Every team changes over time. Some teams just keep on getting better. Some shoot up rapidly only to crash and crater out. Others take a long time to find their footing but once they do they flourish.

The model from Richard Tuckman that teams go through a process of Forming -> Storming -> Norming -> Performing (and then Adjournment or Mourning) does not describe all the different trajectories that team performance can take or the reasons for them.

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There are two to three root causes of team performance that underlie the Forming -> Storming -> Norming -> Performing process: resourcing, goal alignment and skills. 20160222_2

Resources

Most teams do not have the right resources available when they start a project. Sometimes they are over resourced, which imposes its own costs and delays, more often they are under resourced, as the exact resources needed are hard to know at the beginning of a project.

Eventually the right resources are brought in (one hopes) and the project team has what it needs to succeed. Resources include people with the right skills and all the other software, hardware, consumables and even information that are needed. (It is a useful to model information as a resource that contributes to project success).

Goals

Goal alignment is one of the most difficult things for a team to achieve but it is critical to performance. It is hard to get anywhere fast if people are pulling in different directions. Goal alignment depends on open conversations between team members, project sponsors and even with clients. These are conversations, not directives, and they unfold over time.

Goal alignment is not something that once achieved can be put aside and forgotten about. Goals change at all levels, for the people, the team and the organization, so the goal conversation is something that has to be renewed regularly.

Skills

Skills are where TeamFit makes the most direct contribution. There are four ways in which skills evolve over the course of a project.

  • Skill requirements come into focus – it is virtually impossible to know all the skills required at the beginning of any non-trivial projects
  • The team grows its skills – as people take on new challenges they naturally grow their skills. If a team is not gaining new skills over the course of a project that should be a red flag in itself.
  • Complementary skillsets emerge and are clarified. Teams with strong sets of complementary skills perform better. People bring complementary skills into teams, but sometimes it takes time to discover them and new sets of complementary skills can emerge.
  • Connector skills

For more on complementary skills and connector skills and the role they play in team performance see “What skills will you develop in 2016? Building, Connecting and Applying Skills.

What blocks the growth of team performance, or causes a successful team to stumble and then fall?

  • Goals do not come into alignment or fall out of alignment
  • Resources are not correctly identified and then applied
  • Skills are not developed
  • Skills are not connected

One of our goals in developing TeamFit is to improve team performance and over the course of 2016. We will be providing support for goal alignment, resource identification and of course skill management.

Send us your ideas on how to do this!