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The New Team Process: Efficiency as a Strategic Advantage
5/17/04
Gregory A. Ketchum, Ph.D. & Jacques Mulder, MBA

The Need
In order to compete successfully in a world economy, American companies need to be very creative and innovative in the creation and delivery of new products and services. Standing still is not an option nor is doing the same old things over and over. Partnering with customers to create better solutions than they can devise on their own and developing solutions that customers don’t yet know they need is one very clear way of gaining a strategic advantage over competitors.

The How
How does an organization then move itself from being “one of the pack” to becoming an innovative leader? Doubtless there are many paths, but only one ingredient that is a fundamental and necessary component of any effort to boost creativity and innovation: efficiency. The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth edition defines efficiency as…

“…Acting or producing effectively with a minimum of waste, expense, or unnecessary effort” or “Exhibiting a high ratio of output to input.”

The major payoff and goal of increased efficiency is the ability to free up time that can then be dedicated to planning, strategy and creative innovation. Most organizations spend the bulk of their time, much of it wasted, running current operations and devote little or no time to planning and strategy. Having the time available for these activities can not only lead to the creation of new products, services and ways of partnering with clients, but also can lead to even higher efficiency for an organization.

Efficiency in Action
In what ways must an organization become more efficient in order to create time for planning and strategy? Here are just a few.

  • Leadership: The leaders must be clear on the mission and vision of their organization as well as on their purpose as a leadership team apart from their functional responsibilities.
  • Teams: In like fashion, all teams must be clear on their missions and must work from the same “team process” model.
  • Communication: This is the life-blood of any organization and must be free flowing, timely, and focused, both within the organization and between it and it’s customers.
  • Trust: Without a high level of trust within an organization, information is withheld, teamwork is impaired and all areas are negatively impacted. Without a high trust level between an organization and it’s customers “partnering” to find new and better solutions is not possible.

Poor communication, weak teamwork, lack of role clarity and low trust are all “efficiency busters.” Some of these factors are most often looked at as “soft” skills and as “nice to have,” but not really necessary. For the organization that wants to be a leader in their field these factors are as necessary and as “hard” as they get.

The Strategy
How does a company start the process of transforming itself into a high efficiency organization capable of delivering excellent results for it’s current business while at the same time increasing it’s capacity to innovate and create new solutions? How does it drive efficiencies in order to create the time for planning & strategy? Here are some suggested steps.

  • Leadership Team: Start by engaging a facilitator/team coach to work with the leadership team on improving the team process. Have the coach facilitate an off-site team meeting focused on both improving team process and solving current business challenges. Today’s leadership teams face more work than they can accomplish. For leadership teams to be successful they must be clear on their function, set the vision, mission, values and strategy for the organization and identify and manage issues, as opposed to resolving all issues themselves. As a result, the need for effective facilitated team meetings is critical as is a clear process for small “working group” involvement in tackling issues. The goal is to create a high-performance team that spends less time in the details and more time in planning and strategy for future business objectives.
  • Individual Role Clarity: The coach will work with each member of the leadership team on boosting role efficiency. Critical elements include clarity of purpose, priority setting, time management, delegation and setting clear expectations with accountability. A major goal will be to free up time for the executive to be forward focused on planning, strategy, creating new solutions and building stronger partnerships with clients.
  • Building Leadership Skills: An inventory of required leadership skills will be created and each leadership team member will be assessed against that inventory. Areas of leadership development will be identified along with a plan for acquiring the needed skills.
  • Improvement Throughout the Organization: The coach will work with the leadership team to develop a strategy to take the team process and role effectiveness models throughout all levels of the organization.
  • Improving Trust & Communication: A strategy for boosting trust and communication will be put in place across the organization.

Boosting Morale: The Success Efficiency Cycle
As efficiency and productivity increase more time is available for planning and strategy for seizing the future. Efficiency and productivity are two of the best morale boosters an organization can have. As people feel more effective and productive, job satisfaction, morale and motivation are improved, which in turn leads to higher efficiency.

TheTeam Process Model: The model for high-performance, high efficiency teamwork includes…

  • Facilitated meetings to insure the team stays on track, decisions are made, and issues are driven to resolution, commitments and action steps.
  • Concise agenda prepared by a rotating working group from the team
  • Focus on high-level identification and management of issues, not an attempt to resolve all issues, with cross-functional, multi-level working groups formed to take issues identified by the team, address them and resolve or make recommendations back to the team.
  • Monthly team phone conferences to follow-up on action items from the team meeting and focus on team process development.
  • Training in facilitation, team meeting management, presentation, negotiation, and decision making skills
  • Clarification of team vision, mission and values/standards and driving these throughout the organization.
  • Clarity of expectations along with high freedom within defined roles with high accountability
  • Liberal use of “parking lot” in team meetings for issues for future resolution with assignments made to working groups.
  • Ongoing focus on team development with leadership team driving efficiency and high performance standards throughout the organization..

The Role Effectiveness Model:
The model for high-performance within a role includes…

  • Clarity of purpose of role along with close alignment with vision and mission of the organization.
  • Clarity on priorities of role along with appropriate allocation of time.
  • Delegation of “non-core” responsibilities along with setting clear expectations and accountability
  • Weekly time dedicated to planning, strategy and development of new product & service offerings and building partnerships with customers and across the organization, where indicated.
  • Use of the team process model with their teams
  • Use of delegation as development tool for next level staff
  • Clarity on role of leader/manager as opposed to “doer”

® 2004 All rights reserved.
Gregory A. Ketchum, Ph.D. and Jacques Mulder, M.B.A.

  

 

Points to Ponder
“Ability may get you to the top, but it takes character to keep you there.”
John Wooden

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