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The High Performing Teams Equation: Passion + Practices = Performance

The Changing World of Teams

High Performing Teams (aka HPTs) have been a consistently top 10 leadership and management topic for the last twenty years with dozens of excellent books published on the subject.

However, during this period, the dynamics of teams has also evolved in several significant ways, including:

  • Self-Managed/Collective Leadership Teams
  • Cross Organisational Collaboration
  • Virtual/Distributed/Mobile Teams
  • Massive Teams and 'virtual communities'

Many of today’s teams are a hybrid of two (or more) of the above which makes them even more challenging to establish and lead. Hence the need to revisit the whole HPTs topic with some more up-to-date guidance.

High Performing Teams: A Holistic Framework

This short article proposes a pragmatic framework for the interventions needed to successfully create and sustain HPTs in organizations of all shapes and sizes (summarized in the following diagram)

High performing team model

A unique aspect of this framework is that it covers and integrates both individual team member change management work and the whole team process development work

Team Change Management

The circle in the right-hand side of the “figure of 8” model above highlights the key aspects of team change management for a leader to use with the individual members of the team in sequence.

  • Insight and Relationship
  • Understanding and Influencing
  • Commitment
  • Support and Development

Team Process Development

The circle in the left-hand side of the "figure of 8" model highlights 4 key team process development areas for a leader to use with the team . Each of these process areas can be broken down into 4 specific practices:

  • Team Meetings
    • Operational Meetings
    • Strategy/Problem-Solving Meetings
    • Relationship/Trust Meetings
    • Virtual Meeting/Phone Meeting Practices
  • Team Alignment & Accountablity
    • Team Ground Rules
    • Team Goals and Objectives
    • Team Member Accountabilities
    • Team Leadership Roles
  • Team Communications
    • Open Commmunications Practices
    • Conflict Management Process
    • Decision-Making Practices
    • Information-sharing
  • Team Support & Systems
    • Personal Development
    • Coaching Relationships
    • Peer Support System
    • Early Warning System

Team Leadership

Getting your team set-up, challenging though it is, is only the beginning of a team leader’s journey. There are “Seven Habits of Great Team Leaders” which can guide a team leader in the difficult transition between successful team setup and sustainable team operations.

Many teams disappear down this chasm despite promising starts.

Taking a Team’s Temperature

Any team development should really start with a “health-check” to see which processes are the most important for the job at hand and to identify those which are totally absent or badly broken. The “one size fits all” approach to building a high performing team is seldom effective!

Managing team img

The HPTs framework is perfect for conducting a comprehensive team health-check. You can assess the 16 elements of process to establish a) which are the most critical for your team and b) which are defective or even totally absent.

You can use the 4 elements of change in conjunction with a simple team member “stakeholder” map plotting influence versus attitude to see who is a supporter of the HPTs project, who is neutral and who is hostile to it.

The HPT Jigsaw: Putting it all together

The following 6 principles can act as a road map for successfully creating a High Performing Team by effectively blending the passion of its members (change management) with the right practices (process development):

  1. Use and existing High Performing Teams model
  2. Conduct a Team Health-Check
  3. Establish team improvement priorities
  4. Build team maturity "basecamps"
  5. Some things take longer to fix
  6. People and Process are interdependent

The topics in this article are explored in more detail in Ken Thompson’s book A Systematic Guide to High Performing Teams available from Amazon in both paperback and Kindle.

Short Video Course on HPT

High Performing Teams Course by Ken Thompson

Topic 1 - Introduction (20:09 mins)

Topic 2 - Creating HPT's in a hurry (11:12 mins)

Topic 3 - The processes of HPTs (09:03 mins)

Topic 4 - Change management for HPTs (08:32 mins)

Topic 5 - HPT leadership tips (08:22 mins)

About the Author

Ken Thompson is an expert practitioner, author and speaker on collaboration, high performing teams and game-based learning. He has given numerous talks on the subject, including a TED talk, discussing these ideas in more detail.

He is Founder of Dashboard Simulations who design, license and facilitate team business simulation games for leadership and management development. Ken has published 4 books on High Performing Teams and Effective Collaboration and tweets at @kenthompson and @dashboardsims .