How do you build a high-performance team?

Mike Aroney, Life Cycle Engineering

Getting the most out of people in a lean environment is absolutely necessary to leverage the power of teamwork. There are four elements to crafting and developing a high performing team to LEAD an organization in optimizing how it serves customer. LEAD stands for Lead, Empower, Align and Desire.

Lead: Performance begins with a sound body of knowledge, clearly defined roles and responsibilities, and a set of tools for problem solving. It’s critical to remember that the body of knowledge for a high-performing team must include understanding group dynamics, how to recognize the development phases of the team, and the leadership actions needed to move through the dynamic phases of Form, Storm, Norm and Perform. A typical leadership error is to put 100 percent of the focus on the technical problem-solving aspect of the team and neglect the human side of the equation: forming a group of people into a team. It is equally as important to form the team and sustain it as it is to solve the problems for which the team is formed.

Empower: A high-performing team must be empowered to achieve some goal, whether it is to solve a problem, enhance a process, or create more value for the customer. To truly effect change, a team must be given the power, authority and commitment of the organization’s senior leadership to implement the team’s solutions. The leader’s role is to ensure the team performs its function, and more importantly, that the team’s work will be implemented and supported throughout the organization. Before forming the team the leader must interface with the power structure of the organization to set these expectations. A common leadership error is to charter the team with responsibility to create a solution and provide no authority to implement it.

Align: For a high-performing team to be effective, it must develop solutions that support the organization’s key business objectives. The leader’s role is to ensure the team’s solution is clearly linked to these objectives, and the parts of the organization impacted by the solution have bought into it and will support it. To do less is to ensure poor implementation and another demoralizing “flavor of the month”. Most importantly, every organization is perfectly aligned for the results it gets. To sustain the team’s work, the organization’s systems and structures must be re-aligned to support the solution, especially if it requires work be done differently.

Desire: Lastly, a high-performing team requires a purpose which each team member fully understands. Team members need to recognize both the personal and organizational benefits of achieving the team’s purpose. The power of a vision is often underestimated by leadership, as is being involved in decision making, shared information and open communication. A leader’s role is to provide vision, and to share information, not only with the team, but also with the organization and the organization’s leadership. Eighty percent of project failure is attributed to breakdowns in communication. A leader can make his team feel “in-on-things” by sharing information and creating an environment for open communication. The result is “trust” which stimulates creativity, facilitates conflict resolution, and bonds the group into a high-performing team.

About the author:
Mike Aroney holds advanced degrees in organizational psychology, adult education, and business administration, and is a principal consultant with Life Cycle Engineering specializing in change management, business process re-engineering, work control, and implementation of information management systems. Mike has led major business process re-engineering efforts in support of enterprise resource planning implementations using People Soft, Lawson and SAP applications for two global organizations with 21,000 and 36,000 end-users. Mike’s approach to change management has resulted in significant changes to corporate cultures that sustain the performance improvements enabled through Reliability Excellence process integration. These strategies include training, communication, balanced scorecard performance measures, rapid improvement events, leadership coaching and mentoring, and organization redesign. He joined Life Cycle Engineering as a deputy director and principal consultant in 2000. For more information, visit or call 843-744-7110.

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