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An Introduction to Employee Involvement and Teamworking
By Bob Boddy

Criteria to be Met
Essential Factors for Success
Structure for the Programme
Improvement Teams

Whatever service or product we supply it is important that everyone is involved in continuously seeking and implementing improvements. Improvements either to the service or product itself or to the way we carry out our work. Whether that responsibility is to deliver a piece of data, some documentation, a part completed product, the serving of lunch, or whatever. The ultimate state of continuous improvement is achieved when "everyone in a company is personally managing, and continuously improving their own processes individually and in teams".

A company’s greatest asset are its people, but what counts is how those people and their skills in an organisation are used. Get that right and you’re on your way.

Why Team Working?
It is one of the most effective ways of enabling employees at all levels to use their creative abilities to improve the performance of the organisation they work for, and the quality of their own working life.

The benefits include:
Development of interpersonal, analytical, and leadership skills
Instilling a quality consciousness among all employees
Higher quality product
More effective use of resources
More individual job satisfaction
Improved two-way communications between employees and their management

Criteria to be met before the introduction of Team Working
A Team Working programme can yield dramatic results but it must not be treated as another management technique which can be used and simply discarded. Once begun, it will raise expectations among people who will therefore feel badly let down if management lose interest or commitment before a programme has taken root. This is not to say it will always be seen as a high profile activity; a healthy development should, over a period of years, become accepted as part of the normal way of life of the organisation.

What is a Team?
A small group of people with complimentary skills who are committed to a common purpose, a set of performance goals and an approach for which they hold themselves mutually responsible.

Before embarking on a programme it is recommended that an organisation should consider if it meets the following criteria:

A company culture which would support a participative approach
The management will need an open style which will allow free expression and which will avoid criticisms like " the manager should have thought of that" when a team comes up with a solution. There must also be a willingness to provide the relevant facts and figures to enable employees to make an informed contribution.
Employee relations must be reasonably healthy
Teams will improve an healthy climate; they will not cure a bad one.
Acceptance of long term commitment
Getting the programme of the ground will take time. Although there have been dramatic exceptions it is generally several months before usable results are obtained.
Willingness to provide sufficient company resources
There may be consultants fees; there will certainly be a need for proper training and training materials.
Availability of Management attention
The timing of introduction should be judged so that management attention will not be diverted to managing other unrelated change. For example it would be reasonable to time the introduction to coincide with a programme to improve quality or competitiveness, but it would be better to hold back if a major office move or a new production process was imminent.

Essential factors for success
While many factors contribute to a successful on-going programme, experience shows the following are vitally important:

Voluntary participation (to start with)
Members of teams and leaders must want to participate and it is normal to ask for volunteers at the commencement of a programme but over a period of time, usually three to four years it should evolve as normal practice and everyone in the organisation should be encouraged to become involved.
Top management support
The most senior manager of the unit must be committed to the programme – making it clear by example that all the management team are expected to give their active support.
Operational management support
Management must be seen to be interested by allowing employees time for regular team meetings, visiting meetings and giving encouragement and support for projects and implementation of solutions.
Facilitator guidance
At least one suitable individual must be able to devote sufficient time to the programme. This activity can be combined with other duties, but facilitating in excess of 15 teams can be a full time job.
Facilitators, leaders and team members must be properly trained in team skills and problem solving tools and techniques. At the beginning of a programme the facilitator (and often the first leaders) are trained by a specialist consultant or other professionally competent resource. The facilitator can subsequently train others. Top and middle operational management at all levels must be trained and be fluent in problem solving techniques. This knowledge will help them to support their teams.
Shared work background
Teams should initially be formed from people from the same work area. Shared work knowledge helps a faster development of the essential teamwork and also helps the teams to contain problems to those under its members direct control.
Solution Oriented
Teams must work in a systematic way identifying and defining problems – not just discussing them – investigating causes, devising and testing solutions and being involved in the implementation of solutions.
Teams are not paid directly for their solutions but management should arrange recognition by means of verbal and visible interest in the teams projects and well being or whatever they consider appropriate.

Structure for the programme
The arrangements for managing a programme will need to be tailored to meet the structure and practices of each particular organisation. Nevertheless experience has shown that successful programmes nearly always include some form of `steering` or overall management committee, a`facilitator` who has overall responsibility for providing support to all or part of the programme, and properly trained `leaders`.

Steering Committee
The steering committee oversees the implementation and progress of the entire programme.

The facilitator is accountable for monitoring the health of the programme. The duties will usually include training, being present to help at initial team meetings, reporting on programme health to the steering committee, keeping a watching brief on the implementation of solutions, obtaining necessary funds for facilities, coordinating with management a timetable of meetings, publicising and extending the programme and keeping in touch with developments.

In larger companies, where a team programme will be started in several different locations, with several facilitators, a coordinator may be appointed to look after the health of the overall programme.

At the commencement of a programme the leader is usually a person (such as a supervisor) to whom the team members would report to in their natural work environment, however as the team matures and more teams are formed it is good practice to encourage team members to take on the role of leader

A supervisor is by nature already a team leader, so the new role in teams is perceived as a natural extension which needs some extra training for the new skills involved. Where the team leader is not the natural supervisor of the work group, more extensive training will be needed and care must be taken not to threaten normal reporting lines.

Improvement teams
There are three basic types of improvement team:
Workplace Improvement Teams (WIT’S)
Corrective Action Teams (CAT’S)
Process Improvement Teams (PIT’S)

In any organisation all three types can work effectively and supplement each other to advantage, the following is a definition of each type:

Workplace Improvement Team (WIT)
There are many names given to this type of team by organisations world-wide and they include, Kaizen Teams, Customer Focus Groups, Quality Circles, to name but a few and these are usually made up of a group of people who work in the same area, who meet together regularly to analyse and provide solutions to problems that effect them.

Having by consensus, decided which problem to tackle they will proceed to solve it. The team, under the guidance of a fully trained leader, will then follow the problem solving cycle and bring to bear all the various problem solving tools and techniques that it has been taught, such as brainstorming, data collection, project evaluation, pareto analysis, cause and effect analysis, etc.

Having found the main causes of the problem, and determined the solution and remedial action, they implement and evaluate their solution with management approval and support. They then select another project and repeat the cycle.

Corrective Action Team (CAT)
Sometimes referred to as Cross Functional or Multi-Disciplinary Teams. These are usually created by management to tackle a specific problem that requires specialist knowledge drawn from a wide area to address the problem. The problem may well have been identified by a workplace improvement team an individual or management.

The team under the guidance of an appointed leader will apply the problem solving process and tools as used by the WIT’S. The frequency and duration of meetings will be decided by the team in collaboration with the appointing managers. On completion and implementation of the project the team is normally disbanded.

A Process Improvement Team (PIT)
Different to the other two types of team in one important way. WIT’S and CAT’s are reacting to identified problems, but Process Improvement Teams are proactively addressing areas of possible improvement. They analyse current processes which are operating in the prescribed part of the operation and try to identify changes that will improve the operation.

Members of the team are nominated by Management and should represent all areas of the process. The team under the guidance of an appointed leader will apply the same tools and techniques used by the WIT’s and CAT’s. The frequency and duration of meetings will be decided by the team in collaboration with management. On completion and implementation of the project the team is usually disbanded.

The number of teams in action at anyone time will depend on the resources available to support them. With any kind of team the nucleus around which the team revolves is the leader, but he or she cannot do everything. A good leader delegates tasks to team members so that everyone feels part of the team. A wise leader keeps in touch with all related management and everyone else that is likely to be affected by the teams activities.

To develop an effective team culture in any organisation requires training, training in the essential skills of Leadership and Team Development, Problem Solving Tools and Techniques and having the Structures in place to support the teams. Without proper training in the necessary tools and techniques failure is almost certain to occur and you rarely get a second chance.

A recent survey of over one hundred manufacturing company’s highlighted that the main reasons for team programme failure, in descending order were:

The benefits include:
Lack of Senior Management Commitment / Strategy
Lack of Training in Essential Team Skills
Selecting Projects that are too big or too complex
No Recognition
Expecting too much too soon from teams


Bob Boddy is a partner of Quality Through Teamwork and provides specialist training for all levels of employee on leadership and team development skills for both the private and public sectors.






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