The 10 most important elements of team development

No, today, I do not intend to talk about theoretical models, such as the 4- or 5-stage model by Tuckman, or the 5 dysfunctions of a team by Lencioni. I would like to address this topic simply from a practical point of view and share with you the elements which, in my opinion, are the building blocks of team development – well, basically, to consider the question how a leader, an (agile) coach or a dedicated team member can support their team in its development.

In my view, team development is an ongoing process that has neither a specific starting point nor a specific end. Team development is never complete. A team is always in motion. Some of the people in the team actually know each other before the project team is being set up, and new members join the team, while other members leave it. A team might be going through some very stressful times where the team forgets what it once had learned as good practices. This means that team development may be subject to setbacks. Therefore, team development can never touch the finish line. Admittedly, team development can come to an end once the team is dissolved. But then again: the people involved will take on new projects in the organization and will contribute attitudes, behaviors and methods from the old team. So, nothing is lost completely!

In my view, in order to accompany or develop a team efficiently, at least the following 10 elements need to be addressed on a recurring basis: 

  1. The team must know its goal. If new members join the team, the team has to ensure that the new members also get to know the goal.
  2. All team members should know each other and should show their mutual appreciation. Who are we? What are the strengths of each individual member? What is our strength as a team? What does every single one of us need specifically?
  3. The team's strengths and skills have to be aligned with the tasks that the team is responsible for. Any gaps have to be identified and constructive solutions on how to close such gaps need to be found.
  4. How are the responsibilities allocated between the individual hierarchy levels? Is there a team leader or head of department? What are their responsibilities, what are the team’s responsibilities? What responsibilities are delegated to the team?
  5. The team must follow a sensible approach when acting on its responsibilities. It has to be clarified how the team members allocate responsibilities among themselves, whether there are dedicated roles, how these are allocated or who is responsible for allocating these roles, or whether responsibilities are assumed dynamically, i.e. without a fixed role structure, and how it can be ensured in this case that nothing is lost or forgotten. (Oops, the reason why this paragraph has grown so long is that responsibility is the most complex of all elements...)
  6. Determine communication and transparency: How and when does the team communicate as regards daily or weekly work packages? How much transparency in terms of the work done by other team members is required? Should the team use an agile board?
  7. The team must select those meeting formats that best match the team’s requirements. The team must decide how often these formats are used. 
  8. There will always be disruptions. The team must consider how to address disruptions and conflicts. Does it follow the agile approach of “disruptions take precedence” or does it focus on the technical issues? How should the team address any disruptions? Are there any particular formats to use?
  9. Provide clarity as to how decisions are made. Should decisions be made by individual experts, by the manager, or by the entire team? Does the team know tools to employ for decision-making in order to come to a decision quickly and effectively?
  10. How does the team ensure that team development continues? What feedback mechanisms does the team or individual team members use? How does the team identify on a timely basis which of the 10 elements it should address with priority? Could regular retrospectives possibly be a solution to this issue? If yes, in which intervals should such a retrospective be carried out?

In a nutshell: Written down like that, team development doesn’t sound that complicated. However, if team development is really considered an important issue by the coach or manager and the team, it takes up a decent amount of time. My experience as a coach for team development is: it’s definitely worth the effort. Eliminating any inefficiencies occurring in a team that does not emphasize team development requires a significantly larger amount of time. 

This text first appeared in my newsletter 'Innovation on Wednesday'. It is published every other Wednesday. For subscription click here

Further reading:

Andrea SchmittInnovationstrainerinAm Mittelpfad 24aD 65520 Bad Camberg+49 64 34-905 997+49 175 5196446
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