[Life Back West] February 2009 – “What I Learned at School Today”

I am no speechwriter nor am I a speech analyst: I stick to my knitting coaching teams and execs. But a “lite” version of an exercise I utilize I call “Road Trip” was one of the things my son learned at school Tuesday, January 20th as he and all the other kids from the lower grades watched the inaugural speech of a new President of the United States . As Barack Obama spoke that day he charted out a destination for the nation, milestones and deliverables for all of us, thoughts on the roles and responsibilities between citizens, private sector and government, and some suggestions on how we as a nation carry on amongst ourselves.

Road Trip is one of my favorite, nimble, and durable tools. As someone who works with leadership and start-up teams in the realms of team performance and team building, the exercise gets teams and groups moving quickly and nimbly to where they need to go. Road Trip is essentially a series of facilitated questions for team members to answer and work, which forms the basis of a team agreement and action plan.

It’s also flexible: coupled with pre-session interviews, Road Trip becomes a simple, powerful and accurate diagnostic tool identifying where teams are performing well, and where bumpiness exists. As a group facilitation tool, it gives participants a straightforward mechanism to gauge their progress both during the session(s) and with any follow-on work.

The development of Road Trip is based on a body of research that has demonstrated that enduring teams that are successful and effective have four key characteristics nailed:

  1. A clear sense of direction and destination(s).
  2. Identified, well informed (think Smart goals ) deliverables / milestones.
  3. Understood and accepted roles and responsibilities.
  4. Clear and committed “rules of engagement” that team members accept, affirm, support and promote. (Rules of Engagement sample in Word Doc format can be found on this page http://www.utctraining.com/resources.html )

While the Road Trip exercise is not so sexy, and definitely not Kumbaya-ish, it is extremely effective and durable. It gives teams (and team leaders) an actionable road map for where they’re going, what they’ll do and see, who is doing what, and how they’ll work together.

It’s nice to see that a good simple tool like Road Trip can be used in a variety of ways. And while we all will watch to see how Obama’s Team America does, you can also score your work team’s own progress .

Life Back West is an occasional set of writings focused on ways people, teams and organizations can be both more effective (doing the right thing) and more efficient (doing the right thing well). More about executive and team coaching services can be found at the “About J. Mike Smith and Back West, Inc.” sidebar or the “Hire Me” tab above.