Article (August-2018)


Collaboration for common purpose

Indrani Saha

Designation : -   Director-Human Resources

Organization : -  Diebold Nixdorf (India), Mumbai


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How do you define teamwork in contemporary terms?
IS "Great things are business are never done by one person. They are done by a team of people". - Steve Jobs. That is in my mind the definition of team work - Great things. It is team who are formed across function to generate ideas for product development, to develop strategy, to deliver great results.
Organizations work in metrics today to cross pollinate with the aim to inspire and influence between diversity, to resolve issue, to achieve a common goal. Teamwork is and always has been the willingness of people to work together towards a common purpose. For this it is imperative that for any team to be effective, each team member is to have both the right attitude as well as the right behavior. A sense of unity, enthusiasm and accountability!
Team work in recent times is collaboration of any kind that results in :
  • Organizational Effectiveness - Teamwork plays a vital role in organizational effectiveness, which determines how effective a company can be in its many facets. These facets can include internal communication, communication with investors or shareholders, new product launches and customer service. Depending on the nature of one's business, you may depend on different teams working together to ensure that these facets are conducted successfully. We see this being the backbone of our company.
  • Shared Knowledge - Here I would like to add that we at Diebold Nixdorf look at our people and our organisation being ONE TEAM. The more employees and organization work together in a team toward a common company goal, the more likely that goal will be met successfully. With varying skill sets, strategies, education levels and past work experiences, a team of employees can bring more shared knowledge to the table in terms of innovation, ideas and solutions. This may result in better products, earnings and company operations.
  • Faster Results - With a team of employees that can benefit from shared knowledge, decision - making can become more streamlined, since each team decision will be more well - informed over one that is made by an individual who may lack a complete team's skill set. This can translate to faster solutions to problems that may arise within an organization, better response time when rolling out new products and alternating marketing strategies, depending on the economic and retail environment.
  • Common Purpose - The strength of many teams is the coming together for a common purpose. In a corporate atmosphere, this purpose is most often the success of the corporation, which drives employee morale and wages. This recognition of common purpose and the daily striving of working together for the greater good of the organization plays a vital role in the health, vitality and agility of a well - functioning company.
What do you think - Is team building/team work an art or a science? Do you (in your organization) have ever thought over the chemistry and mathematics of team work (please share with an anecdote)?
IS If you've ever had to put together a group of people to complete a work project, run a committee or even just order some pizzas, you've probably noticed that some teams just "gel" better than others.
Which may have led you to wonder : is building great teams an art or a science? The answer is yes. This is to say that putting a team together is both an art and a science.
First, what makes a great team? This is actually an entire scientific field. Research has shown that that high - performing teams share similar attributes - like energy, creativity, and mutual commitment-that can be observed, quantified and measured. Teams with these qualities are likely to be higher - performing than others.
But how do you ensure that your teams are high - energy, creative, and committed? MIT's Human Dynamics laboratory actually researched this by giving people little electronic badges that recorded team members' communications - who they talked to and how much, even their tone of voice and body language. Those are some pretty good insights just from observing communication styles. So how do you generate this energy and great communication on your own teams? The personality of individual members may play a role. Look for someone with a leadership - oriented personality who is also able to "dial it back" a little?-?someone who leads by drawing out ideas and thoughts from other team members, not someone who dominates.
Finding that person is a bit of an art, but you can get help from a scientifically - backed personality test that helps you learn about the strengths and weaknesses of all your team members?
This is to say that putting a team together is both an art and a science. You can better your odds by using proven research, but the ultimate result is a little unpredictable - just like an artist; who creatively and by gut knows just the right amount of colour, hue, tone, etc.
What does it really mean to be a team player, in times when virtual teams and robots are taking over the workplace where technology neutralizes the chemistry of teamwork?
IS With exactly this question in mind, we at Diebold Nixdorf, have one of our core values as "COLLABORATION"!
In today's world where we have multi-national companies people work across globe. More and more offices are disappearing, employees work from home and are connected via varied technologies. Video conferencing, telepresence, zoom and WebEx are extensively used and literally a virtual working world is created. In order to achieve efficiency in the virtual world, it is very important to plan and design, have good virtual facilitation, technology and tools and most important cultural awareness as people log in from different countries and form part of different teams.
As we move ahead, with times, more and more such virtual team works will increase. Hence we need to respect the time zones; we need to give time to familiarize. Share best practices. Form buddies, to work together on certain task. Show gratitude.
With the rapid advances in computer and Internet technology, online virtual activities have become increasingly popular. People no longer only use text - based communication tools such as emails or instant messengers. They often engage in teamwork with others in highly immersive virtual worlds. For example, many 3D online games allow multiple players to work in teams.
Meanwhile, collaborative activities are common and critical in the real world. As individuals bring different set of knowledge and skills, group collaboration allows a team to tackle problems more complex than what individuals can do alone. Studies have found that groups perform better in problem - solving and idea generation than individuals in terms of time taken, the number of problems solved, and the number of solutions generated. Collaboration has been considered as an important factor in most organizations. Many businesses try to enhance their employees' collaboration through workshops and training. A recent survey shows that Fortune 500 companies intensively use group collaboration in their projects as it gives them an edge in the global market. And team work in any age is all about collaboration.
Do you believe that apart from popular traits of effective team and team workers, something more is required in changing fast paced business environment? What should be that "something"?
IS Yes, I definitely think so. Top of the list for me is "Diversity". Everyone is unique and will be able to offer their own experiences and knowledge that others may not possess. Diversity is needed so that all of the required skills are covered by somebody in the team and each individual can be assigned a particular role on the basis of their strengths and skills. A variety of personalities, age groups, cultures, etc. can also bring creativity and a broad range of ideas to the table.
Other crucial areas are :
  • The manager having a personal interest in each person's achievements, and taking pride in the how the team functions and performs.
  • The manager helping the group work together to set its own conditions of work in line with organizations objectives while providing feedback on performance.
  • The team taking pride in its own achievements and has the satisfaction of outsiders showing interest in what they do.
  • Before changes were made, the team was consulted.
  • Expect and encourage team work.
  • Have your conflict management and collaboration strategy in place.
What are some of the myths behind effective teams and team workers?
IS Myth#1 : A Team is always self-directed
There is no automatic self-direction. Teams become self-directed. Sometimes, teams are given their instructions and have a defined purpose. They have a task, they are given the parameters, and they get to work. Many committees are teams with a specific expected outcome. They are not necessarily self-directed, as they may take their orders externally...
Myth#2 : Senior Managers encourage teamwork
Many senior managers see teamwork as a loss of control. There are senior managers who outwardly support teamwork in their organizations but were uncomfortable with the process and the potential for exposing their own weaknesses and loss of control.
Myth#3 : Work Team participation can be mandated with rules
Ever try to get a cat to play fetch? It is an exercise in futility. Here is a lesson for leaders - you cannot make anyone do anything they don't want to do. As a team member, a leader may ask you do something, or insist that you do it, but we all have a choice. There may be reasons that you do not agree with a mandate, but as a team member, you must remember to handle each situation with respect. Sometimes, a team works best when members are allowed to work the way they work best. This may mean that they work from home part of the time. Some teams need a more hands-on approach, while others do better with a leader that supports rather than directs.
Myth#4 : Employees want to always be empowered and to work as teams
Do you remember the first time you were asked to work in a group in school? What was that experience like? Were you a leader or just a member of the group? More importantly, what was the experience like for you? Some people just like to work alone and do not enjoy working on a team. They do not feel empowered by working on a team, and in some cases, they hate it. If there are a number of people on your team that don't enjoy working in a team environment, this could be disastrous.
Myth#5 : Every team decision requires a majority vote
Sure the captain of the ship must make many of the decisions, but in a team, some decisions may be left to the team members themselves. And some of these decisions do not require consensus. Most of the time, someone in a group will not be happy with a particular decision, but that person still has a responsibility to support the team and respect the leadership.
Myth#6 : Teams are generally harmonious people who compromise their needs for the sake of the team
A starting point for working with any team is to understand the individuals that work in the team. There are many instruments on the market to help identify a team's profile. The key is not to label people or the team but allow the team to :
Identify the range of talents within the team and encourage the team members to recognize and use that talent to help the team succeed.
Predict the team's overall performance and identify strengths and weaknesses.
Write a set of team ground rules for operating as a team that will aid success.
If the diverse profile within a team can be recognized and utilized appropriately, the team members will deliver team success. This diversity is to be seen as strength. Failure to recognize the diversity can lead to team chaos.
Myth#7 : A team always is in harmony and team conflict is unhealthy
Research proves that, Conflict, when well managed and focused on a team's objectives, can generate more creative solutions than one sees in conflict-free groups. So long as it is about the work itself, disagreements can be good for a team. Conflict within teams needs to be recognized as a positive energy source, especially if the whole team can embrace the team's primary goal or mission rather than individual goals.
Myth#8 : Most People like to be part of a team
About 1/3rd of the working population enjoy teamwork, 1/3rd is neutral and 1/3rdprefers to work solo (source : Wright Consultancy).
It is obvious to say that not everyone will respond to teamwork in the same way; each person is different and should be recognized as such. Some people have a preference for working by themselves and the team needs to accommodate this without compromising the team objectives or values. It is possible to create a team environment that caters for the work preferences of each individual.
The glue for most teams for such potentially diverse people is the passion of a common goal, the opportunity to express themselves and be recognised for their strengths within the team.
Myth#9 : Teamwork is a must have for business success
This is not true. For a task or process simple, an organisation can cope without teamwork and continue to be successful working in silos or a task environment. Remember, teams tend to thrive on complexity. There is a risk of giving teams unchallenging tasks and they become bored, allowing individual needs to come to the fore and over time the teamwork will disintegrate to working in silos. There are teams which work well on simple tasks, where the high morale and motivation of the team is the goal; this is particularly true of customer service environments. While the task is simple the focus of the team leaders is on team communications and empowerment of the team if the teams are to be successful. In conclusion, teams thrive on a challenging tasks and it is this complexity businesses should tap into by embracing teamwork.
What is the role of HR in accelerating chemistry for teamwork?
IS Top management Buy-in : The decision to organize employees in teams usually can't be made without the backing of senior managers. In many cases, managers are already enthusiastic. If they aren't, HR can make a business case for teamwork based on positive results like : More efficient working, Greater innovation through collaboration, Competitiveness and best - practice sharing among teammates, stronger employee relationships, leading to higher morale and motivation.
Supporting teamwork through HR strategy : With a mandate to develop successful team-working within your organization, you might first address the high - level HR strategy that will guide it. Your approach to the following HR areas can all influence teamwork.
  • Recruitment and retention : Identify the qualities your teams require, and design your recruitment drives accordingly.
  • Learning and development : Specific skills are required to work collaboratively, and to lead a team. More effective team-working can be achieved by developing staff in areas such as project management, communication, and leadership.
  • Pay and reward : Employee incentive programs can promote effective team-working by rewarding team achievement. Examples might include performance - related team bonuses, and rewards such as group social events for top-performing teams.
Guide how teams are to be organized
  • Define a clear purpose and goals for each team - To be effective, a team must know its overall purpose and current goals. Involve team members in goal-setting, since they'll likely feel more engaged by goals they helped create.
  • Measure team performance - What's measured improves. So establish effective metrics and reporting from team leaders. If team performance is sub-par, you'll know why and how to fix it.
  • Reward team excellence - Variable pay and rewards linked to team objectives can help strengthen teams and motivate them to achieve team goals.
Use team-building activities : To improve interpersonal relations, define team roles, and encourage collaboration and cooperation between your employees.
Types of team-building activity to consider include : Problem - solving activities/Goal-setting activities/Role-based activities/Communication-based activities.