Ideal Team Standards

- May 2021 -

Written By: Bill Pierce

The Ideal Team Standards that we will discuss here are ones that have been developed over time by many high performance teams, but, as we have discussed before, you and your team will need to develop your own based on extensive communication and working together. This discussion will hopefully give you a starting point in developing your team standards and revising them as you operate together over time.

Ideal Team Standards:

  1. Communication - Among all members is thorough and in depth; members are candid with respect to one’s own thinking and attitude and open to others points of view. This standard is essential to the success of the team and in implementing all the other standards for your team. The key here is to develop trust in each other by learning about each other and walking our talk about helping others, honesty, empathy and problem solving. Once you have developed trust in all the members you can address the interpersonal issues when they arise and address the “elephants in the room” when they show up as they surely will if you are going to be an effective and efficient team.
  2. Team Decision Making - Is characterized by issues being thoroughly discussed, and solutions and decisions based on facts that are fully deliberated to understanding and agreement. The only way this will work in a timely matter is for each member to prepare for the team meetings by completing their portion of the decision. For example, if you were responsible for the costs of a project/decision you would go to each member of the team long before the meeting and discuss the options for the solution with them so that you understood them. You would then develop a cost analysis of each option and meet again with the members to validate your work before the meeting. Each member would do this with their part (safety, logistics, etc.) with the other members so that when the team met all the “staff” or homework would be done and the discussion would focus on the best options for success.
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  4. Planning - Plans based on analysis of the facts permit real issues to be treated soundly. Plans are produced jointly by those who should be involved, individual responsibilities are clear. Risk, success, and cost analysis of alternatives are part of the process. Once a plan is selected and implementation begins it will be evaluated and adjusted as more facts and results become apparent. It is critical that the team members each do their homework in identifying the real issues (opportunities) and the objectives to solve (accomplish) them in the most effective manner. This will assure that the team meetings to develop the plan stay on track and are efficient in the use of the time the team has available.
  5. Facing up - Facing up for matters that need attention is done as a matter of everyday operations. Real problems are searched out and faced squarely. We must address interpersonal issues when they are identified and solve them as a team. Remember our discussion of gossip and the harm it can do to the team, each member must take responsibility to eliminate the gossip and the issue by maintaining the trust of each member and assisting in the communication necessary to solve the issue. This is where experience can help the team determine what issues are important and what are not. They (We) can screen out the small stuff and focus on those issues that are important to team success.
  6. Cost Consciousness - Is characterized by team members knowing how their actions effect costs and by working together to assure joint accountability for the best decisions with cost/benefit in mind. Each member will help by anticipating the costs of the alternatives and helping to select the best alternative in a timely manner (remember our discussion of the generators needed for the families after hurricane Andrew and the ordering that the logistics chief made in anticipation of the need before they were unavailable).
  7. Traditions - Are evaluated in the light of current requirements for excellence and are modified or replaced when necessary through thoughtful discussions. Traditions are important to all teams, but they cannot stand in the way of progress and changing times. The Marines have many proud traditions, but they do modify or replace them as needed (women in combat, training methods, uniforms, strategies and tactics, etc.).
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  9. Standards of Excellence - Receive full commitment from all team members. Synergistic and individual results are achieved because members are motivated to excel for outstanding accomplishments of the team. For a team to achieve and maintain this level of excellence, it must continually critique the processes and results of the team. A great tool to use to accomplish this is to utilize Concurrent Critique. The principles of concurrent critique are:
    1. Set measurable goals, timeframes and ground rules as a team to accomplish the objectives and maintain the team processes.
    2. Check team values, standards, rules, and characteristics on a regular basis so that everyone is in agreement on team status and processes. When there is disagreement address it immediately.
    3. Establish check points of progress before every meeting and as part of the team process, stop at the check point and critique the progress and process of the meeting.
    4. Assign responsibilities for tasks, processes, monitoring and critiques for all meetings and processes.
    5. Explore “what if” possibilities and solutions, anticipate issues and develop alternatives to address them.
    6. Require concrete examples of issues and solutions.
    7. Evaluate how the team can change to be more effective.
    8. All critiques are descriptive and not judgmental.
    9. Concentrate on what is in the teams’ control.

The best critiques are the ones that occur in a timely manner and are part of the day to day operations of the team. You (We) need to build them into our daily operations so that they are an integral part of our normal operations. The University of Virginia Medical Control and the Park Medics at Shenandoah NP did this with their quarterly run reviews. It takes honesty and courage to do this and make changes when needed, but this is essential to developing and maintaining a high performance team.

Next time we will discuss the characteristics of an excellent team. How are we doing, any concurrent critique from you on our process or product? Please let me know below and thank you for listening!

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