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When is the ‘right’ time to check how effective a team could be?

by Lynn Markiewicz

6 July 2016


Lynn MarkiewiczRecently I was asked by a newly accredited ATPI facilitator*: ‘Is one week in too early to use the ATPI with this team?’

Historically my answer would have been ‘far too early’. We all know that teams need to go through the forming, storming and norming cycle before we assess their potential to become the sort of high performing, innovative team we need.

But have things changed?

To wait or not to wait?

When I suggested that it might be better to wait for a couple of months the facilitator’s response was: ‘But we can’t wait that long to know if they are going to fail – their task is far too important to the future of the organisation’.

And of course this is what we in organisations often do, we bring people together to plan complex services, resolve difficult problems and develop innovative solutions, usually with too little time and too few resources, and the next time we hear from them is when they are struggling.

Of course the ATPI report for a team that has been together for a short time is likely to have some areas for significant improvement. If it doesn’t, the team has probably not yet emerged from the ‘forming’ stage where everyone is still cautious about being critical.

As one Chief Executive put it: ‘Now that I am clear about the factors which are likely to prevent my team from performing well, I can do something about them’.

What is important is the discussion that the ATPI report promotes between team members. As one Chief Executive put it: ‘Now that I am clear about the factors which are likely to prevent my team from performing well, I can do something about them’. The advantage of having this information early on in the life of the team is that team members can pro-actively work together to build the firm foundations upon which future innovation and success will delivered.

We are sometimes too cautious about team assessment

When I am working with ‘teams in trouble’ I almost always at some point hear someone say: ‘If we’d known this a year ago we wouldn’t have got into this state’. They are right – it takes a lot less time and energy to build an effective team than to recover a failing team – and it’s a lot more fun!

Team AssessmentI am grateful for the challenge to my thinking that our new colleague brought to me. It has helped me to clarify the ‘right’ time in my own mind:

  1. We are sometimes too cautious about team assessment – often waiting for the time when the team can produce the perfect team report. But what is important is gaining an accurate picture of how things are now and using this to prompt discussion about, and enthusiasm for, creating a far more positive and productive future.
  2. The pace of change and shortness of deadlines suggests that the static team stages model is indeed no longer a useful framework within which to make decisions about longer term team potential.
  3. Using a team assessment tool should not be a rare event – we need all team members to be aware of the dimensions of effective team working to enable them to become actively engaged in building teams which achieve their full potential and do not become ‘troubled’.

*Accredited Facilitator – Aston Team Performance Inventory

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