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Small steps towards creating a high-performance team

Traditional ways of operating are a thing of the past. As organisations seek to adapt to the changing environment, there is a focus on how best to create and maintain high performance.  Increasingly, organisations are looking to line managers to create ‘high performance’ within their teams with the view that if all teams within an organisation are ‘high-performance teams’ then there is a greater likelihood that the organisation can become a high-performance organisation. So, what can be done to start the process of creating high performance within a team?

The complexities of operating in a global economic environment, the changing dynamics within the workforce including the evolving expectations of employees, the rapid advancements in technology and real-time information and communication, and the changing demands and expectations of customers require organisations continually to review their current methods of work in order to respond to the changing environment and remain competitive.

One of the many responses to these environmental factors is the focus on ‘high performance’ and the drive to become a ‘high-performance organisation’. But, what are small, practical steps that can be undertaken to start the process of creating (and maintaining) high performance within a team?

Step 1: Assess the current state within a team
A clear understanding of the characteristics of a high-performing team, followed by an assessment of the current state within the team (mapped to the characteristics of a high-performance team), would be a good starting point. There are numerous simple, easy-to-understand ‘high-performance team’ frameworks that can be used as a diagnostic tool to explore how a team functions. 

Step 2: Examine the findings
Once the ‘diagnostic’ phase has been completed, the next step towards creating high performance would be through a facilitated team session to examine the findings. These sessions provide the opportunity to explore the views and experiences of individuals and gain an understanding of what currently happens within the team. 

Step 3: Create an action plan
Using the characteristics of a high-performance team framework as the benchmark,  team members can then create an action plan that allows them to identify specific actions that can be undertaken to move the team closer to the ‘desired state’ of a high-performance team.

Step 4: Implement the agreed-upon actions
Once the action plan has been determined, team members should commit to implementing the agreed-upon actions.

5: Monitor and evaluate
Implementing the actions and hoping for the best is not, however, enough. It is important for the team continually to monitor and evaluate the extent to which it is demonstrating the behaviours associated with a high-performance team. For this reason, regular follow-up team sessions to review the current state, explore any challenges and find ways to move forward is encouraged.

By proactively adopting the actions detailed above, teams and organisations can effectively start the process of building high-performance practices and behaviours.

Steven Carlin is a faculty member of USB-ED, based in Gauteng. His areas of expertise include Management, Leadership and Organisation Development, High-performance Teams and Participative Problem Solving.

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