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Good teams are clear about their task

by Sarah-Jane Dale

18 June 2020

Team working should always be about the task. After all, this is the purpose of establishing team working in the first place.

Task focus refers to team members’ preparedness to examine their team performance critically and is extremely important in predicting team performance. Teams that are task focused also take pride in the quality of their work and can describe their stakeholder’s needs accurately.

The 4 components of task focus that are most important in terms of predicting team performance:

 

1. Client focus

Some teams get so caught up with their internal processes that they forget about the role of customers and other stakeholders in determining their success or failure. Effective teams know who their key client and stakeholder groups are. They develop systems and processes to maintain knowledge about the needs of these groups and about their stakeholders’ perceptions of the team’s performance.

2. Concern for quality

By making outstanding performance of the task their first priority, even under external pressures, teams are better able to resist the pressures to conform, the dangers of ‘Groupthink’ and the tendency to develop defensive routines.

3. Constructive debate

Research by Dean Tjosvold and others1 suggests that when teams explore opposing opinions carefully and discuss them cooperatively, the quality of decision-making and team effectiveness is dramatically increased. Constructive debate enhances levels of trust, safety and support within the team, which in turn increases confidence to innovate and to build partnerships with other teams.

Download our suggested framework for a team discussion around inter-professional credibility

4. Error management

All teams make errors and mistakes at some time; it is a feature of human nature made more likely by the complexity of interactions between different team members. The most successful teams regard errors and mistakes as opportunities for learning. They take time out to analyse the source of errors and make plans to adapt team structures, processes and behaviours accordingly.

By addressing these factors upfront, teams can encourage high quality task focus and excellence in decision-making. The payoff will be huge in terms of service levels and almost every important measure of operational performance.

1 West, Tjosvold and Smith 2003

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