Building effective teams is a common challenge for most businesses. How do you assemble the right mix of people and expertise to deliver the most efficient and effective outcome?
Sometimes, the things business owners believe matter most aren't really priorities in building great teams, says Richard E. Spoon, founder of Lafayette, La.-based business consulting firm ArchPoint Consulting. Spoon, who spent more than 17 years at Campbell Soup Company and Procter & Gamble, advises his clients to focus on three key areas before staffing a team.
1. Clear direction.
Sometimes, companies are in such a hurry to move on their projects that they pull together groups of people without first deciding on the goals and desired outcomes, says Spoon. In his book, Team Renaissance: The Art, Science and Politics of Great Teams (Old Man River Publishing, 2013), he explains that without a clear sense of what the team needs to accomplish and how a successful outcome will be defined, it's impossible to assemble the right group of people to get there.
Start at the end point: What is the outcome you want and why? Leave the team some flexibility to develop the best way to get there.
2. Efficient practices.
Once you know what you want to achieve, the next step is to look at the best way to proceed with the work, Spoon says. Look at the workflow and resources available to help you understand the scope of the project and what support the team will need to be successful.
Is your organization prepared to support the team in its objectives? Will they have the right tools and resources to complete their tasks? How will you measure their efficiency during the process and monitor it for improvement? These are important questions to ask upfront to ensure that the team will be as effective as possible.
3. Defined roles.
Roles might shift somewhat once the team is assembled, but understand the skill sets and thinking styles are needed on the team. If a team needs to develop a new product for market, that team will need a detail-oriented person (the task-master), who is methodical and can keep the team on track.
The explorer will be more of a big-picture thinker who can help the team see what is possible. The number-cruncher will take charge of measurement and metrics. It's possible your team will have other roles to fill, but you should have a good handle on those roles before you begin staffing.
Once you have a plan for those basics, begin choosing the strongest team members to carry out the project. While personalities are typically secondary concerns, team members do need the basics to be successful, he says. "[A successful team] starts with a purpose and good structure before anything else," he says.
Related: How to Build a Brilliant Team