THE 7 BARRIERS TO SUCCESSFUL TEAMWORK by James Mapes

Barriers to successful teams can be summed up in seven points.

1. Lack of Vision.

A team must have a compelling purpose that appeals both emotionally and rationally to the members of the team. If the team lacks a vision, its members lack vision.

2. Lack of Commitment.
Many people think teams don’t make a difference except in times of trouble and unpredictable circumstance. Others think teams take up too much time, require too much maintenance, or slow up
decision making. Still others believe in teams as a concept, but fail to follow up, thinking that teams function without support. Teams fulfill their functions only in an environment of total commitment.

3. Confusing Teams With Teamwork.

The words team and teamwork are often used interchangeably, but groups working together do not magically become a team. Some organizations think an annual convention will motivate the entire group to work together as a team, but an organization can never be a team. They can, however, practice teamwork. Teams and teamwork are vastly different. Teamwork is a set of values adopted by a group. Teamwork encourages respect for the dignity of the individual, embraces diversity, and supports superior communication. Teamwork provides support, resources, and recognition. While these teamwork
values are necessary to high-performance teams, they do not by themselves create a team.

4. Lack of Training.

Self-directed, high-performance, and cross-functional teams require greater skills. People often get caught up in team-mania. They throw together a group of people and expect them to produce results. But teams require global thinking, systems thinking, change management, decision making, conflict resolution, problem solving, communication, and technology. Somebody has to provide training.

5. Control, Manipulation, and Fear.

A team must have freedom. The very nature of a high-performance team demands that it be trusted and empowered.

6. Competition.

The assumption that competition increases performance is erroneous and short-sighted. Competition among team members, managers and teams, supervisors and teams, or teams within the same organization is destructive.

7. The Wrong Kind of Team.

It all started with the Quality Circles of the 1980s. Composed of workers and supervisors, Quality Circles met periodically to discuss workplace problems. Unfortunately, Quality Circles exist primarily where leadership is afraid to let go of control. Although still in existence, Quality Circles are on the decline, but they served the purpose of bringing to light the potential value of self-directed teams. While Quality Circles may have supported small gains in productivity, they will never provide quantum leaps.

Today there are Virtual Teams, where members talk by computer and take turns playing the role of leader. There are Management Teams made up of managers from various departments, which basically coordinate work among other teams; Work Teams, which handle day-to-day problems; and Problem-solving Teams, which come together until a specific problem is solved and then disband. There are Cross-functional Teams, which are made up of several departments like manufacturing, research and development, engineering, and finance.

Work Teams are the button-pushers. Work Teams are also known as high-performance, self-managed, or self-directed teams. In addition to doing the day-to-day work, a Work Team is empowered
with the authority to make decisions on how the daily work is done. If a work team is genuinely empowered, it has a budget and the authority to determine the order in which designated tasks are done. While some members may come and go, Work Teams tend to be permanent, and it is the Work Team that ignites the energy to take quantum leaps in a team environment.

So before you rush off to form Work Teams, ask yourself, ‘‘Do I really need a team?’’

Analyze the task at hand. Can it be done faster by a person working alone? Does the work really require people to interact with each other? It’s a mistake to get people to work together simply for the sake of working together.

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