The Simple Secret to Team Success: “Road Trip”

Road Trip Adventure
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North Americans (OK, maybe just those of us who are Yankees) love simple solutions, especially to complex problems.

We want a pill to cure obesity (instead of a change in diet, lifestyle, better sleep, and appropriate physical activity) and student testing to cure educational ills (in lieu of better teacher training and development, better resourcing, smaller class size, and greater parental involvement).

Sometimes though, as Eric Berlow has suggested, complexity does lead to simplicity.

Take teams, and team success (and some wag will suggest, please, take them away.)

The formula for team success, taken from the research of team experts Jon Katzenbach and Douglas Smith of “Wisdom of Teams” note can be distilled (if you want simplicity) to a process I call Road Trip and has four steps:

  1. Clear sense of destination (where are we going, what are we responsible for, what’s the vision, etc.)
  2. Identified deliverable(s) and milestone(s)? (what the things that we are responsible for delivering, producing, etc.)
  3. Well understood roles and responsibilities (who is responsible for doing what)?
  4. Agreed rules of engagement (how will we behave /  operate with each other and any other stakeholders?)

As someone who splits time between coaching individuals (exec coaching) and coaching teams (start-up teams, and leadership teams), Road Trip is about as simple as it gets. Not to suggest (as I might) tossing aside multiple psychometric tools that support a large cottage industry, or endless off-sites where people pretend they are the persona of their favorite animal or car, but teams actually can perform quite well with some basic foundational work found in Road Trip.

If you have reasonably decent talent, an OK strategy, and fair resources for execution your team can follow that path (with a little outside facilitation) and they are on their way to success. Throw in the obligation for the team lead (or manager or sponsor) to enforce compliance every once and a while as needed,  you have the simple secret to team success.

Leaders still (need to) set direction and deliverables (Steps 1 & 2) as USC’s Susan Morhman would suggest if the team is self-directed, but otherwise that’s all there is to it.

Sometimes you really can find simplicity behind complexity.

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, career and team / leadership coaching services can be found at the “About J. Mike Smith and Back West, Inc.” sidebar or the “Hire Me” tab above. You can also read an online interview with me at WhoHub, as well as participate in my learning community courtesy of KnowledgeCrush.

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