On the one hand, they're the most potent force within an organization.
Trying to make change happen just as an individual is difficult. No matter where you sit, you're always a small stone whose ripples on the pond quickly dissipate. And trying to change an organization in a single bound can feel like trying to boil the ocean. A study from the OD Network suggested that only 11% of large-scale change efforts had the impact desired.
Teams, like Goldilocks' baby bear, can be "just right". Small enough to be nimble, large enough to be a sustainable force for change.
On the other hand, teams are generally a mess.
Lack of clarity on where we're heading and why get further complicated by unspoken ripples of power. Most teams are anything but more than the sum of their parts.
Get the team right, and good things happen. (Google has people work entirely in project teams and they seem to be doing OK.)
So what does it take? No doubt you've got a rich toolkit of your own - that's how you come to be reading a blog post at the International Association of Teamwork Facilitators.
Let me offer you another process that may serve. It comes in two parts.
First, have your team talk about the Great Work you want to do. Great Work? The work that's meaningful, the work that inspires and challenges, the work that makes a difference.
Now, both as a team and as individuals you've got limited capacity to do more Great Work. You can't do it all, because you've got everything else you're responsible for. But you can do more than you're doing right now. As a team, define your Great Work Project for the next 90 days. Articulate what it is, what success would look like, what roles you might all play.
That's focus. But focus isn't enough.
You need courage as well. it's courage that will get you started, courage that will have you take the first step and then the next one, courage that will help you face the resistance that will arise.
So ask yourselves, as a team, how courageous will we be.
That can be a conversation around a table or in a pub after work. All good.
And here's a way to facilitate the conversation.1. Lay out a strip of masking tape in a straight line on the floor. Make it about 10 foot long, longer if you've got a large team.
2. Tell the group that this strip represents a scale from 1 to 11, with 5 being about in the middle. It's your courage-o-meter.
3. Ask the team to stand at the midpoint - about a 5 on the scale. this represents a. Ask the team, if we were to do this project at a 5 on the courage scale, what would we do? (And what else? And what else?) What wouldn't we do? (And what else? And what else?)
4. Now take them down to the bottom end of the scale. At 'one' or 'two'. Ask them the same questions. (You'll most likely hear that there's not much you would do and a great deal you wouldn't.)
5. Now take them to 11. If you don't know that this is a homage to Spinal Tap, stop reading this immediately, rent that movie and watch it, then email me to say how grateful you are. This is the biggest boldest place. The "If you had no fear, what would you do?" place. The "I don't mind if it's a career-limiting move!" place. What would you do here?
6. Now ask them, chose as a team where we want to stand in terms of how courageous we'll be on this project. Give them time to settle. Get curious about what there and not somewhere else. Let this choice become firm.
7. Now you're primed for a discussion. What will we do? What won't we do? How will we slip, and how should we manage that? What support do we need? What else needs to change? Who's the point person for what?
Steve Jobs said this at a commencement speech in 2005:
"Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven't found it yet, keep looking. Don't settle."
He's right. Do more Great Work. Don't settle.
Michael Bungay Stanier's new book is Do More Great Work: Stop the busywork and start the work that matters. As well as providing 15 practical, facilitator and coach-based exercise to find, start and sustain Great Work, it has guest contributions from people such as Seth Godin, Dave Ulrich and Leo Babauta. Michael is the Senior Partner of Box of Crayons, a company that helps organizations do less Good Work and more Great Work. Michael is a Visiting Faculty Member at the IATF.
Watch the video clip below to learn what it means to Do More Great Work.