As a member of a group we are often very busy with our day to day tasks. We don’t have much time to focus on how to become better as a team. This means we have to be very efficient in the way we do it.
This article is about team strategies and what we can do to improve teamwork. We really want to have a strong focus on what we can do to efficiently become better over time. Regular reflection and improvement methods like retrospectives is great for this purpose, but when it comes to efficiency these kind of methods will always be reactive. Something happens, we reflect, we improve. If every team member knew what we are aiming for as a team, we would be much more proactive about our approach to improvement. We need to ask ourselves questions like what we really want to achieve, how we ideally want to work. A good place to start is to look at what motivates us. Dan Pink has mapped out three intrinsic elements that motivate us at work: purpose, mastery and autonomy.
A great way of finding a purpose to our work is to develop a team vision. We are highly motivated by our visions. A vision can be a dream about a better future or an ideal state. We are also motivated by the opposite, what we want to avoid or what happens if we don’t aim for that better future. Every team should have a common vision about what type of culture they want, and what they don’t want. It creates a path that guides you in the direction you want to evolve. To give you an example, our team vision at Evetro is not to create a digital system to support retrospectives. Our purpose is to help others to be motivated, thrive and perform at work. This gives our team meaning, it is something we can provide that has a positive effect on the society. Creating a vision gives each team member a purpose to their work.
If we don’t develop visions and strategies for our teams, it is very likely that each team member will have a different vision for how the team really should function. Lack of a team vision lead to increased misunderstanding, longer discussion and less effective decisions. We need to spend more time figuring out solutions that works for everyone. If we have a vision that we regularly update and communicate in the team, many of the decisions can be directed towards this visions. To set a direction for where we want to go, radically improves the efficiency of our discussions and decision.
Having a common vision creates common ground. Our ability to find similarities in what we know and what we believe. Common ground is essential for people to understand each others and for trusting each other. Team strategies does not work if only a few members practice it. It is when everyone in the team moves in the same direction that we really create motivation and efficiency.
Mastery is the desire to continually improve at something that matters. People love getting better at things and having the feeling of progress. To become better and stay motivated we need to know how we are doing and how we can improve. We need clear and constant feedback. To get feedback efficiently we need good systems in place. A good example from the software industry is a programmer who codes and also do quality testing. The programmer will immediately get feedback on his or her work. While receiving feedback on your individual work is important, it does not give you any feedback on other important areas. When it comes to certain tasks and situations it can be hard to both give and receive feedback in a natural way. That is why running retrospectives is handy because it systematically provides feedback from the entire team.
Autonomy is the desire to direct our own lives. It is the opposite of having managers giving you orders on how you should work. Autonomy is about the liberty to choose for yourself how you can do your own job the best possible way. In other words you empower employees to choose what to work on, when, how and who they want to work with. It is much more motivating for employees to have a goal and choose for themself how they are going to reach that goal. When we are able to direct our own work we are more motivated to develop the necessary skills to succeed.