Team Building Diagnostics

Many years ago, I bought this team building guide from Accel. At $12.99 it has paid for itself many times over. It’s remarkably helpful when identifying issues and finding solutions to the common obstacles teams face. The 129-page guide isn’t a light read but if you’re committed to building a strong and cohesive team, it is totally worth your time.

The scope of the guide is primarily the preparation work needed to conduct these workshops, with some process related instruction on the implementation and resolution that will get you to an agreed upon plan to tackle the nine most common obstacles teams face.

  1. Clear objectives and agreed goals
  2. Openness and confrontation
  3. Support and trust
  4. Cooperation to conflict
  5. Working methods in decision-making procedures
  6. Appropriate leadership
  7. Regular review
  8. Individual development
  9. Sound intergroup relations

Let me give you a little bit of information about what the guide will give you and what value I have found in. The guide itself walks you through all the different aspects of why you should have a workshop like this; the purpose behind it, the scientific and social approaches that go into this kind of work, and how to run the meeting, ground rules and other things you should consider prior to walking into the first meeting.

I ended up initially splitting this into three separate sessions; the first reviewed culture and obstacles to create definitions and context around them, the second one was actually running the diagnostics session and the third was brainstorming each obstacle individually and in priority order to create a simple SWOT analysis on each one. The guide actually comes with most of that information built in and it was fairly quick and easy to translate the information in the guide into handouts and presentations.

The value I have found in doing this is that it takes a lot of the emotion out of defining the problems your team is facing. The diagnostics are a simple agree or disagree with statements, the grouping of the statements is done afterwards and is what leads you to your prioritized issue list. The list is team derived over individual opinions, which is exactly where it needs to be. There may be one person who feels differently than the rest of the team and that may cause some follow-up but the exercise means you won’t get stymied in one person’s opinion of what is wrong with the team or what is wrong with the company. I appreciate that, because I’ve found that in large groups, brainstorming meetings are easy to derail with individual complaints.

Making decisions on solutions and how you’ll measure them once they’ve been implemented can be especially tough without this type of structure, not everyone thinks in terms of a SWOT chart but with a little effort I’ve found that you can tailor that to the group if you find spots where they get stuck. It helps to create an open forum where folks can just shout out their thoughts as you jot them down and then have them review and single out the best. Making that about the team is really the most important part, they’ve determined the problems, they should also determine the solutions. I always start off with the caveat that we really can’t change the behavior of others so let’s focus on how we can mitigate, isolate or resolve the issues. I find that this alone improves the level of cooperation within the team, even the most curmudgeonly in the group can get behind that.

Having each team come up with a completely different set of priorities to look at, as well as their own set of solutions can be both a positive and a negative. It helps me build the strategic plans for the teams for the year, gives the team goals that actually mean something to them but it does take effort on my part to implement and track those goals but as a leader… I really should be doing this.

As I said in the beginning, this is a really, really, cheap guide to purchase. I’ve owned it now for around 10 years, have used it with four different teams, and will continue to use it with any new team I’m given in the future – it’s that good! Whether you are trying to figure out how to fix the dysfunctions of an existing team or want to give a new team a solid foundation to start with, I highly recommend it.



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