Friday, October 22, 2010

Team Building for Specialist Teams

Specialist teams tend to have less diversity within them than your average team, if there is such a thing. Highly specialised jobs tend to attract quite similar individuals to them. As a result, teams of people who all have the same core speciality, whatever that might be, often face a similar challenge.

It doesn't matter whether the team is comprised of fire fighters, software engineers or nurses. The chances are that all decided to move into that line of work for similar reasons, with similar interests and similar talents.

For diverse teams to reach their full potential, the individuals within them need to work in such a way as to harness the different strengths with them. For the more homogeneous specialists teams the challenge is almost the reverse.

Whereas diverse teams tend to have plenty of clashes within them due to the differences between the team members, groups who are full f similar people can instead suffer from something that is called "groupthink". That is, they all are happy with what one or two people are saying over something important, so they settle for what is being said.

When everybody is happy with something, why should they try to improve upon it? Well, without a contrary viewpoint, they lack the natural, inherent team ability to challenge ideas and challenge is a key ingredient in effective team working. Without it, great strides in team improvement is unlikely in the extreme.

Professional team building activities will often be structured in such a way as to help the participants identify the team strengths that exist within the individuals and also show how the team's favoured processes do not always enable those strengths to be utilised as effectively as they could be for the benefit of the team.

While that makes the ideal for most teams, specialist teams of all kinds need something different. They need activities that highlight such a group's tendency to accept the first idea that someone comes up with, the lack of challenge within the group and the lost opportunities that are the inevitable consequences of such an easy-going team environment.

More than that, they also need to structure a debriefing session to help the team identify ways in which this groupthink issue can be solved. All teams need processes to support them and add strengths to what the team does and how it does it.

Specialists teams often need some of these to be targeted at effectively adding a dissenting voice. It's simple enough to add an item to the agenda for each and every meeting that the team has collectively, for example, that stipulates that no decisions can be made without someone suggesting an alternative that is then discussed for at least five minutes.

It may sound a little change, and it is, but it can make such a difference to what the team produce at the end of such a session.

Tools like lateral thinking techniques can also be added to the mix to help a team really come up with quite different alternatives. Add those to the challenge added procedurally and specialist teams will find that they really can improve significantly in a short space of time. And well-chosen team building activities are well placed to help them see that and implement those improvements quickly.

By : Alan_Hunt

No comments: