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Developing High Performing Teams

The High Performing Teams Equation: Passion + Practices = Performance

The Changing World of Teams

High Performing Teams (aka HPTs) have consistently been a top 10 leadership and management topic for the last twenty years, with extensive literature being published on the subject.

However, during this period, team dynamics have evolved in 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. Therefore, there is a need to revisit the HPTs topic from a modern perspective.

High Performing Teams: A Holistic Framework

This article proposes a pragmatic framework for the actions needed to successfully create and sustain HPTs in organisations of all shapes and sizes (summarised 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 'team process development' work.

Team Change Management

The circle on the right-hand side of the 'figure of 8' model above highlights the key aspects of team change management that leaders should use with individual members of the team in sequence.

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

Team Process Development

The circle on the left-hand side of the 'figure of 8' model highlights four key team process development areas that a leader should use with the entire team . Each process area can be broken down further into four specific practices:

  • Team Meetings
    • Operational Meetings
    • Strategy/Problem-Solving Meetings
    • Relationship/Trust Meetings
    • Virtual Meeting/Phone Meeting Practices
  • Team Alignment & Accountability
    • Team Ground Rules
    • Team Goals and Objectives
    • Team Member Accountabilities
    • Team Leadership Roles
  • Team Communications
    • Open Communications 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 start with a 'health-check' to see which processes are the most important for the job at hand and to identify those which are absent or broken. The 'one size fits all' approach to building a high performing team is rarely effective!

The HPTs framework is perfect for conducting a comprehensive team health-check.

You can assess the 16 elements of process to establish which are the most critical for your team and which are defective or even totally absent.

You can use the four 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 six principles can act as a guide for successfully creating a High Performing Team by blending the passion of its members (change management) with the right practices (process development):

  1. Use an existing High Performing Teams model
  2. Conduct a Team Health-Check
  3. Establish team improvement priorities
  4. Build team maturity 'base-camps'
  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 .