Why A Team’s Process Is As Important as the Product

I am reminded every day about the importance that teams play at work. My appreciation of teams started early in my career but it was quite a while later that I studied the team process as a graduate student in my forties. In one course, I practiced the strategies to build effective teams at a state government agency I worked for at the time. Today as a business owner and consultant, I use what I learned then and gained more experience in the team process through delivering services to clients. These services include collaborative projects with newly formed and seasoned teams. To this day, I refer to Susan Wheeler’s book, Creating Effective Teams: A Guide for Members and Leaders in its fifth edition.

It is okay when a team spins and circles back to what seems like the same discussion. New membership may contribute to this but it is part of the process to build a team’s common understanding or common ground when there are different viewpoints. Sometimes the team members share the same goal or value but they have different ways to get there. An effective team gets that and defines a structure to move forward when conflict comes up. It may take more than one meeting time to get to this place and different strategies to get the team members to focus on what they agree on rather than what they disagree about, which interferes with the process and result.

Some strategies from Wheeler’s book and my experience to support the team process includes:

  • Discuss with the team why it is important to work together as a team from the viewpoint of the company, partners, customers, and each team member. Teams are often brought together by  leadership but each team member can become engaged by knowing how the team’s work adds value to their work.
  • Identify a structure to resolve disagreements and track key decisions for the record. This helps reduce the amount of time in the team process to circle back to conversations that seem the same. It also reduces confusion that can plague team meetings.
  • Celebrate a team’s achievement and recognize the process that got the team to that place.

Team members may appreciate the process more and understand that different viewpoints and debate helped the team succeed.