News / The need for building successful teams
Jul 17, 2009

Team building is an essential aspect at the workplace when ''job loss'' has taken over from ''job hopping''

In an industry where teams get formed and dismantled everyday, it is essential to understand the intricacies of successful team building.

Working in the IT industry, which has been the proverbial melting pot of different cultures, has taught me some lessons in HR that no other industry or institute could ever have. Today, unfortunately, as companies confront inevitable business challenges, they’re faced with an array of organizational problems — most of which could have been avoided if they had known how to build great teams from the beginning.

Everyone today is talking about retrenchment, over-staffing, etc and “job loss” has taken over from “job hopping” as the latest buzzword, especially in the IT industry. There often is bad blood during layoffs resulting in a sense of resentment and animosity in the employee against the employer, resulting in creation of poor “brand ambassadors”.

Overall, there is a sense of gloom and no one is happy, neither the company nor the employer.

What is the best possible way to avoid this predicament? You may not be able to stop the economy from sliding, nor stop companies from going bust. But as an employer you can at least do one thing — build strong teams, so that you can be on firm footing even during a global slowdown. I am not talking out of my hat, but with some amount of pragmatism that has today helped our company continue to be on its growth path despite recession, without any layoffs.

Let’s start from the basics. A successful team is a group of people who work together interdependently and cooperatively to ensure customer satisfaction by accomplishing the purpose for which the team has been formed. From the IT industry perspective, teams are created for long- term and short-term goals.

A successful team has a shared vision — a vision that is easily understood and one to which team members can easily connect. Team members are energized and excited about what they are doing. Increase in productivity and improvements in the day-to-day operations are signs of a successful team. We have witnessed cross functional teams getting together with the limited objective of putting together something specific in a short period of time and once their mission is complete, the team gets dismantled and the members get back to their respective functions. There are eight key factors which contribute to the success of a team:

* Organizational support: One thing among many which makes a team tick is the support it gets from the top management. The team gets to function well when all the resources and the infrastructure needed is made available.

* Competence: Ensure every member of the team is competent. This manifests in team members having mutual respect for each other’s competence and acknowledging that other members too have the requisite knowledge, skill and capability to deliver what is expected of the entire team.

*  Clear mandate: Let there be no confusion ever. The mandate provided to the team clearly defines the deliverables with timelines specified. The team is clear on the budget that is available for the execution of the project and knows how and where to source the resources that are required.

*  Training: While the benefits of training have been enumerated ad nauseum, what happens in its absence is that members get on to a trial and error approach leading to lot of rework, poor quality and delay with respect to timelines. Thus, proper training in light of the projects assigned or to be assigned is essential.

*  Empowerment: If teams are to be successful, they must be allowed to make decisions and implement them. The team should be empowered to take decisions with accountability and responsibilities well defined. The reporting relationship and the review process are anyway well documented. Hence, empowerment can be the key.

*  Team leadership: A team leader is one who can essentially do for the team those things that the team through its own resources cannot do for itself. How many of us think on these lines while selecting a team leader? The right choice of a team leader plays a major role in ensuring that the team succeeds and meets its objective.

* Review, reward and recognition: Teams need to have visible, incremental measures of their progress, successes and accomplishments. But be careful here. While rewarding good performance, one should ensure that it nourishes healthy competition. An organization should try to create balance while encouraging people to perform better. An employee’s performance should be appreciated and rewarded, but in such a manner that it motivates his peers. Compensation, bonuses, and rewards depend on collaborative practices as much as individual contribution and achievement.

Team building is a great commitment, and it also has its great rewards. Good teams help increase productivity and customer satisfaction and this in turn makes the business grow.  All this requires that the organistion invests in its people.

And what better way to invest in people than building successful work teams, especially during tough times. And, this can easily help circumvent the most dreaded word today — layoff.

The author is Sr VP, HR, Infinite Computer Solutions.

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