Posted on

SWOT, PESTLE and Waterfall Analysis

The Management Pocketbooks Pocket Correspondence Course

Pocketblog has gone back to basics. This is part of an extended management course.


I used to be a director in a business where, like many businesses, once a year we would have a ‘strategy meeting’ to look at our strategy for the next year. How could we understand the market and what could we do to improve our competitive position. In the next blog, we will look at some of the more sophisticated strategy planning tools available to you. Here, I want to focus on three that have the overwhelming merit of simplicity.

Every year we would follow the same process… until, that is, until I got heartily sick of it and introduced another. But let’s start with the two tools that made up that much used process, before I offer you a powerful alternative that is guaranteed to give you insights into how your business can make more money.

SWOT Analysis

Perhaps the best known strategic analysis tool is SWOT Analysis – a structured review of your organisation’s Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats – often presented as a grid like this:

SWOT Analysis

The secret to making SWOT Analysis work is frankness and a determination to be really objective about how your organisation measures up to the market. Being good at something is not a competitive strength if your competitors are also good at it – or even better.

The hardest part is to understand what is coming over the horizon by way of threats and opportunities. Because it is when you pair up the top of the chart with the bottom that you start to see what strategic changes you need to make. So, how do you spot opportunities and threats?

PESTLE Analysis

Of all the tools for horizon scanning, PESTLE analysis is the simplest. We just take stock of all of the changes we can foresee under a range of headings:

 

PESTLE Analysis

Waterfall Analysis

When you get bored with these, focus on revenue. Waterfall Analysis splits your entire market into your market share and the market share you leak to your competitors. It further subdivides these to give five components and hence five parts to your strategy. It will not give you the answers, but it will focus your thinking. People who have used this for a first time often find it leads to revelatory ‘aha moments’; so why not give it a try?

Click on the figure to enlarge it

Waterfall Analysis

Further Reading

From the Management Pocketbooks series:

  1. The Strategy Pocketbook
  2. Business Planning Pocketbook

Share this:
Posted on

Process Map

The Management Pocketbooks Pocket Correspondence Course

Pocketblog has gone back to basics. This is part of an extended management course.


If you want to understand your value chain, with the intention of improving it, perhaps, you need first to be able to visualise it. You can do this by preparing a ‘process map’.

The purpose of this blog is to introduce you to two widely used methodologies for mapping out and illustrating processes.

The Role-Activity Diagram (RAD)

Role activity diagrams are based on three concepts:

  1. The roles that people, teams or departments play in the process
  2. The activities that players fulfil during the process
  3. The interaction between one activity and another

The RAD below illustrates the process for a manager writing a marketing article on behalf of their organisation, for a trade journal. You can click on the image to see a larger version.

Role-Activity Diagram

The symbols on the chart are explained below.

Role-Activity Diagram Symbols

Roles include individuals, positions or posts, jobs, teams, departments, companies, organisations like regulators or unions, or a class of stakeholder like customers or residents. Activities tend to create change, like making, checking, briefing or selling. The interactions can be anything that involves two or more roles, such as moving materials or information, allocating or delegating work, authorising or agreeing a decision, or reporting status.

The IDEF Method

IDEF stands for ‘Integrated definition method for function modelling’. It presents processes as flow diagrams with activities as boxes, using a standard set of directions. The process flows from left to right with:

Inputs
… shown coming from the left
These can be materials, ideas, information or services that input into the process

Outputs
… shown coming out from the right
These can be information, services or products that are produced by the process

Controls
… shown applied from the top
These are the decisions and information that control the process

Mechanisms
… shown applied from below
This can be a person, team, system, service or supplier that performs or assists in the process

IDEF0

Strictly speaking, this is one of a family of IDEF modelling tools; IDEF0. You can learn more about IDEF1, IDEF1X, IDEF3, IDEF4 and IDEF5 at the IDEF website. These (and other) IDEF tools form a large family (Wikipedia lists 15) of systems and software modelling languages.

IDEF0, however, is very suitable of modelling organisational processes and has the merit that it can translate well into setting out a functional requirement for a system development.

Share this:
Posted on

Lean Thinking

The Management Pocketbooks Pocket Correspondence Course

Pocketblog has gone back to basics. This is part of an extended management course.


Imagine that you were an Egyptian overseer, responsible for building a great pyramid for your Pharaoh. How would you want to organise things?

  • Would you want to start by knowing exactly what your Pharaoh wants?
  • Would you want to fully understand every part of the process?
  • Would you want to understand how stone moves from being part of the wall of a quarry to a perfectly fitting part of your Pharaoh’s pyramid?
  • Would you want to ensure that the giant blocks of stone arrived fast enough so the workers on the ramp always had a stone ready to move up?
  • Would you want to make sure stones got up to the top of the ramp fast enough to make sure that they were there as soon as the last stone was placed on the pyramid?
  • Would you want to avoid stones arriving too fast and causing a bottleneck?
  • Would you want to make sure every stone was perfect to avoid having to stop and find a replacement or re-dress the stone on site?

If your answer is yes to all of those questions, then congratulations: you are instinctively an ancient Lean Manager.

Lean thinking is not new: the ideas have been around for a very long time and accumulated in industry over the years. But there are a few names that are strongly associated with its emergence as a driving force in organisational effectiveness in the last years of the twentieth and early years of the twenty first century.

The thinking was done by the founder of Toyota, Sakichi Toyoda, his son, Kiichiro Toyoda, and their postWW2 production chief, Taiichi Ohno. The Toyodas set out how a production line could work best, avoiding the problems of Henry Ford’s original ‘don’t stop the flow of the line if anything goes wrong – sort it out at the end’ approach. When they could not make it work due to the flaws in their supply chain, it was Ohno who then solved the practical problems.

The message came out in a landmark study by researchers from The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). This was published in the 1991 book ‘The Machine that Changed the World’ which introduced the world to the term ‘Lean’. Two of its authors: James Womack and Daniel Jones, went on to write a series of influential books, spelling out how to apply the lean principles they had researched at Toyota, starting with ‘Lean Thinking’ and becoming even more practical, with ‘Lean Solutions’.

The Value Chain

At the heart of Lean Thinking is an understanding of the value chain, which we discussed in an earlier post. Lean thinking starts by defining value from the point of view of the end customer for your products or services. When you do this, you usually find that only a small proportion of your activities directly contribute to that value (from the customer’s perspective). The rest – including some parts of what Michael Porter described as Primary Business Activities are only necessary as supporting this value creation.

Performance improvement comes first from eliminating steps and interactions that are not necessary for value creation and then, redesigning those that are to be as effective and efficient as possible. This means less wastage due to delays, re-work, duplication, scrapping below quality products, and oversupply.

The five principles of Lean Thinking are set out below.

The Five Principles of Lean Thinking

Waste

At various points, Lean Thinking decries wastage. The Toyota production chief set out seven sources of waste that destroy value.

  1. overproduction
  2. excessive inventory
  3. defects
  4. delays
  5. unnecessary transportation of goods
  6. unnecessary movement of materials
  7. unnecessary processing or materials

Where is there waste in your organisation?

Further Reading

In 1997, James Womack founded the Lean Enterprise Institute. Its website is a valuable source of resources for understanding more about Lean thinking.

In our Management Thinkers series, you may like Taiichi Ohno: Lean Production.

From the Management Pocketbooks series:

  1. Improving Efficiency Pocketbook
  2. Improving Profitability Pocketbook
Share this:
Posted on

How To Get Purchasing Right

The Management Pocketbooks Pocket Correspondence Course

Pocketblog has gone back to basics. This is part of an extended management course.


Procurement is a deep skill, with its own professional membership bodies around the globe:  the Chartered Institute of Purchasing and Supply in the UK. Yet small organisations rarely have the scale to justify a full-time qualified professional purchasing manager.

This means that all managers working within a supply chain need to be able to turn their hand to the craft of buying – and to be able to do it well enough to secure the right materials, assets or services, at competitive rates.

Another reason for needing a good basic understanding of procurement is because, if your organisation does have a professional purchasing team, their interests and yours may not always, on the surface, overlap completely.  Understanding how this is so, and what pressures they are under, will help you to negotiate  with them and influence the selection process. Often, in setting good practices, purchasing managers create ample flexibility. Your job is then to establish where it is and learn how to exploit it to the good of your organisation. The confrontational approach that many managers adopt with central functions will rarely achieve the results you need.

So what is it that Procurement Professionals know?

Professionals follow a simple purchasing cycle.

Procurement Process

What makes the cycle work well is the understanding that blindly following the process can produce unintended results. Each organisation will optimise the details of their process for certain factors, like price, speed, reliability or accountability. Adaptability is the key to getting it right in every case. Here are some tips for a strong underpinning to your process.

1: Cost and value are not the same thing. If you focus only on cost, you rarely achieve value.

2: If you do not specify what really matters, the negotiation process will optimise for cost and deliver the wrong result. Ensure you understand the functional and logistic requirements of the department or team on whose behalf you are procuring the goods or services. Use your expertise to adapt the process appropriately, to balance consistency and transparency against the genuine variability in requirements across a complex business.

3: Over-focus on cost comes with a price: ‘you get what you pay for’ as my dad used to say.

4: A paper and data based evaluation of your supplier is valuable, but if you are going to depend on that supplier, quality accreditation and balance sheets are not enough: you need to speak to other customers and visit the supplier’s site to meet the people you will rely upon.

5: Regular reviews are important to ensure that they are maintaining the quality and service standards that led you to select them at the start of your relationship.

6: The right balance of competitive market testing and long-term relationship building will yield the best results. If you commit to a supplier for too long, without subjecting their prices and services to competition, they may become complacent, but if you try to re-tender your contracts too frequently, suppliers will have little reason to be loyal to you, knowing that an opportunist competitor could offer a lower price in a year or two.

7: Everything is negotiable, but if you take a stance that is too aggressive, your supplier may need to make hidden compromises to maintain their profitability. Those could harm you in the long run.

8: Once you have built a relationship, it is tempting to relax and turn your focus elsewhere. Continue to invest in the relationship with frequent communication, regular meetings and constant research into new developments in the trade, from things like trade shows, conferences and trade journals. Discuss new developments with your supplier and gauge their levels of investment in new ideas and technologies.

Share this:
Posted on

The Value Chain

The Management Pocketbooks Pocket Correspondence Course

Pocketblog has gone back to basics. This is part of an extended management course.


The Value Chain is the complete set of processes that links everything an organisation does. Let us say you make widgets. The value chain starts with the process of sourcing raw materials, which you then purchase from a supplier, who then delivers them to you, which you process into finished widgets, that you market and sell, after which you deliver them to your customers, who incorporate your widgets into their value chain.

Most often, the value chain is represented as links in a single chain. I think that this is unrealistic. Instead, it is better to think of it as links in multiple chains, all joined up…

Value Chain

Understanding the value chain is essential for any manager who wants to step beyond their parochial role within it. Understanding and analysing your value chain will allow you to:

  • spot opportunities to create efficiencies within your part of the value chain
  • improve hand-offs with other parts of the value chain
  • appreciate the full strategic scope of the value chain and where you fit into it
  • determine where most and least value  is added and review how to improve the value to cost ratio
  • find where your competitive advantages lie
  • benchmark your performance against industry norms and best practices

Michael Porter distinguished primary business activities (the value generating activities described in the value chain) from secondary business activities, which are necessary in supporting the primary activities. These include:

  • technology and systems infrastructure implementation and maintenance
  • personnel and human resource management, including recruitment, development, appraisal, remuneration, succession, discipline
  • financial planning and management

We can view these as further side links to the value chain.

Porter was clear that a successful business must ensure that all links between elements of this full value chain are strong, if it is to thrive under the pressures of competition.

Further Reading

Two previous Pocketblogs will add to your understanding of the Value Chain:

  1. On Competition: Internal Forces and the 7-S Model
  2. On Competition – The Far End of the Value Chain

You may also like The Strategy Pocketbook

Share this:
Posted on

Handling Conflict

The Management Pocketbooks Pocket Correspondence Course

Pocketblog has gone back to basics. This is part of an extended management course.


At some point in every manager’s daily life, you will be faced with the need to resolve conflict, either:

  • Conflict between two of your colleagues
  • Conflict between a colleague and someone else (a supplier, customer or distant colleague)
  • Conflict between a colleague and yourself

Two of the most valuable conflict management models have already been covered in the Management Pocketblog.

Exercise 1: Review Ellen Raider’s AEIOU Model

As a major figure in researching conflict, Morton Deutsch should be your first port of call. Read through the Pocketblog: Conflict: as simple as AEIOU. What are the direct lessons for you, from this blog?

Exercise 2: Review the Thomas-Kilmann Conflict Modes

The most widely used model for understanding your choices when you approach conflict is the Thomas-Kilmann Conflict Modes model, which you can read about in the Pocketblog: Is this Relationship going to Work? Look at the five modes and ask yourself which ones you tend to over-use and which you tend to under-use.

Exercise 3: Review the basics of Mediation

If you ever need to mediate between conflicts, then the Pocketblog: Clowns to the Left of Me, Jokers to the Right will help you grasp the basics of the role, setting out six basic steps. Which steps do you do well, naturally, and which do you tend to skimp on?

All of this reading back should allow you to start to form your own ideas about what makes for productive handling of conflict. For me, there are six elements. I will offer three tips under each.

Element 1: Attitudes

  1. Respectful of differences: conflict arises out of differences – as soon as you respect those differences, conflict softens.
  2. Open Mind: try to see the other person’s point of view and what matters most to them: Respect that.
  3. People are not the problem – while behaviours may be unwelcome, distinguish the person from their attitudes, needs and behaviours.

Element 2: Discovery

  1. What do you know already: inventory.
  2. What do you not know: shopping list.
  3. What are the causes: a step towards solutions.

Element 3: Core Skills

  1. Listening: until you really hear, you cannot respect or discover the truth.
  2. Language: clear, straightforward and respectful use of pronouns (‘I’ takes responsibility: ‘you’ sounds accusatory).
  3. Calm: find ways to calm yourself so you can control your responses and remain objective.

Element 4: Strategies

  1. Spot the signs of rising tension early: move in to defuse the conflict before it gets properly started.
  2. Keep working: if you break contact, conflict will escalate in the gaps.
  3. Welcome contributions: make all contributions welcome by inviting, acknowledging and valuing every effort the other person makes.

Element 5: Support

  1. Ask for it: whenever you need it.
  2. Offer it: whenever you can.
  3. Match it: to the needs of the situation – is facilitation or mediation or arbitration the right approach?

Element 6: Cautions

  1. Avoid the mindset of trying to ‘win’. Look instead for a resolution that both parties will value.
  2. Right and wrong: are rarely appropriate categories – if they were, the conflict would be far easier to resolve.
  3. Blame, punishment and retribution: have no role. In the film Papillon, Leon Darga says ‘blame is for god and small children.’

Further Reading

  1. Resolving Conflict Pocketbook
  2. Discipline & Grievance Pocketbook
  3. Mediation Pocketbook
  4. The free ACAS Advisory booklet – Managing conflict at work
Share this:
Posted on

Resistance to Change

The Management Pocketbooks Pocket Correspondence Course

Pocketblog has gone back to basics. This is part of an extended management course.

In the last couple of blogs, we have taken a look at how organisational change works in three phases, and how people respond to change. In this blog, we’ll focus on the ways in which people resist change and how you, as a manager, can deal with resistance.

Resistance is an inevitable part of people’s response to change and there are many reasons why people resist change. Dealing respectfully with that resistance requires that you can interpret the nature and reasons for the resistance, so the first skill to deploy will always be listening.

What you are listening for, will be clues as to what the source of the resistance is, so that you can address it properly. There are five levels of resistance, that lead to a simple, powerful model developed by Dr Mike Clayton (coincidentally, the author of this blog).

The Onion Model of Resistance

The Onion Model of Resistance

The Onion Model suggests five levels of resistance – each a little hotter and more emotionally charged than the last.

I don’t understand why we have to change

Resistance is often prompted by not recognising the need to change. People in organisations are usually only aware of pressures that impact upon them directly – leading them to say ‘we really must change this.’ But other pressures for change pass them by and it is therefore natural for them to question what they see as unnecessary change.

Address this form of resistance by showing why change is necessary

I don’t understand why this change

Even when people see the need for change, they also need to understand why you have chosen the response you have. You – or  another manager – have gone through a series of investigations and decisions to choose your response but others have been outside of that process and naturally wonder if there is a better way.

Address this form of resistance by showing why your response is the most appropriate one.

I don’t like this change

At times of change, people often focus on what they will lose, giving it more weight than the corresponding gains. This hard-wired ‘loss aversion’ is a powerful driver of resistance even when objectively, the loss is small and the benefit is great. People will also resist when objectively the loss to them outweighs the benefit, but here, there is nothing you can do aside from acknowledging, sympathising, and supporting your colleague.

Address perceived disadvantage by patiently demonstrating the benefit.

Another reason for this form of resistance is that people sometimes spot a flaw in your plan. They may be wrong or right, but you must listen and evaluate carefully, and be prepared to make changes if you conclude that your changes are not the best you can make them.

I don’t like change

Change is a part of life that we all live with, but some have a greater tolerance than others. Those who feel they don’t like change are again focusing on what they fear losing, or simply on the fear that they will not be able to cope.

Address this form of resistance by offering support to help people overcome their fears and thrive in the new environment.

I don’t like you

This is rarely as personal as it sounds. In times of change, people lash out at whoever they can, as a way of exercising old frustrations and grievances, because the stresses of change add to the pressures they are under.

Accept a small amount of this only and address this as the inappropriate behaviour that it is. Use assertive behaviour and your other skills for dealing with difficult behaviour to deal with it in the first instance. If, on occasion, this is not enough, use your organisation’s formal procedures.

Further Reading

  1. The Handling Resistance Pocketbook
  2. The Listening Skills Pocketbook

Other Pocketblogs you might find helpful

  1. How to Manage a Challenging Conversation
  2. Listening
  3. I can’t do that now
Share this:
Posted on

Scott and Jaffe: The Change Grid and How we Respond to Change

The Management Pocketbooks Pocket Correspondence Course

Pocketblog has gone back to basics. This is part of an extended management course.

Last week’s Pocket Correspondence Course module was about the three phases of creating change – or ‘transitions’, in Bridges’ language. This week, we need to address the question of how people respond to organisational change.

Have you ever noticed how people’s response to organisational change is sometimes out of proportion to the objective scale of the change itself? Organisational changes are hardly a matter of life and death, yet people often get scared, angry, upset or frustrated. These are powerful emotions that managers rarely feel ready to deal with.

While many managers see organisational change as someone else’s specialism – the HR team, or the consultants, for example – it is your team. A general overview will help you understand some of the dynamics you encounter. One of the most useful and compelling models is that developed by Cynthia Scott & Dennis Jaffe.

Grief: The work of Elisabeth Kübler-Ross

The Scott-Jaffe model owes much to the work of Dr Elisabeth Kübler-Ross. She researched the way people deal with tragedy, bereavement and grief, that led her to the development of a widely used description of grief as following five stages: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance – often remembered with the acronym DABDA.

Kubler-Ross Grief Model

The responses that Dr Kübler-Ross described served your ancient ancestors well. They did not emerge in an environment of shifting organisational structures and operational processes: the changes they encountered were often life threatening.

In modern times, we must use the same underlying physiology and brain chemistry to cope with both emotional trauma and an office move. It seems unsurprising, therefore, that when Scott and Jaffe researched responses to organisational change, they found a similar pattern.

Scott and Jaffe’s Four Stage Response to Change

Scott & Jaffe Change Grid

Scott and Jaffe’s model suggests that we move through four stages as we respond to organisational change. Clearly, if we quickly perceive the change as beneficial, we will jump from the first to the fourth.

Denial

Initially, the meaning of the change fails to sink in: we are happy enough (or at least comfortable) with the status quo, so our minds reject the reality of change. We act as if nothing has happened and Scott and Jaffe called this stage Denial.

Resistance

Once we start to recognise the reality of change, we start to Resist it. This arises from our aversion to loss – we focus on the elements of the status quo we will need to give up and our brains assign that a far greater weight of attention and value than any potential gains.

We do this first at the emotional level, showing anger, anxiety, bitterness or fear, for example, and later by opposing the change actively, engaging our critical faculties to find reasons to resist. Organisations see increases in absence, complaints and losses, and drops in efficiency, morale and quality.

Exploration

When managers like you face up to the resistance and engage with it in a respectful and positive way, people can start to focus on the future again. They will Explore the implications of the change for them and for their part in your organisation. They will look for ways to move forward. This can be a chaotic time, but also an exhilarating one – particularly when the benefits of the change are significant.

Commitment

Eventually people start to turn their attention outward as they Commit to the new future.

Other Models of Change

Scott and Jaffe are not the only researchers to articulate a model of organisational change. There are other, similar, models. Perhaps the best known of the three-phase models is Kurt Lewin’s ‘Freeze Phases that we covered in the previous Management Pocketblog: Unfreezing – Changing – Refreezing. We also saw William Bridges’ three-phase ‘Transitions’ model: Letting go – Neutral zone – New beginnings.

These are all powerful as predictive models of change and, like all models, none is true. Yet each offers up valuable insights which can help you predict, understand and mange change.

Further Reading

  1. The Managing Change Pocketbook
  2. The Handling Resistance Pocketbook
  3. Survive and Thrive in Times of Change,
    Training and Development Journal, April 1988,
    Dr Cynthia D Scott and Dr Dennis T Jaffe
    This article is not available freely on the web.
  4. On Death and Dying,
    Dr Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, 1969
Share this:
Posted on

Lewin, Bridges and the Phases of Change

The Management Pocketbooks Pocket Correspondence Course

Pocketblog has gone back to basics. This is part of an extended management course.


Change is a never-ending part of organisational life, and managing it effectively is one of the principal challenges for managers. So you need to understand the process, so that you can support effective change in the people who make up your organisation.

This was a topic addressed by one of the twentieth century’s leading thinkers in workplace psychology (and a regular feature of the Management Pocketblog – see below); Kurt Lewin. Among his many contributions to our understanding of organisational life is a three-part model of change.

Forces for Change

Lewin regarded us as subject to a range of forces within our environment, which he divided into:

  • Driving Forces, which promote change, and
  • Restraining Forces, which hinder it, consisting of our inner resistance to change and our desire to conform to what we perceive to be the established social norms.

Three Phases of Change

Kurt Lewin - Freeze Phases

1. Unfreezing

Lewin identified the first phase of change as unfreezing established patterns of behaviour and group structures. We do this by challenging existing attitudes, beliefs and values, and then offering alternatives. This allows people to start to relax from their restraining forces; preparing them for change.

2. Changing

The second phase is changing, in which we lead people through the transition to a new state. This is a time of uncertainty and confusion, as people struggle to build a clear understanding of the new thinking and practices that will replace the old. The range of different responses you will encounter means that good leadership is essential. Without it, people will follow whatever weak leadership they can find. A great danger is people’s susceptibility to gossip and rumour during times of change.

3. Freezing

Eventually, a new understanding emerges. Lewin’s third phase is freezing (sometimes refreezing) these new ways of being into place, to establish a new prevailing mind-set. During this phase, people adapt to the changed reality and look for ways to capitalise on the new opportunities it offers. Alternatively, they might instead make a decision to opt-out from the change and move on.

Subsequent Interpretations

When Lewin described this model, he was clear that the phases represent parts of a continuous journey; not discrete processes. However, not everyone understood this – or even took the time to read Lewin’s own writing. The model became neglected largely because his use of the term ‘phases’ led to false interpretations that he was referring to static stages.

However, we might equally argue that his thinking is in rude health. In his excellent 1980 book, ‘Managing Transitions: Making the Most of Change’, William Bridges put forward a similar three stage model of changes, or transitions:

  1. Letting go
  2. Neutral zone
  3. New beginning

Bridges’ books are best sellers that give readers much practical advice on how to support people through each of the three stages of their transition.

Whether in the original form proposed by Lewin, or in the more modern form presented by Bridges, the three phases model is immensely valuable. It focuses us on how to move people through change. As both the first systematic work on organisational change and as a starting point for designing a change process, an understanding of this model is vital for any manager who is working in the arena of change.


Next week, we will look at a complementary model of how people respond to imposed change, developed by Cynthia Scott and Dennis Jaffe.

Further Reading

  1. The Managing Change Pocketbook
  2. The Handling Resistance Pocketbook
  3. Frontiers in group dynamics: Concept, method and reality in social science; social equilibria and social change, Kurt Lewin, in Human Relations (1947).
  4. Managing Transitions,
    William Bridges, Nicholas Brealey Publishing, Rev Ed 2003

Three Management Pocketblogs about Kurt Lewin

  1. The World belongs to Unreasonable People
    The CECA Loop
  2. Elastic Management
    Kurt Lewin’s Force-field Analysis
  3. Predicting Behaviour
    Lewin’s equation for predicting behaviour
Share this:
Posted on

Team Building

The Management Pocketbooks Pocket Correspondence Course

Pocketblog has gone back to basics. This is part of an extended management course.


Team building is one of those things that many managers – and professional trainers – get badly wrong. I think that part of the reason for this is that there is no simple underlying model that helps people to understand what it is, what they need to to achieve and therefore how to select and combine team-building activities effectively.

So here is a model to fill that void, in the sure and safe knowledge that there will always be a vast number of team building activities that you can access on the web, simply by searching on:

‘team building activities/exercises/games.’

A Model for Team Building

Creating a model needs a strong definition as a starting point and I will start with my own definition of a team.

‘A team is a small number of people who collaborate to achieve a shared goal.’

You will see that I have highlighted five of the words in the definition, which help us understand what team building is and is not. By looking at each of these words in turn, we can get some valuable insights.

Small

A team is a small group of people. This is not the place to get into the definition of ‘small’ and how different sizes of team operate. For our purposes, it tells us that there has to be some selection that stops the team from becoming too big and ceasing to function properly as a team. The selection takes place before the team comes together, or sometimes is a culling process to remove unwanted members from the team to improve its performance.

While this may well be a trigger for needing team building, it is not, itself, a team building process. All of the other four highlighted words lead to team building interventions.

Team Building Model

Goal

A team needs a goal to work towards and some team building activities are focused on creating one, interpreting what is already there, or articulating the goal in compelling and powerful manner. These sort of team building activities are about more than just rallying around a banner – they give team members a sense of purpose, because a good goal answers their need for meaning in their work, by answering the question:

‘why are we here, doing what we are being tasked to do?’

People

Meaningless team cliché number one: ‘There is no I in team’. A team that is not made up of individuals, each with their own passions, experiences, skills and perspectives has no power to it. So some team building activities are designed to emphasise these differences and make team members aware of the resources that their fellows bring.

The sort of activities that we find are discovery, exploration, sharing and respect activities, which answer the question:

‘who am I working with and what can they contribute?’

Shared

Working together, towards a shared goal requires an infrastructure, norms of behaviour, procedures, organisation and motivating culture. Consequently we sometimes need team building activities that will help create these from scratch, modify what we have, if it is not working, or embed what is working to make it more efficient.

These sort of activities answer the question:

‘how will we work together in an effective manner?’

Collaboration

By far the most activities that you will find are focused around our fourth priority; collaboration. These activities work on team necessities like communication, trust, relationship building, problem solving, negotiation, decision-making and conflict resolution. many exercises that you will find deal with these and, helping to build the capability to get on well with one another. Trainers and facilitators love these sorts of exercise and know them well, so avoid the trap of getting drawn into doing one of these when the collaboration dimension is not your top team building priority.

Three top tips

  1. Make sure, before you start planning any team-building activities or events, you know what your reasons are and what objectives you have in setting out. Set yourself a success criterion that answers the question: ‘how will you know if the event or activity has worked?’ Use this as the basis for selecting, designing and planning your event. Ideally build yourself a business case to demonstrate that your plans are worth the costs.
  2. Ensure that your activities have a real link to what your team does and needs to do. Team members will quickly become de-motivated if they fail to spot a good answer to the question: ‘why are we being asked to do this?’
  3. Make sure that whatever you plan is fully inclusive and that every member of your team will be able to participate with minimum barriers – physical and mental. Any barriers there are will create tensions an divisions in your team, undermining your objectives.

Further Reading

  1. The Teambuilding Activities Pocketbook
  2. The Teamworking Pocketbook
  3. Collaborative Working Pocketbook
Share this: