areas is greatly improved.
  • • The area manager maintains the role of leader of the area.
  • • Employees become more responsible for their own actions.
  • • Employee self-esteem improves.
  • • The system provides realistic and meaningful specifications that have been agreed to by the customers, suppliers, management, and the employees.
  • • Critical, meaningful measures of effectiveness and efficiency are identified at the area level for each major activity.
  • • Employees have a better understanding of how they fit into the area and total organization.
  • • External customer sendee is improved.
  • • An appropriate escalation process is established for those issues that cannot be resolved by the NWT.
  • • Interpersonal relationships are improved.
  • • The organization maximizes its knowledge base.
  • • A firm foundation is developed that leads to major quality improvement and cost reduction.

AAA Summary

Too many of the improvement programs that I see being implemented today remind me of Don Quixote’s quest. They are full of good intentions, but they are misdirected. They are limited to a few peoples’ view of what is important and have little long lasting substance. People are trained to use tools, but they are not given the time or the opportunity to use them. We are relying more and more on technology to interface with ourselves and our external customers and less and less on our people. For example, people send text messages to the person sitting at the desk right beside them instead of talking to them. AAA provides a systematic way of helping each employee understand what is going on within the natural work team and how the natural work team and he/she fits into the bigger picture. It also establishes a direct connection to the people that get the output from each employee’s activities thereby building a sense of ownership within the individual.

In addition to having a very positive impact on all the employees, AAA also provides the organization with an effective way to measure and control the organization down to the individual level. The individual performance indicators become the key drivers in the continuous improvement process activities. Progress or the lack of progress at the activity level is continuously visible so action can be taken immediately to keep it on track. Truly, AAA is a technique that all organizations should be using as the basis for building their team activities and their continuous improvement programs.


Teams are the in-thing today when trying to make an improvement or create a new product. They are usually recommended for significant new product development and for major problem solving activities. For example:

  • • Example 1 - As an organization progresses and becomes more mature in its improvement approaches a higher percentage of the initiatives are handled by an individual rather than a team. The more advanced organizations are empowering individuals to make decisions on their own without relying on a groups inputs. Picture someone calling into Apple with the problem that the computer will not start and gets the help desk. After the customer describes his problem, the help desk operator states, “That’s a very interesting problem. I’ll bring it up at our next team meeting and see what the team thinks about it. I’ll be back to you in a week or more.” Of course, that is ridiculous. Properly trained people need to be empowered to make decisions on their own without added input of team members or the management. As employees gain more trust and commitment to an organization, they should become more empowered.
  • • Example 2 - Teams have often been described as “one plus one equals 3 not 2.” This higher value is based upon bringing together a group of people with different backgrounds and experiences to look at an individual opportunity. All too often the team will go along with a suggestion made by its leader even though there are better alternatives. This is the safe way to plan it as they cannot be blamed if it does not work. In other cases two options will be developed with each one supported very strongly by 1 or 2 of the team members. In these cases in order to reach a consensus, both options have to be compromised often creating a third option that is not as good as either one of the individual options. In this case, we have 1 + 1+1+14-1+1=0.7

In these two examples, example 1 is a favorable condition and one that should be encouraged. Great care should be taken that you don’t empower an individual who has not developed to a point that he or she can properly handle the things that empowered to do. Example 2 is a very unfavorable condition and usually requires a strong, well-trained leader or a facilitator to find not a win-win answer but a best answer. Teams are usually run by a majority vote to agree on a course of action rather than full consensus.


The general structure of any organization is built on subdividing work into small groups or teams. Once an organization expands past 10 to 15 employees, it is time to subdivide work by classification of jobs. This automatically creates organizational-based teams. The problem occurs because the organizational teams in most cases have not been trained in the tools required to improve the efficiency, effectiveness, and adaptability of the processes they are involved in.

Every large organization is made up of a large number of teams. In most cases, these are not assigned the responsibility for improving the way they operate. They are used primarily as communication teams where pertinent business information is provided to the team members and the team members report back on the status of the work they are doing. The problem is not that we don’t have enough teams. The problem is that the teams are either untrained or not assigned the responsibility to bring about improvement within the organization.


Do teams have a place in the future of an organization’s improvement efforts? The Ernst & Young “Best Practices Report” makes a point work considering. It states “Building the human resource infrastructure is essential ....” According to the report, lower performing organizations show less than five percent of the work force is participating on teams while higher performing organizations show over twenty five percent.

The United States was introduced to participative management and the team concept almost four decades ago. It’s changed the way we do business.

Ford Motor Company almost cut the Mustang automobile from the line-up. A team known as the “Gang of Eight” researched innovative ideas and changes, presented the changes to top management and, after very tough questions from CEO Harold Poling, they got the go-ahead. The team promised a 37 -turn-around. This was several months quicker than any previous turn-around on new car design. Working together, the team slashed bureaucracy and delivered the new Mustang in just 35 months. Will Boddie, Ford’s Mustang boss, said, “We made decisions in minutes around the coffee pot that would normally take months.”

Richard De Vogelaere and the folks at GM took a team approach to taking on water leaks in the Camaro and Firebird model automobiles. They called themselves the F-car SWAT team. Not only did they fix the water leaks but also that “scree” noise made when window glass rubs against the rubber. They also took care of some shakes and squeaks in T-top models by using under-body braces. De Vogelaere’s comment:

You say to yourself, “if we'd done this five years ago, how many more could we have sold? How many more thousands of owners would be out there saying what a great, exciting car this is.” We thought we were meeting the customer’s expectations, but we weren’t really listening, I guess.

Why be a hermit when teams are so much more rewarding.

H. James Harrington

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