Yesterday, I wrote about successful teamwork and the fundamentals that should exist to support successful teamwork. Today I want to examine the tools that should be available for teams to work successfully. Yesterday I used a sports analogy (I know, overused) so today we'll use a construction analogy.
Every day skyscrapers are built by construction crews all over the country. These buildings require a wide array of skills and talents to complete, and many of the subcontractors and laborers will work together on just one building. In many cases, the workers bring their own tools to the site. Imagine the chaos if there weren't blueprints and architects to manage the process.
This description is similar to how we work in teams in business. A number of people come together to evaluate an idea or make a recommedation. They come from different parts of the business (marketing, finance, sales, manufacturing) and bring their own biases and tools. However, as we discussed yesterday, there generally is not an experienced architect (coach) to help guide the group, and there are rarely any agreed processes or tools to get the work done.
In most team environments, there is little or no thought given to how the new team should manage information, how that team should collaborate and communicate, or how the team should document its findings and results. The blueprint for successful teamwork does not exist. Tools, such as they are, usually consist of Word, Excel and Outlook. That is not to say these tools are wrong, just that there's little thought given to the way we capture, store and exchange information as transient teams.
I wrote in an earlier post about a large consumer goods company that was reduced to using Excel rather than a BI tool since the BI tool could not be deployed before the life of the project was completed. This is a common problem and indicates that tools to support teams and their work are not a priority to IT. IT organizations in most businesses have become fixated on "enterprise" systems which support business transactions and have denigrated personal and workgroup productivity tools.
What do teams need to be successful?
- An agreed approach on how they should work - the blueprint
- A coach who can keep them on track and keep them honest - the architect
- A set of tools to support knowledge management, data analysis and collaboration
- These tools can be packaged tools like some I've recommended
- These tools can be as simple as Wikis and web logs the team builds for
- Clear goals and objectives from its sponsor
Once we have these items in place, the tools and the fundamentals, our teams can become more productive.