4 Simple Steps to Improve Your Teamwork

Learn how a team launch can help boost team performance. 
4 Simple Steps to Improve Your Teamwork

When Ms Iva Aminuddin jumped for joy in her office hallway last September, it was not because she had struck the lottery or received a promotion.

The reason was this: the then-Assistant Director of the PS21 Office at the Public Service Division had just experienced the fruits of a successful team launch.

A team launch is an activity that helps members of a team to know and trust each other better; clarify the project’s purpose and team roles; and set team norms, otherwise known as ground rules, for working with each other. (See “How to do a team launch in four easy steps”.)

Then, Ms Iva had been working on a culture development project with another government agency.

“We weren’t sure about their expectations and they were unclear about our objectives. There was a sense of uneasiness,” she said.

It was then that the two groups decided to come together and do a team launch. This, as they would later realise, was a good move.

Halfway into the project, Ms Iva felt both sides needed to be more forthcoming with their information for the project to be successful. She shared her thoughts with the team, and team members then took steps to improve their collaboration.

“Ordinarily, you’d keep these concerns to yourself and unspoken happiness or resentment would fester,” she said.

What had helped in this case, she said, were the team norms set during the team launch. During the launch, everyone agreed to support the team as best as they could and to keep each other in check if the rule was not followed.

“Because there was ‘permission’ to go back to the norms we had set, we felt safe in sharing our concerns with each other. That made me jump for joy,” she said.

Launching teams

As Ms Iva’s experience showed, a team launch is an excellent way of moving people one step closer to their dream team.

To get the team off to a flying start, even something as simple as sharing relevant experience can make a big difference. A 2008 study published in the Journal of Small Group Research showed that teams performed better when their members understood each other’s expertise and experience.

But such meetings of minds rarely take place spontaneously in teams. That is why the team launch process will help structure the group for success.

To ensure a team’s optimal performance throughout the project, the team launch should be done as soon as possible after the team’s formation.

Take a team of cockpit crew members, featured in a Cockpit Resource Management article, for example.

Crews who, before the flight, were informed by their captains about each member’s tasks, goals and roles outperformed crews which received no briefing at all.

Having an early team launch is crucial because it clarifies each member’s roles and helps set team norms.

More importantly, the launch will also help to set clear boundary lines between members and non-members. Knowing who – and who does not – “officially” belong to the team reduces miscommunication and misunderstandings.

If you’ve always dreamt of starting a dream team, a team launch will be the first step that you need to take.

So stop dreaming and start teaming.

Are you up for it?

How to do a team launch in 4 easy steps

1. Purpose/goals:
Establish clarity about the compelling purpose and goals of the project: for the stakeholders, the team and the individuals.

2. Roles
Have each person share the skills and experiences they bring to the team, what they want to learn from the process, and then determine roles.

3. Norms
Now that the purpose and roles are clear, develop group norms to help achieve goals around communication, meetings, decision-making, etc.

4. Styles
Talk with each other about working style preferences that would be helpful for others to know.

    Sep 19, 2013
    Douglas O’Loughlin and Geraldine Ling
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