Continued from an earlier blog entry:
Stage Four – High Performance/Self Renewing Activities
High Performance is not a given, but if you have followed the path we have outlined thus far, it is likely. By successfully influencing your group dynamics your team will be characterized by a minimum of disruptive conflict, balanced and appropriate participation, adequate support from the organization, as well as a high degree of task clarity, role clarity, and decision clarity. Ultimately the work will be done on time and with quality. The challenge becomes how to maintain high performance until the completion of your task.
With successful work in the “Inclusive Forming” stage of group development, you skip or, at least, seriously reduce the negative aspects of Tuckman’s “Storming” phase as the issues of inclusion and initial group concerns are identified and managed. You have also developed group norms that are the key for productive work. This creates an atmosphere where productivity can more quickly evolve. For instance, if many have been contributing you may have discovered more real issues. You can deliberately “capture” these and record them for problem-solving, perhaps by a small sub-group with particular interest and knowledge about an issue. Also, you are hearing from each other and learning more about the various roles of each. Role clarity is critical for the effectiveness of the individual, but it is equally important that each member know what to expect from the other. Otherwise, time is wasted asking others to do what is not expected of them.
But…first, if you’ve broadened participation, there are other likely stumbling blocks. Some will believe that they now will be in on every decision. The two extremes of authoritarianism and anarchy are familiar. The middle styles (consultative and delegative) are rarely understood or even known. The belief developed, perhaps, in one’s growing up years is that either the boss (parent) decides or it’s up for grabs. Aware of this common developmental belief, a productive work group spends enough time to clarify who decides, who influences, and how that influence impacts many, but not all, decisions. The leader of the group should keep an eye on delegating decision authority to the employees as they become more competent and are in need of quick decisions, but always in way that adds structure and clarity versus chaos and anarchy.
Broadening participation through the dispersed participation process is a key to manage an aware group or much information held by the employees will not be shared. Once it is clear that all can speak then you can sharpen who speaks on what topic. A critical component of this is that those who are working in the area that is being discussed need to be engaged and expressing their specific data and opinions. Everyone will not speak on every topic. With clarity about the roles and skills of each group member, who is more knowledgeable about differing issues will become apparent. This will not be based on hierarchy but on expertise.
A final critical component of high performance is problem solving in a disciplined participative way which, of course, includes follow-through. Using a participative process in problem solving, like dispersed participation, does not mean using all people for all topics yet it does mean involving those closest to the work in solving the problems in their areas. And it also means using an effective methodology that helps to ensure that all data gets out and is worked in an effective way. Once the concepts of forming, dispersed participation, and high performance are in place the actual method of problem solving becomes less important. One such method is “force-field analysis” by Kurt Lewin.
Finally, follow-through is essential to success and requires more discipline than most leaders and organizations seem to realize. In “Culture Change in Organizations,” Appendix A – “Do You Really Want Change: Eleven Do’s and Don’ts for Those Who Are Serious,” Chris Crosby put it this way:
Be Serious About Follow Up
Many treat events and task lists as the end product of change rather than an important step toward achieving a desired result. If you check off a list of tasks and expect that to get you to your end game, then you are missing the point. Tasks are merely a hypothesis about what will solve a problem. Follow up is the process of driving tasks to completion and making sure you obtain your stated objective. Don’t stop the process if you have little or no results. Create a new hypothesis and test it until the problem is really solved. This takes time, diligence, patience and commitment. Ironically, without it, you will waste more time by living with problems and poor processes which could be solved by effective follow up.
Bottom Line: You are not serious about change until you are serious about follow up.
Self-Renewing activities are about looking at how your group is functioning as a unit, and making small adjustments to maintain or improve your level of performance. It amounts to holding up a mirror to your group’s overall performance and choosing what needs to be different so that productive work continues to happen. It is a stage intended to extend indefinitely the “performing” sequence of Tuckman’s model.
Professional sports teams understand this stage and spend more time practicing their plays and reflecting on them than actually playing. Yet work groups rarely, if ever, practice or reflect about how they are working together in a disciplined way. There are many ways to do this and some involve the use of a survey. (Read Chapter 5 in Robert P. Crosby’s “Walking the Empowerment Tightrope” about how to use a survey to gain work group feedback). This stage does not have to be difficult or tricky. The trick is to make sure it happens.
The questions to focus on are simple: What’s working? What’s not? Are goals clear? Do measurements measure what the work team thinks is relevant? Are roles clear, wisely defined, and known to each other? Are resources readily available?
By asking questions such as these, or others that you determine are important, and problem-solving with the total work group, you will recycle through the stages in a deeper and even more productive and satisfying way!
Creating a high performance group is hard work, but achievable. For a small minority it comes easily (and many who think they are masters of group leadership have significant blind spots), but for most it takes intentional learning and strategy. Many have been able to achieve predictable results when working with groups utilizing these concepts. The cost of not doing this work gets reflected directly in the bottom line. Work groups and meetings held within these parameters tend to create motivated employees who feel valued, understand the issues, contribute to problem solving, have clarity about roles and goals, and work harder to achieve results.
By actively navigating Tuckman’s stages as Inclusive Forming, Constructive Storming, Active Norming and High Performing/Self Renewing, leaders and group members have choices and interventions they can take to be more effective. It is our experience that leaders who have this clarity about group development…who learn these skills and strategies in-depth…increase their leadership effectiveness and consistently achieve high business results.