When team members trust one another, engage in healthy conflict around issues, commit to the decisions they make, and hold one another accountable, there’s a pretty good chance they will succeed. And yet… sometimes they don’t. When teams manage the first four dysfunctions of teams that commonly cause project failures, they still might fail. Why does this happen? Human nature.
We have a strong tendency to look out for ourselves before others, even when others are part of our families and teams. And because teams are made up of fallible human beings, they often stumble. They lose sight of the ultimate measure of a great team: Achieving the results they were designed to achieve.
Inattention to Results
Without team accountability, the criticality of group success is lost in the shuffle. Self-preservation and self-interest trump results in a climate of distrust and fear. Your inability to track results leaves you with no way to judge ongoing success or failure, progress or pitfalls. No one is praised for good results, and no one is corrected for the lack thereof. As this trail of dysfunction reaches its fatal end, it won’t be long before the team is disbanded.
This type of team scenario is logged as yet another failure. Leaders who allow this to happen may not be capable of learning from their mistakes, and their ability to prevent similar results in the future is severely compromised.
Effective project management methods must track progress toward intermediate and final goals. Affirm team members (and their interdependence) through their accomplishments and struggles. This draws them together and lets them know they’re valuable to the organization, team and, ultimately, themselves.
Working through issues and encouraging people to provide candid responses foster the discipline needed to reverse a trail of dysfunction. Your people will focus less on self-preservation and more on the group’s efforts to achieve common goals.
The process begins with trust. If you establish trust from the start, you’re on the road to minimizing dysfunctions. Even if your team is deeply entrenched in a project before trust is built, it’s not too late to assess functioning. Take advantage of continuing-education opportunities, leadership training and executive coaching to help prevent dysfunction pitfalls.
Team coaching is also recommended, as it teaches skills and tactics for contributing to organizational success, thereby reversing any longstanding trends of project failure.