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Self Directed Teams

Once a High Performance Team understands its charter and has worked through its norms, it is ready to get down to the business of solution building, planning and implementing the plan. Ideally, the team should select its own leader. This person's primary role will be to interface with other teams and coordinate team activities. The team leader should strive to avoid taking over the team, imposing his or her ideas on the team, or becoming the sole conduit of information to management. As the team meets and works together the team leader should assume a equal position with the other team members. Some team's find it helpful to rotate team leadership to give everyone experience. At the pinnacle of high performance team operation anyone on the team should be able to lead the team and everyone would feel comfortable with that possibility.

The sponsoring manager is responsible for defining objectives for the team - the "what" that the team needs to accomplish. To the largest extent possible, "how" the team accomplishes the objectives should be left to the team to decide. The sponsoring manager should be mentally prepared to support the team's chosen approach so long as the approach to achieving the objectives are within moral, ethical, and legal bounds. The sponsoring manager must recognize that the team may choose a path that appears less than optimal to the management team. When this occurs it is critical for management to recognize that achievement of the teams objectives is more dependent on the team's enthusiasm for its own solution than the quality of the solution. High Performance teams are asked to accomplish objectives within timeframes that are truly stretch objectives. Management must give the team the maximum latitude possible for achieving objectives that, at the outset, seem nearly impossible.

The relationship between the team and sponsoring management should be mutually supportive. The team delivers what management needs in the way of results. Management delivers what the team needs in terms of resources, political support, and recognition.

When a High Performance Team meets with top management to report on its activities, the entire team should attend and should, so far as possible, have as many team members as possible involved in the presentation. Team members should be encouraged to speak up during presentations in order to demonstrate co-equality and solidarity with the team. This is very important, as it is quite natural for managers to seek to identify individual team leaders. Once a manager gets the idea that one or two individuals are driving a team, the manager will direct future questions and comments about the team to those individuals. As a result, the other team members will pick up on this phenomenon and may withdraw participation, withdraw support, or defer to the de facto team leaders.

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