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A strategy for day-to-day teamworking

Listed below is a model for operating effective teamwork on a day-to­day basis. Use it as a checklist against which your team can plan, implement and evaluate its activities:

Defining goals

Whatever the task facing your team, it is essential that you establish clearly defined goals. Of course when setting any goals you must be realistic about the timescales involved and your team’s ability and capacity to achieve them.


A sales team sets demanding sales goals for a trading period. In time these goals prove to be overly ambitious and unrealistic. The result is that the team subsequently fails to hit the targets. This in turn disrupts financial plans and subsequently production schedules. Initially the team responds by increasing activity and exerting more effort. Repeated failure to attain the goals however, results in a loss of morale and in some cases a team or leadership crisis in addition to the significant loss of revenue.

Whilst most teams and their leaders can become overly ambitious when setting objectives, other teams might set goals that are too low. In such instances, as the team goals are always exceeded they result in a lack of challenge or drive for the team’s performance.

The lesson is that when setting objectives there is a fine balance between setting unrealistic and achievable goals. All performance goals have to be stretching but also realistic if they are to generate a desirable improve­ment in individual and team performance.

Identifying tasks

Having defined and agreed our team’s goals we need to define the key tasks necessary to deliver the goals. These tasks will either be a series of inter-related and sequential activities or a collection of tasks that need to be performed concurrently.

Planning activities

Planning involves allocating people, time and resources to each key task and the manager or team leader will need to address the following questions:

  • What is the most effective and efficient way of organizing ourselves to achieve the team’s goals and objectives?
  • What is our proposed time-line for completing the various tasks?
  • By what process will we track the team’s progress against the various tasks that need to be completed?
  • What forms of contingency planning do we need to put into place in the event that we fail to deliver in the allotted time schedules we have set?

A typical error in planning is that the team becomes too absorbed in the planning activity itself and so forgets about the need for actual imple­mentation. You cannot plan forever and sooner or later you have to take action to deliver results. So the leader has to ensure that a careful balance is struck between the planning and implementation phases of the work.

Executing new and additional tasks

In any project there is almost an invariable need to perform new and additional tasks that will not have been anticipated in the original planning phase. Projects seldom occur within a vacuum and new devel­opments may often mean that the team has to take on new tasks and workloads. At this stage it will be necessary to re-plan since any new or additional tasks will require additional resources and a juggling of project priorities.

Reviewing performance

At the end of the project we need to review the team’s performance, not just in terms of the tasks, but more importantly in terms of our goals and outputs. Have we delivered on what we said we would? The key questions to ask in any review process are:

  • Did we achieve our goals?
  • If so, how well did we do?
  • What could we do differently next time?
  • If we failed to achieve our goals, why?
  • Were there other factors that prevented us from delivering?
  • Did we spend sufficient time planning?
  • Were the right tasks identified in our planning phase?
  • Did we adequately project manage the plan?
  • Were the tasks performed to the correct level?
  • Were the goals set realistic?
  • How well did the team work together?

Reviewing these questions helps us to learn and to revise our approach and processes for the next challenge or project. To improve team perform­ance it is just as important to identify any reasons for failure, as well as it is to identify the reasons for success. A characteristic of high performance teams is that they do take time out to review their working methods and processes as well as the actual results they achieve, whether they succeed or not. Too often in organizational life we run quickly onto the next problem or challenge without adequately spending time to review and learn from our most recent experiences.

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