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 Team Concepts
 Decision Making
 Additional Cheer Examples
 Self-Directed Teams
 Sense of Urgency
 Team Learning
 High Performance Operating Teams
 Community of Interest
 Communication Plan
 Team Resources
 Team Building
 Team Charter
 Charter Example
 Essential Elements
 Developing a Team Vision
 Selecting Team Members
 Diversity of Perspective
 Cross Functional
 Process Owner
 Trust, Respect and Support
 Reading List
 True Tales of True Teams
 EDS Medicare Systems Support Team
 Productivity Services
 EDS Production Improvement Team
 Coaching High Performance Teams
 Teaching Essential Elements
 Trust Building Exercises
 Saturn Excell Course
 Who's Got a Dollar
 Willow in the Wind
 Trust Walk
 Out of Control
 Global Vote
 Initial Team Agenda
 Getting Organized
 Team Building Exercises 
Warp Speed
 Warp Speed Reprise
 Spider Web
 Toxic Rescue
 The River
 Team Leading and Facilitation
 Coach Intervention
 About the Author

This Web site is a resource for businesses and organizations interested in harnessing the power of teams to achieve business objectives. Teams and teamwork represent a very powerful mechanism for getting results and achieving significant change in organizations. Over the past several years, much has been learned about the development and implementation of teams-- What works and what doesn't work. Teams are evolving that have the potential of replacing traditional hierarchical organization structures with very flat, self directed, cross functional, process oriented organization. High Performance Teams are a special class of team that has the ability to easily adapt in a rapidly changing world. High Performance Teams may be an essential element of any successful reengineering effort.

Team Concepts
Team Building
Coaching High Performance Teams
The Evolving Art and Science of Building Teams
About the Author
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Authorization is freely given to copy, reproduce, and distribute this text so long as recipients are not charged for this text. The author reserves the sole future right to publish and sell this material as a physical book.

Contact: [email protected]

Copyright (C) 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999 Donald J. Bodwell. All rights reserved.

High Performance Team Concepts

High Performance teams are created with a mission or purpose in mind. This purpose or mission should be expressed in the form of a written charter. Over time teams develop their own set of norms. Norms are rules or guides for team behavior and decision making. The idea of using teams to solve problems and achieve results is based, in part, on a concept that the collective brain power of a team far exceeds the ability of any manager. Therefore, to a large degree, teams are self-directed. High Performance Teams are also empowered. Teams are motivated by the challenge of achieving dramatic results within a short time-frame. It is quite normal for teams to thrash and churn during the early stages of development. This will usually appear chaotic to outsiders and team members alike. It is also normal for 75 percent of the real work of a team to be accomplished during the last 25 percent of the time allotted. Team members are expected to learn as they work together. Often the scope of work of a team touches or involves the activities of many people beyond the team itself--this external group can be referred to as the community of interest that must be included in the team's communication loop. All teams experience a shortage of resources. This phenomenon must be understood, expected, and available resources defined for the team from the team's inception.

Contact: [email protected]
Copyright (C) 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999 Donald J. Bodwell. All rights reserved.

Team Norms

Norms are the rules that the team agrees to follow as it conducts its work. Norms may be written or may evolve as unwritten understandings over time. Most newly organizing teams find it effective to start out with an initial set of norms with the understanding that these will need to be reviewed and modified frequently. Some teams decide to review norms at the beginning or end of each meeting. The establishment and adherence to team norms helps build team discipline, trust between team members, and supports a safe environment.

While team norms may touch on any aspect of team behavior the following are most commonly included:

    • Meetings will start on time. (Some teams include a penalty for being late. This may involve a small standard contribution to the team recreation fund, the requirement to take notes at the next meeting, or as one innovative team determined, the requirement to sing a few lines of the song of the team's choosing.)
    • A designated scribe will take minutes and publish them for all.
    • An agenda is published in advance and an initial step in team meetings is to agree on the amount of time allowed for discussion of each topic.
    • Decision making is by consensus. Consensus hopes for unanimous support. Individual team members may not fully agree with a team decision, but will fully support it.
    • Silence means consent. Since all team members are expected to contribute their views on issues and concerns, when the team achieves consensus, those remaining silent are understood to be supporters of the decision. Absence may also mean consent when the team agrees that absent members will be given notice of team decisions and the opportunity to express concerns prior to the decision becoming final.
    • Team members agree to hold themselves and each other accountable for meeting commitments made to fellow team members.

High Performance Teams usually include the following norms:

    • No Zingers. Zingers are put-downs or cheap shots directed at fellow team members. Zingers, while common in the American culture, show a lack of respect for team members and cause individual team members who receive zingers to mentally withdraw from team participation.
    • Celebrate Success. High Performance Teams take time-outs to recognize small steps or progress towards milestones or objectives. This act of recognizing small victories is essential in the development of team confidence and commitment. Individual contributions as well as overall team results can be identified by any team member for recognition by the entire team. Celebrations may take different forms but most often might involve a simple team cheer.
    • No Rank/All Peers. While it is best to start out with an elected or designated team leader, High Performance Teams strive to achieve a state where leadership migrates from one team member to another to take advantage of the skills or abilities of different team members as the topic or situation changes. A critical success factor in the development of High Performance Teams is the concept that all team members are equal in decision making and that every team member is valued and has a contribution to make. It is the responsibility and obligation of every team member to identify the skills and talents of all other team members and to encourage each team member to employ those talents in the teams progress toward objectives.
    • Have Fun. Working on a High Performance Team can and should be fun. But the team needs to recognize the importance of play in developing team spirit and morale. Deadly serious teams can create a Titanic mentality which will significantly lower chances for success. Humor and fun, so long as it is not at the expense of others, can help build energy and improve the teams ability to succeed. Time out needs to be taken for fun. This can be in the form of team building activities, team brain teaser problem solving, or new learning such as juggling, or drawing, poetry or song writing.
    • Quality Reviews. The team needs to consciously set time aside to monitor the quality of its work and progress towards goals. These quality checks can be as short as a minute or two where one member asks the others, "what did we learn? How could we improve our performance, based on what we have observed over the last few hours or days?"
Contact: [email protected]
Copyright (C) 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999 Donald J. Bodwell. All rights reserved.

Team Decision Making

How a team reaches agreement and commits to the agreement is an area of serious struggle for most teams. The common approach for working teams is to elect or appoint a leader who will try to guide their team's discussions to reach team consensus. Most High Performance teams shun this traditional model as potentially manipulative and detrimental to the building of trust that is so necessary for strengthening a High Performance Team. Since Americans come from democratic roots, it's natural for a team to want to set a standard of unanimous agreement--an ideal state that is difficult and sometimes impossible to achieve. Often the seemingly simple prospect of getting the whole team to agree to the time and place of the next meeting can turn out to be a virtual impossibility.

High Performance Teams are working under a deadline. The pressure to reach agreement and get started is enormous. As an alternative to unanimous agreement, some teams evolve to the majority rules model: A decision is called for, hands are raised in support and counted, and if more than half the total present agree, the decision is made and everyone is expected to support it. But as human beings we are both intellectual and instinctive. One or more team members may feel that a decision is wrong or will be ineffective but cannot articulate why they have reservations. Others may feel that the decision being agreed to might be right for the group as a whole but not right for them or the area of the organization or process that they represent. Still others may not fully understand what is being agreed to by the team as a whole.

When a team is not in full agreement on a decision or direction, or one or more of the team members disagrees, it is unrealistic to expect that those team members will adequately support the decision. People cannot execute decisions and plans they do not understand, and when they disagree with the majority direction they will be looking for the first opportunity to resurrect the decision for reconsideration. High Performance Team members understand this phenomenon and work together to test each other's support and understanding. While each team will have to find its own way to effective team decision making, one of the best models for testing for understanding and support is "thumbs up, thumbs down, or thumbs sideways." Thumbs up means I agree and fully support the decision. Thumbs sideways, means I have one or more reservations, but I can't think of anything better, and will support the decision. Thumbs down, means I don't or can't support the decision. Any thumbs down means further discussion is needed to understand the reasons for the thumbs down vote and to work some more on making the decision acceptable to all.

Then there is the issue of absentee team members. Ideally all team members are present when important decisions are being made. Even with careful advance agreement on meeting times and locations, emergencies, both business and personal, do arise. Since the support of all team members is critical to a team's success, High Performance teams will have to find ways to include absent members in the decision making process and gain their understanding and support.

Contact: [email protected]
Copyright (C) 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999 Donald J. Bodwell. All rights reserved.


The mentality of our society is that you either win or you lose. We wait until the end of the project or the end of the year to see if we achieved our final objectives before celebrating. But High Performance Teams are driven by energy that the team creates within itself. One source of building team energy is to stop frequently to check progress and to celebrate any small successes or victories. These may involve recognizing that some progress has been made towards the team goal, or that the team has learned a new technique for improving its quality, or simply that the team has learned a new thing about how to work together more effectively. Championship professional sports teams are a good model for High Performance Teams. Even the casual observer will note that teams stop to celebrate great plays, touchdowns, three point shots, or difficult goals. Win or lose, as the game progresses, these sports teams are building team energy with these small celebrations of success.

Small celebrations should be quick and invigorating. A typical celebration begins when a team member recognizes that the team has something it needs to celebrate. The team member voices the success to the other team members. Heads nod in agreement and the team member leads the others in a short cheer. The cheer can be elaborate or as simple as everyone trading high fives, or pumping their arms in the air and shouting, "one, two, three, YES!" Elaborate cheers might involve something usually observed at high school or college games that's been tailor to reflect the team's goal or identify.

Contact: [email protected]
Copyright (C) 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999 Donald J. Bodwell. All rights reserved.

Additional Cheer Examples

A Pat On The Back - Form the team into a circle facing inward. Ask the team to face to the right, place a hand on the upper back of the person in front and give that person three gentle pats on the back, simultaneously saying the words, "Way" [pat] "To" [pat] "Go" [pat]. Next, have the team face about and repeat the process with the person behind them. Finally, have each person repeat the cheer and give themselves a pat on the back.

The Corporate Cheer - Sometimes a corporation or organization has a highly focused strategic intent. When this is the case, the strategic intent can be converted into a cheer. As an example, if the organization is a corporation, it's strategic intent may be to out-perform a tough competitor, so its cheer might be "Beat Acme!". In another example, the team may have been chartered to achieve a highly focused goal. In this case the team cheer might become "Zero Defects", or "Cut inventory". When working up a new cheer based on strategic intent, the coach should consult the team to get their ideas about their perception of the organization's intent and an appropriate cheer.

Contact: [email protected]
Copyright (C) 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999 Donald J. Bodwell. All rights reserved.

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.

Contact: [email protected]
Copyright (C) 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999 Donald J. Bodwell. All rights reserved.

Empowered Teams

Much of the modern literature speaks about empowerment. For teams, the idea is that team members have control over the team's performance and behavior. Control is one source of power. Most power derives from the organization's management authority. A team is empowered by virtue of that power that is granted to it by management. A team charter is a very useful tool for helping a team and management understand just exactly what the team has power (or is empowered) to do. This can help avoid the problem that one manager observed about empowered teams, "They are like a tiger cub, at first they are eating all the mice and rats, after a year they are eating you."

Information is another source of power. To be effective, High Performance Teams need information, and lots of it. Some who are active in building teams believe that the teams should be told everything that could possibly help them in achieving their objectives. They need to know the financial condition of the organization. They need to know about pending organizational changes. They need to know what is going on in the market they are serving. Some top-managers believe that teams don't need this information or that widespread knowledge of this information could be dangerous for the organization. The opposite is more true. Teams that are trusted with sensitive information know that and take care to make certain that non-team members do not pick it up from them. They value that trust and will not betray it. Teams also need to clearly understand the organization's mission, vision for the future, and direction. Armed with this knowledge the team can much more rapidly achieve desired results. Such knowledge gives the team confidence in its decisions and energy to implement those decisions. Little time is wasted debating whether the proposed decision fits with the organization's direction or may be overturned down the road.

Access to resources is another source of power. A team's ability to succeed will depend in part on how free it is to use precious resources. Most people realize that with enough resources, anything can be accomplished. Yet most organizations are resource constrained. So there is often a very real tension between the team's need for resources to accomplish its objectives and the organization's need to conserve resources. One possible solution is provide the team with guidance on how quickly any substantial resource investment needs to be paid back in term of savings or new business.

Contact: [email protected]
Copyright (C) 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999 Donald J. Bodwell. All rights reserved.

Sense of Urgency

High Performance Teams need to work under a deadline for achieving objectives. Teams without deadlines invariably over-engineer plans and solutions. Without a deadline, the team's work can never really finish. Deadlines create a energy building sense of team commitment toward getting results. In short, they drive the team to perform.

An atmosphere of urgency will cause team's to start to experiment with problem solving. Though they rarely hit on the correct or best answer on the first attempt, the very process of trying will invariably lead to new learning, further innovation, and enhanced performance.


Contact: [email protected]
Copyright (C) 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999 Donald J. Bodwell. All rights reserved.


We all like and naturally gravitate toward order. Order makes us comfortable. We have a feeling of efficiency. Of things getting done or getting somewhere. As managers one of our primary responsibilities is to keep things working smoothly and orderly. When things get out of hand or become chaotic we get very uncomfortable. But when you are trying to bring about a cultural change, say from command and control to empowerment. Chaos is a necessary step that has to be experienced as the old order is abandoned and the new order is determined. When people work together to create a new order such as operating as High Performance Team they will have to experience the discomfort and chaos of letting go of the old ways and learning the new.

A High Performance Team will experience a number of chaotic situations as it learns to work together. Since the team does not have a formal leader and everyone's ideas are going to be considered, the team as well as casual observers will notice chaos at many points. This is normal. This is expected. This is necessary. Kevin Kelly, in his outstanding book Out of Control carefully explains that organisms that thrive and succeed over time constantly stand teetering on the edge of disaster. Their struggle to survive causes them to adapt and continuously try new models, many of which fail, while a few turn out to be far more efficient and effective than any that have gone before.

Contact: [email protected]
Copyright (C) 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999 Donald J. Bodwell. All rights reserved.

Team Learning

Another key concept of High Performance Teams concerns individual and team learning. Initially, a High Performance Team has a lot to learn: how to work together, how to make team decisions, how to develop and enforce norms, as well as the capabilities, talents, and skills of each fellow team member. These are important new learnings for newly forming teams. But for a team to become a sustaining High Performance Team other learnings are equally important.

As the team develops solutions and implementation plans, it needs to stop frequently and check its collective understanding for agreement. Frequent stops are also needed to check the quality of the team's output. Improvements to process need to be shared and understood by the entire team. What's working better, what's not working as well as before, and why and why not? This type of quality or learning check will need to have become ingrained by the time the team transitions to functioning as a High Performance Operating Team.

Contact: [email protected]
Copyright (C) 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999 Donald J. Bodwell. All rights reserved.

High Performance Operating Teams

High Performance Operating Teams are a logical extension of High Performance Teams. When a High Performance Team fulfills the objectives of its charter and its initial time frame, the team may continue life as an operational team. A High Performance Operating Team has responsibility for the operation and performance of a process. Typically such processes are cross-functional, that is, the processes extent across and through two or more functional areas or departments in an organization.

Depending on the scope and objectives of the original High Performance Team charter, a new or modified charter may need to be developed to define the responsibilities and authorities of the High Performance Operating Team. By now performance measures have been developed and refined and an on-going process has been implemented for monitoring the operating team's results. The High Performance Operating Team should be working together well with leaders identified and a natural level of management support in place.

As time goes by, old team members will depart and new team members will arrive. Remaining team members should stop to recognize and celebrate the contributions made by the departing team members. Newly arriving team members should be adopted by individual team members as team mentors. A team mentor would explain the norms and conventions used by the team and would actively seek to discover the new team members strengths, skills, and knowledge. A good mentor will promote the new team member to the other team members thereby speeding the new members acceptance by the overall team.

Contact: [email protected]
Copyright (C) 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999 Donald J. Bodwell. All rights reserved.

Community of Interest

When a team is commissioned it is often made up of a group of representatives from different parts of the organization. Each person may be a subject matter expert who understands the processes and activities within a department or a different part of a cross-functional process. This is not very unusual. In fact, this is the most frequent form of team composition. This is because it is usually impractical to include every person who will be involved in the operation of process or a significant implementation, in the day to day meeting and work of a high performance team.

Conventional wisdom is that teams over 20 people, some think over 15, become too unwieldy and lose the active participation of all team members. At the same time, a major change management principle embraces the notion that people will more readily accept and support a change in the way they work if they are included in the development of the solution. This presents a major dilemma for teams: How can the team be kept small enough to effectively work together and at the same time involve everyone? This is not a trivial matter in large organizations that may have several hundred people actively supporting a work stream or process. Extend the group to customers of the process and we wind up with a very large group of people who's collective buy-in is needed to assure successful change. This larger, extended team could be thought of as a community of interest.

Special efforts have to be used to involve the community of interest in the understanding of the initial team's charter and the collection of information the team needs to understand the existing operating model. Input and ideas need to be sought from the larger community of interest as the solution set is developed. Then, the community of interest needs to develop a shared understanding of the solution or high level plan and participate actively in the development and implementation of final, detailed plan. Successful teams organize, develop, and implement a communication plan to gain the participation, support, and finally the commitment of the community of interest.

Contact: [email protected]
Copyright (C) 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999 Donald J. Bodwell. All rights reserved.

Communication Planning

Communication Planning is extremely important in the building of High Performance Teams. A number of constituent groups need to be informed about the work and progress of the team. An early step in the formation of a High Performance team should focus on identifying an individual or sub-team to handle communication both within the team and with the parties that may be interested in the work of the team.

The working, or core team, needs to develop its own conventions and procedures for sharing information between each other. As ideas, research data, political forces, and team operating norms develop, the team needs to define its process for communicating with one another. Given that many teams are made up of members who are scattered around the country or around the world, it may be very impractical for the team to physically meet and work together for the entire duration of charter time-frame. A High Performance Team learns to take advantage of all the resources available to it. Communication technology is advancing very rapidly: telephone, paging, conference calling, E-mail, Voice-Mail, Lotus Notes, Video-conferencing, the World Wide Web, and emerging personal communication devices expand the team's optional methods of communication.

At a minimum, teams need to expect that fellow team members will, on occasion, be absent from scheduled team meetings. This can lead to serious disconnection's between absent team members and the team's work stream. One High Performance Team solved this problem by having team members pair off into two person "Buddy-Teams". Each team member is responsible for arriving a half hour early to update a buddy who could not attend the last team working session.

Beyond the communication needs of the team, are the team's communication needs outside its ranks. Decisions need to be made about the best way and how often to keep the sponsoring management group informed. If the charter is well written, it can serve to break down most barriers and resistance that forms. Occasionally, the sponsoring manager may need to intervene on the team's behalf or rein in its horns when the team exceeds its authority. The communication to the sponsoring management could take the form ofwritten status reports or formal presentations on progress, issues, and new resource needs. If the managing sponsor has a history of making sharp and frequent changes in direction, the team should consider writing the charter to authorize it to proceed from inception through implementation, explaining to the sponsor that it will only report at the end of the allotted time frame. Otherwise, the team runs the risk of experiencing significant changes in its charter, with the very real probability of losing momentum, enthusiasm, and successful project completion. Of course, some events are so powerful and overriding, that a team may have to stop, reevaluate its charter and change direction. Sale of the company or the end of governmental funding might constitute such an event.

The team needs to carefully plan its communication with its larger community of interest. How soon should the extended team that will have to implement the changes need to become involved in solution development and implementation planning in order to gain their full cooperation and participation? The same question applies to all customers who will experience changes wrought by the High Performance Team. The community of interest includes people who will be affected by the changes the team makes and those in a position of authority to approve or disapprove the changes.

Finally, other non-involved organizational members need to be told about the work and charter of the team. People imagine all sorts of things are going on when teams form. Usually the imagined possibilities are quite negative. Any secret team is going to be discovered and the rumors are going to start flying. Therefore, the official position of the team needs to be very open and honest about what it is doing and why it is doing it. Work in progress should be explained as just that. That is "Here are some of the options we are looking at implementing, but we haven't decided anything yet." Honesty and openness are the only real defenses against the rumor mill. Honesty and openness also help to build up a culture based on trust, respect and support.

The communication plan needs to consider the best vehicle for communicating and should choose the vehicle and level of detail to suit the needs and interests of the various audiences.

Contact: [email protected]
Copyright (C) 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999 Donald J. Bodwell. All rights reserved.

High Performance Team Resources

Resources are time, talents, money, information, and materials. The development of High Performance Teams will use considerable resources. Newly formed teams want to maximize the resources available to them. The team charter is the best place to establish the team's expectations concerning the resources that will be available to help the team reach its objectives. Questions must be dealt with early on: Will the team be allowed to work solely on this project or will team members have to maintain their day-to-day responsibilities as well (Time)? What if we don't have all the skills or knowledge we need on the team (Talents)? What if we need more money, or money to invest in the implementation of our solution (money)? We may need information that is held by others in the organization in order to develop our solution (information)? We need a space to work in, phones, computers, supplies (materials). As the team progresses toward its objectives it will discover new resource needs. The team needs to be trained to ask for what it needs and taught that it is good thing to ask. The American culture presumes that people can make do with what they have. But when you ask a high performance team to achieve extraordinary results you should expect that it will have some unanticipated needs.

Contact: [email protected]
Copyright (C) 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999 Donald J. Bodwell. All rights reserved.

High Performance Team Building

A critical element in the establishment of a team is the development and acceptance of the team charter. The team charter defines the task, scope and boundaries in which the team will operate. In one sense the charter is the team's license to operate. Either organizational leaders or individual teams can create the team charter. No matter which way the team charter is developed, the organization's leader or leadership group still must approve the team charter.

There are a number of elements that are necessary for the creation of any team. These include: two or more individuals, a common team goal, and the necessary resources of time, materials, space, and perhaps money needed to accomplish and then sustain the goal. High Performance teams learn and demonstrate behaviors that are not exhibited by most teams. These characteristics represent the essential elements of High Performance Teams.

In most organizations teams are formed to either make decisions or implement decisions. Decision making teams are usually made up of individuals who provide a variety of expertise and experience. Teams formed to implement decisions already made by others are usually selected to represent an area of influence or authority needed to achieve a successful implementation. High Performance Teams are expected to both decide how change is to occur and to be responsible for implementing the change. Selecting team members for High Performance Teams needs to take this dual role into consideration and choose both individuals who are thought leaders and influencers in the organization and individuals who have varied backgrounds and experience.

While High Performance Teams can be implemented to achieve any significant business purpose, they are most often formed to achieve dramatic improvements within processes. Processes are a series of activities that have a starting point and an ending point. In business the trigger or starting point of a process is often a customer order or request and the end point is the satisfaction of that order or request. High performance teams are usually cross-functional, that is, the teams are composed of representatives who understand one or more of the collection of activities that are performed by the process. A High Performance Operating Team will usually have a Process Owner who coordinates the teams activities and is the communication interface with the organizational world beyond the team.

Three key characteristics of High Performance Team building involve trust, respect,and support. Team members need to be coached in the need to trust and support each other. Support involves actively keeping an eye on the other team members and demonstrating a willingness to help each other out when help is needed--even when it might not be requested. Team members encourage each other to stretch beyond their comfort zone by offering advice or assistance when asked or when it is obvious that the fellow team member needs it.

High Performance teams are always conscious of quality and strive to improve the quality of their teamwork as well as the quality of their output.

A common practice for High Performance Teams to have one or more coaches. The team coach is responsible for teaching team building behavior. Coaches are also helpful in making certain that the team receives guidance and training as needs arise.

Contact: [email protected]
Copyright (C) 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999 Donald J. Bodwell. All rights reserved.

Team Charter

A team charter is a written document that defines the team's mission, scope of operation, objectives, time frame, and consequences. Charters can be developed by top management and presented to teams, or teams can create their own charters and present them to top management. Either way the top management's endorsement of a team's charter is a critical factor in giving the team the direction and protection it needs to succeed. Teams need to know what top management expects of them, but just as important is the idea that non-team members need to know what top-management expects of the team. A charter can be thought of as a hunting license granted by the appropriate level of management. From time to time, the team may need to show its license to non-team members, particularly middle managers, so that it is clear to all that the team has the authority, permission, and blessing of the necessary level of management to operate, conduct research, consider and implement any changes needed to achieve the expected team results.

The team charter begins with a Purpose Statement. This is a one or two line statement explaining why the team is being formed. The purpose statement should align with and support the organization's vision and mission statements.

Next the charter lays down the objectives the team is expected to achieve. Objectives should always be stated in measurable terms. It may be that there are currently no measures being made on the performance dimension the team is being asked to achieve. If this is the case, the team may be asked to develop those measures itself, including current benchmark measures. It is critical to the success of a high performance team that it be told what to achieve and not how to achieve it. To some extent, how will perhaps be limited to the resources available to the team. Nevertheless, much support, enthusiasm and energy are lost, when a team is told how to achieve its objectives.

The next section of the charter defines the scope of the team's charter. This is the opportunity to define organizational or operational boundaries within which the team is expected and allowed to operated. Defining boundaries is crucial in the matter of avoiding energy draining and time delaying turf wars. The team and everyone else needs to know the size of the sand-box the team will be playing in. This section might also contain information about the resources available to the team to accomplish its objectives. It might also speak about the time commitment expected of team members and the need to continue to support their day-to-day responsibilities.

Finally, a good charter might contain a section describing top management's support and commitment to the team. This is important because most team members will feel that they are taking personal risk by becoming a member of the team.

Charter Example

Contact: [email protected]
Copyright (C) 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999 Donald J. Bodwell. All rights reserved.


High Performance Teams are established to accomplish something within a timeframe. A clear understanding of the team's objectives is a very important element of creating a successful teams. When what needs to be done and how we will know we have done it is known, life is simple. Most organizations do not have effective measures of performance. Indeed, most organizations are unsure about what constitutes organizational performance.

From the sponsoring manager's point of view, the objectives may not be all that clear. The sponsor may "feel" that significant improvement in overall organizational performance (new business or reduced costs, or improve service) is needed. In this more common instance the team has some serious work to do defining and refining performance measures.

A High Performance team can and should be expected to develop and refine its objectives and measures of performance. Even when management provides simple instructions such as a desire to reduce cost, many questions remain: Cost reductions at the expense of sales? Reduce our own costs, but push costs off on some other organization or a supplier? Or the customer? Larger objectives quickly come into play, and the team is going to also have to be given the strategic objectives of the organization so it can figure out whether what is trying to do will contribute to the organizations strategy. Unfortunately, the organization's strategy may be only in one person's head, or it seems to change with the wind, or is not followed at all by anyone in the organization. When a team discovers that it doesn't understand the organization's strategy, it must stop progress and get briefed by someone who does understand it. In the sad event that there is no clear organizational strategy, the team will have to presume a strategy and run it past the sponsoring manager for confirmation.

Once the strategy is set or understood by the team members, work can proceed on refining performance measures. High Performance Teams are chartered to improve performance in some way. Performance is associated with speed, quality, cost, and effectiveness. Finding good measures on these variables is not always easy. Effectiveness is very elusive and in the service industry. Quality may be difficult to define as well. Cost and speed are less difficult to get a handle on, but they have their pitfalls and problems as well. To top all this off, most of us are blinded by the current set of performance measures we maintain. Most organizations count what can be easily counted, without regard to whether these counts define the organization's performance: Number of telephone calls answered, number of orders processed, number of thing-a-ma-jigs made, or shipped, or serviced, are only the starting point for understanding performance. A fresh start on measurement may be needed. Getting a better handle on performance usually means starting with your customer's point of view about your performance. Finding out what is important to your customers and building a set of measures around these variables is usually much more effective than counting what can be easily counted.

Sometimes discovering who your customers are is a challenge by itself. Governmental organizations usually correctly assume their customers are the tax payers. But even this simple distinction blurs when you look at public school systems that have students, parents, teacher organizations, and state legislative mandates as well. The most straightforward approach is to trace the money flow. Someone is paying someone else money for something. The one who is paying is the customer. One caution is that in large corporations, this rule might not be true. Corporations sometimes pay for services at one place in the organization and receive the services at another. When this occurs the provider can quickly become confused about which place is the customer.

Contact: [email protected]
Copyright (C) 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999 Donald J. Bodwell. All rights reserved.

Information Protection Transformation Team Charter


This team's purpose is to reduce the operating cost and increase the effectiveness of the information protection processes for the Trillium Strategic Business Units (SBU).


    • Objective 1: Reduce the cost of operating information protection processes by 40 percent.
    • Objective 2: Increased effectiveness of information protection processes by 20 percent.
    • Objective 3: Involve the community of interest (COI) in developing an understanding of the current processes, designing the new processes, and implementing the new processes.
    • Objective 4: Demonstrate High Performance Team behavior.
    • Objective 5: Analyze current situation, design new processes that accomplish the objectives, and developed implementation plan in 30 days.
    • Objective 6: Objectives achieved in 90 days.


The team will consist of information protection leaders from each Trillium SBU, coached and advised by Trillium Project Team members.


Willingness to deal with the "big picture" perspective.

Desire to work with everyone "touching" the current processes to gain understanding of current processes and to design future processes.

Willingness to acquire new knowledge.

Willing and able to work as a member of a team.

Able to speak for/represent their division.

Significant and current experience within one of the eight divisions.


    • Activities are guided by Trillium Core Team, Trillium Vision, and Trillium corporate policies and procedures.
    • Process and change boundaries are to be determined by the scope needed to achieve the objectives.


You will receive the full support of the Trillium Project Team and SBU leaders.

Contact: [email protected]
Copyright (C) 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999 Donald J. Bodwell. All rights reserved.

High Performance Team Essential Elements

High Performance Teams demonstrate the following characteristics and behaviors:

Shared Vision

All team members share and support a common vision that the team is working towards. Team members are highly focused on attaining objectives. High performance Teams have developed a vision that brings real meaning to the work that is being performed. The vision describes a future state that team members find personally appealing and exciting. A defensive vision such as "keep our jobs," or "retain market share" are not particularly inspiring. What is needed is a winning vision. One that inspires team members to extraordinary efforts when such efforts are required.

Time Oriented

The team operates under specific deadlines for achieving results. Teams that operate without deadlines will ultimately evolve into rap sessions. Focus shifts from what is to be done to endless discussions about what the real mission of the team is or to finding the best approach to solving the problem. Deadlines can be as much as nine months to a year away. Any longer and the team runs the very real risk of being overrun by larger events that affect the organization: major shifts in organization direction, budget changes, new responsibilities, etc. 90 to 120 day or even shorter timeframes are more desirable and achievable by high performance teams.


The team makes extra-ordinary efforts to make certain everyone on the team understands the plan and progress towards its completion. An old military saying is that there are always 10 percent of the people who do not get the word. A High Performance Team recognizes this phenomenon and uses all communication vehicles available to get new information to every team member. Team members recognize that they have an equally strong obligation to keep themselves informed.

Zone of Concern

The work of the team is beyond the team's zone of comfort. It either doesn't know how to achieve the desired results, or it doesn't know how to accomplish them in the time allowed. At first glance this seems like a crazy notion. Why would any team want to attempt anything it didn't already know how to do? Paradoxically, we get the greatest satisfaction when we achieve results that at the outset we don't believe we can accomplish. When a team operates in the concern zone, between its comfort zone and perhaps its anxiety zone, it is most likely to perform better and consequently bond better and become stronger when it does achieve results.

Reviews Quality

The team stops at appropriate times to check the quality of its recent work. This is done to determine where the process could be improved and what learning can be shared with other team members. It is this act of stopping to check quality, even in the anxiety zone, where the team internalizes its learning and improves its collective performance.

Involves Everyone

Team members work to make certain that every member of the team is involved. Watchers and wonderers are mobilized to get behind the team's march toward achieving its vision. It is human to make judgments about the capabilities, intelligence, and motivation of our fellow team members. When we do so, we limit the potential of the team. Every team member has a unique insight or contribution it can make towards team goal achievement. It may very well be true that every team member must contribute for the team to achieve full success. It is the responsibility of each and every High Performance Team member to search out and discover the capabilities of all the other team members.


High Performance Team Members are self-directed. If the team is to be managed, management must be careful to focus the team on "what" needs to be achieved. The "How the work is to be accomplished" must remain the sole purview of the team. When management goes to the point of telling a team how work is to be accomplished, the team becomes de-motivated and perhaps subconsciously says "We'll see about that."

Celebrates Success

High Performance Teams take the time to celebrate small victories toward goal achievement. This activity builds a sense of team success as the work of the team progresses. Sometimes, the celebrations are over new team learning's or insights, other times the team celebrate the completion of a small task. Together these celebrations build-up the team's morale and increase the teams determination to achieve the ultimate goal. Celebrations make take the form of a team cheer or the simple matter of collectively shouting "YES!"

Contact: [email protected]
Copyright (C) 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999 Donald J. Bodwell. All rights reserved.

Comfort Zone

We are operating within our comfort zone when we feel competent performing a given task. Beyond our comfort zone is the unknown. Here is both opportunity and threat. Here we look upon the possibility of huge success and utter disaster. Opportunity to grow, learn, succeed, and achieve. But also a place of risk. A place where we might fail, come up short, or embarrass ourselves. If we are completely honest with ourselves, most of us work pretty hard to plan and organize our lives in such a way as to remain within our comfort zone. Most of us don't like surprises. We value predictability. We seek to minimize risk of all forms. And while it's true that we can and do learn in our zone of comfort, it is also true that we don't learn as fast as when we are beyond it.

Managers also like to make performance commitments for their organizations that are fairly easily achieved. They add a cushion of error, a margin of safety to their budgets and forecasts. Good managers look for opportunities to stretch their better workers. But the risk of personal or organizational failure is seldom large.

Interestingly, everyone's comfort zone is different. The very idea of public speaking or singing can produce moist palms and racing hearts for many. Others welcome such opportunities: Go on Television? "Great, what time?" So one of the powerful aspects of teams is that they can project a collective comfort zone footprint that is much larger than any single individual's zone.

Both individuals and teams grow and learn faster when they are operating outside their comfort zone. We get excited when we surpass the performance expectations that we thought we were capable of achieving. When this occurs we start to think, "That was great. We're hot stuff. We can go beyond that achievement". And because we have achieved the seemingly impossible once, we feel more confident about being able to do it again. Then when we share that confidence and excitement with other team members we all feel more energy, more commitment, and more enthusiasm about the new stretch target.

Is every team that attempts the seemingly impossible going to reach its target? Not always is the answer. Although most will come close. And in trying is risk. Things will be different. We don't like change, but one thing is certain: We can't possibly reach impossible targets by doing things the way we've always done them. And out there somewhere way beyond our comfort zone is great risk and possibly terror. Most individuals would never willingly go that place of overwhelming fear alone. But can a group of people go there together? The answer is yes, if the rewards are collectively thought to be great enough. The truth is that a team can take on a much higher level of risk than any individual can.

Given that all this is true, management should seek opportunities to challenge teams to go after goals that seem impossible. Management needs to think hard about selecting goals that, if attained, will make a very real difference in organization's performance, customer satisfaction, or market share. Clear, measurable goals that a team can use to keep before them and measure the team's progress. And if management or teams settle on goals that meet these criteria, management must be ready to reward those teams in ways that make that level of performance worthwhile to the individual team members. Money for sure, but also public recognition, more autonomy and empowerment for the team as well.

Contact: [email protected]
Copyright (C) 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999 Donald J. Bodwell. All rights reserved.

Developing Team Vision

A vision is a word picture of a future state. Teams need both hard and soft visions of the future. A hard vision would involve a written statement that describes what the organization will perform like when it is achieved. It may involve markets captured or status or recognition received. This type of vision would read something like: " The COE Team will be the most efficient and effective provider of high quality engineering design and support in the HVAC industry. We will obtain and retain the HVAC Association Award of Excellence in Engineering. Eighty percent of all engineering designs will be produced and delivered within 4 days of order receipt, while 100 percent will be completed and delivered within 6 business days. Ninety percent of all HVAC support requests will be satisfied within 24 hours, and 100 percent within 48 hours." Hard visions can either be developed by the team or developed by management and given to the team. When management provides a team's vision, it will need to be able to complete the statement: "We are shooting for this vision so that..." And the so that's need to be things that the individual team members can relate to and care about. Some organizations are led by charismatic leaders who are capable of developing and painting a very appealing picture of what the future organization will be like. In the absence of such leadership it is better to let the team develop and present its own vision for management approval.

Soft visions should be developed, stated and shared by every team member. The "Who's got a dollar?" exercise is a way of getting team members to explain their vision of what they would like to see the organization become: "How would it feel to work here? What would I be getting out of the experience? What would it look like? How would I then be able to describe it to my neighbors?"

Contact: [email protected]
Copyright (C) 1997, Donald J. Bodwell. All rights reserved.

High Performance Team Selection

When a team is assembled to accomplish significant results in a short period of time, the best and brightest people the organization has to offer should be chosen. Unfortunately, when a manager is asked to provide someone to be a part of a newly formed team, the logic often goes something like this: "Sharon's my best person, but she is already working on three projects that are critical to the department's success. Harry's pretty good too, but if I send Harry, will I get him back? George, hasn't been performing very well lately, and frankly I've been meaning to talk to him about that. Oh well, we could get along fine without George, so I guess I'll send George."

When a team comes together that's make up mostly of George's -- the team pretty quickly figures that out. They may be blind to their own status in the organization, but they will be quick to notice that everyone else is third stringers. What does this say about how serious the organization is about accomplishing the High Performance Team's objectives, or about getting real results? When less than the best are sent, the team becomes angry and concerned about the sponsoring manager's sincerity and support. While good coaches can ultimately overcome this anger and focus the team on its objectives, several critical days or weeks can be lost as the team builds confidence in it's ability to get the job done.

What are the characteristics we are looking for in individuals who are to become a part of a High Performance Team? We are looking for people who care deeply about the organization and want to see it succeed. We are interested in people who are able to work well with others, particularly as members of a team. These are people who believe that two or more minds are better that one, and that everyone, no matter how seemingly dense, has a contribution they can make that no one else can.

Beyond these few guidelines, diversity of perspective, experience, and knowledge will help the team develop mutual trust and respect more quickly.

Adding New Team Members

Care must be taken when adding new people to existing teams. The rule is not to impose an individual on a team. This can be handled by involving the entire team in the selection process. Team members interview prospective new team members either one at a time or collectively. Even before a candidate is produced for consideration, the team should be questioned about the skill set they feel a new team member should bring to the team. When the team has a significant role in deciding on any new team members, the team will be much more committed to making sure the decision was the right decision. For many teams, unanimous consent will be desirable

Removing Team Members

Sometimes, despite everyone's best efforts, a team member will need to be taken off the team. There are any number of reasons why this situation could occur: perhaps one of the members lacks the required skills and shows little interest in developing them; personality conflicts between team members, though most of these come down to a lack of professional respect and appreciation. Perhaps a team member is too stretched or stressed by other projects or personal problems, and can't keep his commitments to the team. The result is a very delicate situation for the manager responsible for the team. Both the team and the manager should have a series of frank discussions with the individual. The conversations should center on what's expected, what's at stake, and what's not happening that needs to happen, or what is happening that shouldn't be happening. Then if the situation doesn't improve, action will be required. The manager will have to see that the team member is removed. Reassigned if that's most appropriate, discharged if the situation calls for discharge. Prior to taking action the manager needs to discuss his pending action with the other team members, collectively if possible, and try to gain the team's consensus for the action. Failing that, the manager might take action or if he decides that the team wants to carry the poor performing team member, he may want to let the situation ride. Manager's should keep in mind the fact that it is highly unusual for a team to assume any responsibility for deciding to remove a team member. Management can be a very lonely job.


Contact: [email protected]

Copyright (C) 1997, Donald J. Bodwell. All rights reserved.

Diversity of Perspective

To a casual observer, a team may appear to be culturally homogenous. Yet each team member brings their own set of communication values that transcend gender, nationality, ethnicity, role, or socio-economic status. W. Shabaz Associates, Inc. of Holland, Michigan takes a clear approach to affirming the communication style diversity that is required in each team that aspires to High Performance.

A team may agree in early meetings that they share and support a vision that they want to achieve, and yet each team member carries a different picture of what success for the effort will look like. Later meetings may be filled with conflict and accusations that clear communication does not take place, as each team member or sub-teams are heading in different directions.

To achieve High Performance a team needs diversity in the orientation of its individual team members:

    • Some team members will be needed who are primarily oriented towards task and target date accomplishment.
    • Other team members will be needed who hold process, planning, organization and methods in the highest regard.
    • Teams also need members who nurture, encourage and provide communication nodes. Otherwise, anarchy and intense frustration can result as individuals demand that "their way" is "the only way."
    • Teams will certainly need some members who are creative and innovative. This quality is helpful when product design, inspiration, optimism or humor is needed.
    • The last type of team member needed by a High Performance Team is a floater-someone who is capable of identifying with all of the above orientations and can fill in when one of the viewpoints is missing.

It important to understand that the above orientations are not something that is learned or a role that is assigned. People naturally tend to oriented their thinking along one of the first four views of what is important, while a smaller proportion of the population is more or less evenly balanced and can assume any one of the four views.

A good understanding of the above orientations and the value each brings to a team provides much needed guidance for team selection. High performance teams are sensitive to each other's viewpoints and recognize that all viewpoints are needed. Team builders who need help getting their teams to discover the value of diverse viewpoints should consider working with W. Shabaz Associates.

Those lacking the funds to engage an outside "style diversity consultant" can obtain a copy of "The Platinum Rule," and fairly easily build a relationship style course for team members.

Contact: [email protected]

Copyright (C) 1997, Donald J. Bodwell. All rights reserved.

Cross Functional

Cross functional teams are made up of individuals who represent different departments or functional areas in the organization. Depending on the type of business and organizational scheme employed, manufacturing departments might include shipping/receiving, administrative services, sales, marketing, production, warranty and purchasing. Service organizations will vary greatly but can usually be classified as having the following functional areas: sales or order receipt, order processing, service delivery, post service support, and cash collection, in addition to the usual support departments involving employee care, corporate accounting and facilities management

It is desired and often necessary to assemble cross-functional teams in order to obtain a holistic or complete view of the operation. Individuals who represent a department or functional area should be subject matter experts (SME's), that is, they should be very knowledgeable about the policies, practices, and operations of their department or functional area.

The thoughtful selection of the SMEs who will represent the various areas of the organization is important aspect of building an effective team. This becomes even more critical if the team is to work only on this project for several months or more. Managers can and do use requests to supply cross-functional team members from their organization as a non-confrontational method of unloading weak performers. While the team member is off working with the cross-functional team, the manager re-assigns their responsibilities to others. One way to thwart this practice is to explain at the outset that the high performance team will be composed of individuals who will be leaders in the new organization if the team is to continue on as a High Performance Operating Team once the initial objectives have been obtained.

Contact: [email protected]
Copyright (C) 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999 Donald J. Bodwell. All rights reserved.

Process Owner

When a High Performance Team changes to a High Performance Operating Team it will need a Process Owner. The process owner is responsible for coordinating activities between all the teams that support a single process. The role of the process owner is to nurture and develop the team as well as to represent the team with external organizations. The Process Owner is responsible for procuring the resources (time, space, hardware, etc.) that the team requires in order to be successful. The process owner attends meetings and reports to the team on organizational activities and changes that may impact the teams workload or performance. The process owner is also a coach who teaches and encourages high performance team behavior and concepts. Depending on the number of people on the High Performance Operating Team, the Sub-Process Owners with similar responsibilities may be needed in addition to Process Owners.

One critical role of the process owner is to clearly articulate the team's shared vision of the future. To achieve a high performance state a team needs to have a vision about what work will be like and what meaning such work will have, once the team achieves the vision. It is the responsibility of the Process Owner to explain the team's vision to outside organizations and to help shape the team's vision to keep it consistent with the overall organization's vision.

The Process Owner must be responsible for measuring the process performance as well as for rewarding the team. This keeps the team focused and prevents the inevitable conflicts and distractions that result when functional managers retain measurement or reward responsibility for different parts of teams.

Selection of a Process Owner with the above skills is critical to the ongoing success of a High Performance Operating Team. The best Process Owners are often interviewed and nominated for selection by the team members themselves. A Process Owner selected by the team that he or she will coach can make progress much faster than a team coached by an assigned Process Owner. In fact a team selected process owner can start with a very special relationship and authority basis with the team that an assigned process owner can only hope to achieve.

Contact: [email protected]
Copyright (C) 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999 Donald J. Bodwell. All rights reserved.

Trust, Respect and Support

Developing trust among team members is at once difficult and essential to becoming a High Performance Team. Team members need to be taught from the start that building trust within the team is critically important to the team's ultimate success.

As the team forms, it is normal that the level of trust is low. Several members, or all team members may have worked together before. Or they may know each other by casual acquaintance or interaction. But trust has something to do with loyalties, and at the outset the team will not have developed team loyalty. Rather, each team member's loyalties will be to his or her own organization or manager. As the days and weeks of team building proceed, loyalties will naturally build toward fellow team members. This is often a two step process: one forward, and one step back. During the first few days, it is common for one or more team members to respond negatively about the need for the team, its composition, the coaches, the task before them, or whether this is the most important thing they could be spending their time working on. As a result, several team members are likely to call back to their functional area or manager with negative reports. As these complaints are relayed back to the team coach, and they certainly will be, the coach needs to bring the complaints before the team for consideration as an issue. It is best not to name names. This will send a message to the complainers that they are on the verge of being discovered. Invariably the complainers will change their tune, rather than risk a negative reaction from their fellow team members.

Team members need to be coached to learn that it is important to trust one another. It is not possible, or desirable, for one team member to do all the work for the team. Although, someone will almost always try. New members need to learn that to get the job done they have to rely on others to do their part. The analog to this principle is that each team member needs to be trustworthy. Team members need to learn that others are counting on them to do what they said they would do. But personal or business problems outside the team come up that affect individual team members' ability to accomplish their agreed tasks. As soon as it becomes clear to a team member that his or her task cannot be completed in time, the team member needs to let the other team members know about the cause of the problem and ask for help. This practice goes a long way to convincing fellow team members that one is trustworthy.

When a call for help comes from a fellow team member, the others should carefully examine their own responsibilities and available skills or time to see if they can help. It's in the best interest of team members to support each other, especially when the team's performance is judged and rewarded as a whole. The time might come when the team member who has been asked for help, needs help himself. If help cannot be offered, the team should pull together and determine how to be revise the plan or bring in additional resources to get the plan back on track.

Contact: [email protected]
Copyright (C) 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999 Donald J. Bodwell. All rights reserved.


A number of resources are available to individuals wishing to create or sponsor High Performance Teams.

Reading List


Alessandra, Tony, and O'Connor, Michael, The Platinum Rule, Warner Books; New York, Ny, 1996.

Bridges, William. Job Shift, Addison-Wesley, 1994.

Glacel, Barbara Pate, and Robert, Emile A. Jr., Light Bulbs For Leaders, John Wiley & Son, Inc., 1996

Katzenbach, Jon R., and Smith, Douglas K., The Wisdom of Teams , Harvard Business School Press, 1993. (My summary of the book)

Kelly, Kevin, Out of Control, Addison-Wesley Publishing Company, 1994. (The whole book on the internet!!!)

Pinchot, Clifford and Elizabeth, The End of Bureaucracy and The Rise of the Intelligent Organization, Berrett-Koehler, 1996.

Senge, Peter M., The Fifth Discipline, Doubleday, 1990

Wheatley, Margaret J., Leadership and the New Science, Berrett-Koehler Publishers, 1992.

The Wisdom of Teams

Jon R. Katzenbach & Douglas K. Smith, Harvard Business School Press, 1993

Lessons we have learned

    • Significant performance challenges energize teams regardless of where they are in an organization. No team arises without a performance challenge that is meaningful to those involved. A common set of demanding performance goals that a group considers important to achieve will lead, most of the time, to both performance and team.. Performance, however, is the primary objective while a team remains the means, not the end.
    • Organizational leaders can foster team performance best by building a strong performance ethic rather than by establishing a team-promoting environment alone.
    • Biases toward individualism exist but need not get in the way of team performance. Real teams always find ways for each individual to contribute and thereby gain distinction. Indeed, when harnessed to a common team purpose and goals, our need to distinguish ourselves as individuals becomes a powerful engine for team performance.
    • Discipline-both within the team and across the organization-creates the conditions for team performance. For organizational leaders, this entails making clear and consistent demands that reflect the needs of customers, shareholders, and employees, and then holding themselves and the organization relentlessly accountable.

Team Basics

    • Small enough in number. Can convene and communicate easily and frequently. Discussions are open and interactive for all members. Each member understands the other's roles and skills.
    • All three categories of skills are either actually or potentially represented across the membership (functional/technical, problem-solving/decision-making, and interpersonal). Each member has the potential in all three categories to advance his or her skills to the level required by the team's purpose and goals.
    • The team's purpose constitutes a broader, deeper aspiration than just near term goals. All team members understand and articulate the purpose the same way. Members define the purpose vigorously in discussion with outsiders. Members frequently refer to the purpose and explore its implications. The purpose contains themes that are particularly meaningful and memorable. Members feel the purpose is important, if not exciting.
    • There are team goals versus broader organizational goals versus just one individual's goals. Goals are clear, simple, and measurable. If they are not measurable, can their achievement be determined? Goals are realistic as well as ambitious.
    • The approach is concrete, clear, and really understood and agreed to by everybody. It requires all members to contribute equivalent amounts of real work. It provides for open interaction, fact-based problem solving, and result-based evaluation. The approach provides for modification and improvement over time. Fresh input and perspective is systematically sought and added, for example, through information and analysis, new members, and sponsors.
    • There is a sense of mutual accountability.

The team performance curve

The Working Group: This is a group for which there is no significant incremental performance need or opportunity the would require it to become a team. The members interact primarily to share information, best practices, or perspectives and to make decisions to help each individual perform within his or her area of responsibility.

Pseudo-team: This is a group for which their could be a significant, incremental performance need or opportunity, but it has not focused on collective performance and is not really trying to achieve it. It has no interest in shaping a common purpose or set of performance goals, even though it may call itself a team. Pseudo teams are the weakest of all groups in terms of performance impact.

Potential Team: This is a group for which there s a significant, incremental performance need, and that really is trying to improve its performance impact. Typically, however, it requires more clarity about purpose, goals or work-products and more discipline in hammering out a common working approach. It has not yet established collective accountability.

Real Team: This is a small number of people with complementary skills who are equally committed to a common purpose, goals, and working approach for which the hold themselves mutually accountable.

High Performance Team: This is a group that meets all the conditions of real teams, and has members who are also deeply committed to each other's personal growth and success. That commitment usually transcends the team. The high performance team significantly outperforms all other like teams, and outperforms all reasonable expectations given its membership.

Common Approaches to Building Team Performance

    • Establish urgency and direction. All team members need to believe the team has urgent and worthwhile purpose, and they want to know what the expectations are. Indeed, the more urgent and meaningful the rationale, the more likely it is that a real team will emerge. The best team charters are clear enough to indicate performance expectations, but flexible enough to allow teams to shape their own purpose, goals, and approach.
    • Select members based on skill and skill potential, not personalities. Teams must have the complementary skills needed to do their job . Three categories of skills are relevant: 1) technical and functional, 2) problem-solving, and 3) interpersonal. The key issue for potential teams is striking the right balance between members who already possess the needed skill levels versus developing the skill levels after the team gets started.
    • Pay particular attention to first meetings and actions. Initial impressions always mean a great deal. When potential teams firs gather, everyone alertly monitors the signals given by others to confirm, suspend, or dispel going-in assumptions and concerns. They particularly pay attention to those in authority: The team leader and any executives who set up, oversee, or otherwise influence the team. And, as always, what such leaders do is more important than what they say.
    • Set some clear rules of behavior. All real teams develop rules of conduct to help them achieve their purpose and performance goals. The most critical early rules pertain to attendance (for example: "no interruptions to take phone calls"), discussion-"no sacred cows", confidentiality, analytic approach-facts are friendly, end-product orientations-everyone gets assignments and does them, constructive confrontation-no finger pointing, and often the most important-everyone does real work.
    • Set and seize upon a few immediate performance-oriented tasks and goals. Most teams trace their advancement to key performance-oriented events that forge them together. Potential teams can set such events in motion by immediately establishing a few challenging yet achievable goals that can be reached early on.
    • Challenge the group regularly with fresh facts and information. New information causes a potential team to redefine and enrich its understanding of the performance challenge, thereby helping the team shape a common purpose, set clearer goals, and improve on its common approach.
    • Spend lots of time together. Common sense tells us that teams must spend a lot of time together, especially as the beginning. Yet potential teams often fail to do so. The time spent together must be both scheduled and unscheduled. Indeed, creative insights as well as personal bonding require impromptu and casual interactions just as much as analyzing spreadsheets, interviewing customers, competitor, or fellow employees, and constantly debating issues.
    • Exploit the power of positive feedback, recognition, and reward. Positive reinforcement works as well in a team context as elsewhere. "Giving out gold stars" helps to shape new behaviors critical to team performance. If people in the group, for example, are alert to a shy person's initial efforts to speak up and contribute, they can give him or her the positive reinforcement that encourages continued contributions

Six Things Necessary to Good Team Leadership

    • Keep the purpose, goals, and approach relevant and meaningful. All teams must shape their own common purpose, performance goals and approach. While a leader must be a full working member of the team who can and should contribute to these, he or she also stands apart from the team by virtue of his or her selection as leader. Teams expect their leader to use that perspective and distance to help the teams clarify and commit to their mission, goals, and approach.
    • Build commitment and confidence. Team leaders should work to build the commitment and confidence of each individual as well as the team as a whole.
    • Strengthen the mix and level of skills. Effective team leaders are vigilant about skills. Their goal is clear: ultimately, the flexible and top-performing teams consist of people with all the technical, functional, problem-solving, decision-making, interpersonal, and teamwork skills the team needs to perform. To get there, team leaders encourage people to take the risks needed for growth and development. They also continually challenge team members by shifting assignments and role patterns.
    • Manage relationships with outsiders, including removing obstacles. Team leaders are expected, by people outside as well as inside the team to manage much of the team's contacts and relationships with the rest of the organization. This calls on team leaders to communicate effectively the team's purpose, goals, and approach to anyone who might help or hinder it. They also must have the courage to intercede on the team's behalf when obstacles that might cripple or demoralize the team get placed in their way.
    • Create opportunities for others. Team performance is not possible if the leader grabs all the best opportunities, assignments, and credit. Indeed, the crux of the leader's challenge is to provide performance opportunities to the team and the people on it.
    • Do real work. Everyone on a real team, including the leader, does real work in roughly equivalent amounts. Team leaders do have a certain distance from the team by virtue of their position, but they do not use that distance "just to sit back and make decision." Team leaders must contribute in whatever way the team needs, just like any other member. Moreover, team leaders do not delegate the nasty jobs to others. Where personal risks are high or "dirty work" is required, the team leader should step forward.

Two Kinds of Teams

    • Teams that recommend things. These teams include task forces, project groups, and audit, quality, or safety groups asked to study and solve particular problems. Unlike most teams that run, make, or do things, teams that recommend things typically have predetermined completion dates, although a few, like plant level safety teams, might be ongoing. If top management asks such a group to address issues of performance as opposed to administration(e.g. organizing the annual sales conference), then almost by definition the group "matters". Accordingly, top managers can best manage the time and attention they need to devote to such teams by limiting how many they set up.

      The two critical issues unique to teams that recommend things are getting off to a fast and constructive star, and dealing with the inevitable "hand-off" required to get their recommendations implemented. The key to getting potential teams that recommend things off to the right start lies in the clarity of their charter and composition of their membership. The more involvement task force members have in actually implementing their own recommendations, the more likely they are to get implemented. However, to the extent that people outside the task force will carry the load of implementation, top management can boost the performance opportunity by ensuring that those people get involved as early as possible-well before the recommendations are finalized.
    • Teams that make or do things These teams include people at or near the front lines who are responsible for doing the basic research, development, operations, marketing, sales, service, and other value-adding activities of the business. With some exceptions like new product development or process design teams, such teams tend to have no set completion dates.

Teams and High Performance Organization

Focusing on both performance and the teams that deliver it will materially increase top management's prospects of leading their companies to become high performance organizations than about the specific organizational forms and management approaches that will support them. No one argues over the value of such company; attributes as being customer-driven, "informated", "focused on total quality", and having "empowered work forces" that "continuously improve and innovate." Behind these lie a set of six characteristics only one of which-balanced performance results-is ever overlooked in discussion of where the best companies are headed. The six include:

    • Balanced performance results. Companies that consistently outperform the competition over an extended period, say ten year, are high performance organizations-regardless of how they get there. Proven high performers are all well known for their balanced performance aspirations. They are relentless in delivering superior results to employees, customers, and shareholders.
    • Clear, challenging aspirations. Whether it goes under the name of "vision," "mission," "strategic intent," or "directional intensity," the company's purpose must reflect clear and challenging aspirations that will benefit all of its key constituencies. Too many vision statements are just that: a written attempt by top management to meet the well-accepted "vision requirement." They may be read by all and may even be immortalized in plaques on the wall, but they have no real emotional meaning to people down the line whose behaviors and values they are supposed to influence. The purpose, meaning, and performance implications of visions must communicate, to all who matter, that they will benefit both rationally and emotionally from the company's success.
    • Committed and focused leadership. High performance organizations follow leaders who themselves almost evangelical pursuit of performance. Through their time, attention, and other symbolic behavior, such leaders express a constant focus on where the company is headed and an unrelenting dedication to the communication, involvement, measurement, and experimentation required to get there.
    • An energized work force dedicated to productivity and learning. The "learning," "adaptive," "self-directed," and "evergreen" characteristics of high performance organizations depend on a critical mass of people who are turned on to winning as well as to the change that winning requires. Performance in a constantly changing world demands change. And change, in turn, must be understood and teated before it can be mastered. The people of the organization must share an eagerness to ask questions, to experiment with new approaches, to learn from results, and to take responsibility for making changes happen.
    • Skill-based soources of competitive advantage. Companies should always seek and make best us of intrinsically valuable assets like access to natural resources, control over powerful distribution channels, strong brand names, and patents and other government licenses. But core-skills invariably depend on team skills. To re-engineer work flows based on customer needs, for example, requires teams that integrate across functional boundaries. Whenever adding value depends on the real-time blending of multiple skills, experiences, and judgments, a team performance challenge exists. And teams provide an excellent crucible for on-the-job skill development.
    • Open communications and knowledge management. Knowledge is a scarce and important factor of production. Information technology is critical to high performance. But IT includes the shared values and behavioral norms that foster open communications and knowledge management. In information era organizations that are not guards-only guides.
Contact: [email protected] October 29, 1996
Copyright (C) 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999 Donald J. Bodwell. All rights reserved.


"Planning a Career in a World Without Managers," Stewart, Thomas A., Fortune, March 20, 1995, pp. 72-80.

"The Corporate Jungle Spawns a New Species: The Project Manager," Stewart, Thomas A., Fortune, July 10,1995, pp.179-180.

"The Discipline of Teams," Katzenbach, Jon R. and Smith, Douglas K., Harvard Business Review, March-April 1993, pp. 111-120.

"Stretch Goals: The Dark Side of Asking For Miricles," Sherman, Strat, Fortune, November 13, 1995, pp231-232.

"Incentive Pay Can Be Crippling," Nulty, Peter, Fortune, November 13,1995, p. 235.

"Self-Directed Work Teams: A Competitive Advantage, Williams, Ron, Quality Digest, November, 1995, pp50-52.

"The Struggle to Create an Organization for the 21st Century," Jacob, Rahuil, Fortune, April 3, 1995, pp. 90-98.

"Secrets of HP's 'Muddled' Team," Sherman, Stratford, Fortune, March 18, 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999 pp.116-118.

"Management Bites Dog Food Factory," Kleiner, Art, Fast Company, June-July, 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999 pp. 44-48.

Contact: [email protected]
Copyright (C) 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999 Donald J. Bodwell. All rights reserved.

True Tales of True Teams

The following are true stories about high performance teams

Medicare Systems Services Team

Have you ever wondered if a High Performance Team could generate itself without a conscious decision on the part of the organization's leadership to create such a team? Well its possible when business pressures are strong enough to force an organization's leadership to adopt new approaches.

The Medicare Systems Services Team consists of seven managers and 82 systems engineers. This group is responsible for maintaining and writing enhancement code for the EDS base Medicare System. The system is used by eight customers who have responsibility for providing Medicare claims processing in various parts of the United States. Four other information technology companies provide their own versions of Medicare systems to support service providers and beneficiaries in other parts of the country. EDS developed its first Medicare system over 30 years ago and has been continuously providing systems support ever since. In recent years, Congress has been pressuring the Medicare program to find new ways to reduce the administrative cost of operating the program. In response to this pressure, the Health Care Financing Administration issued new requests for proposals that encouraged Medicare providers to merge and consolidate operations and systems.


"We knew that we wanted to create an environment where everyone was empowered to contribute." Bill Deraleau, Medicare Systems Services Manager


By 1993, the MSS team was under heavy pressure to reduce the cost of supporting the system. On the whole this part of the business was losing money. One way to save money is to flatten the organization. A lower manager to employee ratio helps on the cost side. In the past, MSS managers were responsible for administering company policies and overseeing the details of daily operations. Over the next three years four of eleven management positions were eliminated. As the management reductions occurred, the remaining managers felt the need to let go of some of the daily control they had historically exercised.

In 1994, the management team was faced with the need to handle three customer implementations at one time. In the past, implementations had come one at a time and were always handled by a select group of 8 to 10 systems engineers who had prior implementation experience. Now it was clear that the challenge of performing three simultaneous implementations was beyond this group's ability and resources.

In an attempt to deal with some of these pressures, balance the workload between managers, and deal with a shrinking pool of managers, the management team increased the speed at which it was shuffling engineers between managers. Despite its best efforts to balance expertise between various functional parts of the system, management was aware that it was failing to consistently meet customer priorities for system changes. When the employee survey results were published, it was clear that the engineers were concerned about the constant change of people they reported to as well as the shrinking opportunity to become leaders themselves. "We knew that we wanted to create an environment where everyone was empowered to contribute," said Bill Deraleau, the Medicare Systems Services Manager. After further thought and discussion, the management team tackled the issue of constant shuffling between mangers the lack of leadership opportunity, and failure to meet customer priorities.

The leaders began to meet and discuss the problems. Early on, it came up with the idea that the group really had two different kinds of leadership needs: administrative leaders and business leaders. In the administrative leadership role, managers are responsible for budgets, salary administration, and performance reviews. In a business leadership role, managers are responsible for scheduling work, customer care, project management, and control of quality. Out of this discussion the idea surfaced that leadership can arise from expertise and didn't necessarily have to be the sole responsibility of management.

Further discussions and committee deliberations led to two new concepts: The Medicare Systems Services University and the idea that the engineers should be allowed to pick their own leaders.

The management team looked at the proposed changes. Heated discussions centered around the worry that things might be worse if the recommendations were implemented. Eventually the management team decided to take the risk thinking that they couldn't succeed with the current approach and even if they the changes failed they would learn from the experience.

Creation of the MSS university began by having each engineer rate their own expertise and knowledge about 20 different parts of the systems. Engineers decided which parts they were Phd's, Masters, Bachelors, or learners. Then, to the extent that they understood each others skills, each engineer rated the other engineers in the group. In addition, each engineer was asked which parts of the system they would like to earn a new degree in. All this data was consolidated and reviewed in one-on-one meetings between the engineer and his manager to validate the result and coach the engineer on choices for future degrees. A matrix was created showing people on the horizontal plane and expertise on the vertical. Weaknesses and gaps in the total group's expertise coverage were identified and used to coach engineers about the group's expertise needs. As a follow on, a workload planner was developed that displayed customer maintenance and enhancement request priorities. The engineers were then asked to consider their education goals and identify their first and second choices of customer projects they wanted to work on. This step insured that customer priorities were being met in a consistent manner across the group and to the greatest extent possible, that the engineers were working on the projects and areas that they wanted to develop more expertise in. All team priorities were posted and each sponsoring leader decided if he had too many people wanting to work on his priority projects. As a result, the task of assigning work to people shifted from the management to engineers. In this way, the engineers also selected which managers they wanted to work with.

One of the unforeseen results of these changes was the breaking down of walls between functional areas within the Medicare Services group. Talent and energy now aligns easily with changing customer priorities. The engineers now have maximum possible control over the projects they work on and leaders they work with.

Conventional team building wisdom says that you cannot sustain team behavior without having a significant portion of compensation based on team results. In early 1994, the overall manager for Medicare Support announced a group incentive program. He wanted increased emphasis placed on productivity and performing system enhancement work in order to generate increased revenue. Over the years the engineers had developed strong relationships with their customers. The customers call the engineers to discuss and request maintenance changes needed to the system. The cost of these changes is covered under the base contract. In other words, EDS does not receive any additional revenue for maintaining the system. However, additional revenue could be generated by performing enhancements to the system that are requested by the government. The engineers sensed that the group incentive plan would negatively affect their ability to satisfy their customers and consequently ignored the incentive plan. Still, from time to time the idea of a team based incentive plan kept coming up in employee meetings. Generally the engineers were in favor of an team based incentive plan but it would have to be done right.

Resurrecting the incentive idea, the top Medicare Manager sought input from the team. Objectives would have to be measurable, they would have to be directly related to improving the team's cost and revenue performance. Ideas and measures were proposed and ultimately sifted down to four objectives for the second half of1996.

Bill x thousand hours of enhancement work - new system functionality

Maintain the service level agreement (how fast maintenance changes needed to be performed).

Reduce the contract per claim expense by x percent

Keep the IPACs (Computer Usage) run rate below budget.

The value of achieving these objectives in terms of revenue improvement and cost reduction was calculated. A portion of this value is designated to go into a bonus pool to be shared by the entire 83 person team. Initial concerns centered around questions like: "What if we get close but don't achieve all the goals? Do we get a partial reward?" But some of the focus started to shift to "How can we surpass the goal." In just three months the team is well on track to achieving and exceeding all its objectives. The team is currently discussing the best way of distributing the pool when it is earned. An equal share for each? A disproportionate share based on individual contribution? If so, how to measure that? And who measures, management or the team, or both? Stay tuned.

Already behavioral changes are evident: Individual team members are taking on more responsibility, and everyone is more aware of what each of their fellow teammates are taking on. Peers are helping peers, and the university concept is fostering a real learning environment. Is this a High Performance Team in every sense of the word? Maybe...Maybe not. But the environment needed to become a High Performance Team is present and positive results of empowerment and self direction are encouraging the team to stretch, grow, and support one another in ways that were unimaginable in the old environment.

Contact: [email protected] October 25, 1996
Copyright (C) 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999 Donald J. Bodwell. All rights reserved.

Productivity Services

Almost everyone agrees that measures and rewards have a profound impact on team behavior. While we can readily agree on this point, very few of us are able to figure out how to align the measures with the behaviors we are trying to encourage. Here is a tale of a team that changed its measures to break through of a well entrenched corporate paradigm to a dramatically high level of performance.

In 1993, Productivity Services was a team of about 40 Industrial Engineers led by 4 managers who reported to a Senior Manager. The PS team provided reengineering consulting services to EDS external and internal customers. Each manager had their own Profit and Loss Statement. Each manager was responsible for selling and overseeing the work of their own team of 10 or so consultants. The senior manager also pursued leads, made presentations, and sold new business. The work was performed in the field, by sub-teams of 1 to 5 consultants. So at any given time each manager had two to five teams in action. As a team was wrapping up one engagement, its manager would be busy trying to find them a new engagement. The normal state was that some engineers would be working and billing clients and some would be on the bench waiting for work. Overall, the group averaged about 60 percent billing of available time. This looked about right as 60 percent utilization is a customary consulting industry average. Clients were charged a per day fee that was approximately twice the average engineer's salary. Productivity Services' overall objective was to break even on the overall P&L. Individual managers were asked to try to achieve the same result for their individual P&L.

From time to time, a manager would sell work for more people than were available on his team. When this occurred the practice was to visit the other managers, determine which people were on the bench, and ask to borrow one or more people. When a manager borrowed a consultant from another manager, it was customary to transfer the salary and fringe benefit cost of that person to the borrowing manager's P&L for the duration of the engagement. This allowed the giving manager to cover the cost of the lent person, but it also meant that when the lending manager sold something new they would not have their own person available and would have to start the borrowing process with the other managers. As time went by, one manager discovered that she could maximize her P&L numbers (Revenue versus Expense) by keeping a very small staff, and borrowing other managers people when she sold work. This strategy really worked great for her because this meant that she wouldn't have to pay the cost of keeping a supply of people on the bench. That cost was covered by her fellow managers. After a while, her fellow managers caught on to the strategy and started refusing to provide available people for new business that she had sold. So she appealed to the senior manager to intervene. From his point of view the reluctance of the other managers to provide people looked like insanity. Overall, every person that could be gainfully charged out to clients should be. So the senior manager went after the other managers to understand their reluctance to provide resources.

Each of the other three managers made their case. Two said they were on the verge of selling something big. "If that's so," said the senior manager, "then you might want to hire some more people." Adding, " You know a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush." Still the managers balked. One introduced the idea that the borrowing manger was difficult to work for and that none of his people wanted to work on one of her engagements. Finally, one hinted that problem was that the borrowing manager was manipulating the system to maximize her performance. So the senior manager called her in and confronted her with the allegation. "Yea, that true," she admitted. Stunned, the senior manager asked her why. She explained that she was just trying to maximize her P&L. The senior manager still didn't get it. "But I never told you that I was measuring your performance on the basis of how profitable you were on your P&L," he said. "Yea, but its the only measure of performance I've got," she replied.

The senior managers called all four managers together and laid out the problem. Together they hit on the idea of dividing profit between two P&L s when one borrowed resources from another. In other words, If you borrow a person from another manager, you get to keep half the profit while the lending manager gets half the profit as well as gets cost coverage for the lent person.

What was the result of this change? At the beginning of the month in which the change was implemented, the overall utilization of the group was 58 percent. By the end of the month it was over 90 percent, and remained over 90 percent for the next two years...until the group was dissolved into the new corporate consulting organization.

Looking back it is obvious that the old system was a win/lose system. You won if you had all your people employed on work you sold yourself. You won bigger if you had all your people employed on work you sold and you were able to borrow someone else's as well. But you lost every time you loaned a consultant to another manager. You broke even on getting the cost of the individual covered, but you lost the opportunity to make a profit on that person. The new system was a win/win system, since you won biggest when you employed your people on work that you sold and you won smaller, but you still won, if you could get any non-utilized people working on someone else's engagement.

Contact: [email protected] October 26, 1996
Copyright (C) 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999 Donald J. Bodwell. All rights reserved.

Production Improvement Team

In late 1993, John Emery faced a very challenging problem. His account had recently completed a major consolidation of 13 different versions of a system supporting large financial institutions into a single system. Unfortunately the new system took 5 1/2 hours to run batch processing during the nightly cycle. If any problems occurred running the cycle, the team had only a half an hour to fix the problem and restart without seriously impacting the customers' daily operations. A half an hour is not very much time to solve a systems problem, make the fix, and restart. Emery realized that the system needed to run faster, but how could they improve it?

John struck upon the idea of setting up a dedicated team of systems engineers to tackle the problem of getting the cycle to run faster. With the approval of his manager, Bill Hobbs, John asked for volunteers to tackle the problem. At the same time he created an initial team charter, explaining the goals and outlining a number of specific measurable objectives. With the agreement of his management, John offered to pay a bonus to each team member if the objectives were met. Each member would receive a fixed portion of the bonus for being on the team and also had the potential of earning an additional portion based on John's evaluation of their relative contribution to the teams success. From a pool of 15 volunteers, seven were selected based on skills, criticality of current roles, and perceived ability to work as a member of a team. John then met with the team to finalize the charter: Were the objectives in the realm of the possible? Did the team recognize the probable level of commitment of time that was going to be required to achieve the goal? After a few modifications to the charter, John explained to the team that it was on its own to determine how to achieve the objectives. The new team decided to call themselves the Production Improvement Team, which after a while became known as the PIT Team.

As the PIT Team got going, it found some unused office space and set up a dedicated PIT Team work area. The team define needed roles: Primary, Secondary, and Tertiary coverage support, as well as Night coverage. It was agreed that the team would swap roles every two weeks, with each person serving every role over an eight week period. The team then created a schedule providing 24 hour coverage, seven days a week, for the whole year. Additional time was allocated for each person to spend dedicated time on specific projects or efforts to reduce the cycle run time.

Every Tuesday morning the PIT Team met to discuss actions they had taken during the week and new ideas for improving the cycle run time. They discussed what worked and what didn't. As a result team learning increased at a dramatic pace. The results of these meetings were written down and made available for any team members who were absent. Early on, the team made these minutes available to the larger team of Systems Engineers supporting the system, thereby extending the learning to the larger community of interest.

By the end of 1994, the PIT team had met or exceeded every objective. As a result, the system cycle time was reduced from 5 1/2 hours to 1 1/2 hours. The team was re-chartered in 1995 and 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999 given additional systems to cover, and successfully reduced the cost to run the larger systems cycle by 15 percent each year. The team requested that a System Monitor be added to the team. Systems Monitor's are non-engineering computer operators who oversee the actual running of each cycle. As 1997 begins, the PIT team will be focusing on improving system up-time. John Emery believes the keys to creating successful High Performance Teams are to:

    • Make sure everyone understands the expectations
    • Get buy-in and agreement from top-management
    • Empower the team by letting them figure out "how" to achieve the objectives
    • Involve the entire team in creating the agreement (Team Charter)

The PIT teams success has not gone unnoticed. In 1995, the team won the EDS Signature Award, a company-wide recognition program for outstanding achievement. In addition, this High Performance Team model is being considered for wider adoption throughout the Banking Group and Securities Strategic Business Unit.

Contact: [email protected] December 26, 1996
Copyright (C) 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999 Donald J. Bodwell. All rights reserved.

High Performance Team Consultants

With the exception of Saturn Excell, and the Shabaz's whom I endorse, I have not personally employed any of these consultants. However, I have looked at their home pages and have communicated with each of them and their approaches appear to be sound and warrant further evaluation on your part should you feel the need for external coaching support:

    • Saturn Excel - Home based in Spring Hill Tennessee, these folks have tremendous experience building teams for other companies. Courses are available in Tennessee, Michigan, and Florida.
    • Wayne and Cindy Shabaz, husband and wife consulting team specializing in team communication training. Home based in Michigan with a world wide field of practice. (616) 786-0417.
    • Team Center - Located in the Pacific Northwest.
    • Wings Group - Located in Maine

Saturn Excel Course

Many organizations have used outdoor "outward bound-type ropes courses for leadership development. Saturn Corporation, a subsidiary of General Motors, evaluated this training technology in the late 1980's and decided to integrate it into their leadership and team development curriculum under the name of EXCEL. Saturn, initially working with Pecos River Learning Centers, built and utilized its EXCEL courses to train team members and leaders. Saturn now offers a variety of programs for members of Saturn's retail facilities, General Motors Partners, and other organizations interested in creating high performance teams. Saturn EXCEL' programs focus on commitment, truth, accountability, respect, support, trust and empowerment. EXCEL experiences result in a common vocabulary, improve interpersonal relationships and a strong partnership.

Because of its powerful impact, Saturn Experiential Learning has become a basis for assisting teams and organizations to alter their organization's culture by changing the way people work together to solve problems, overcome obstacles, and reach goals. Each program is anchored in theoretical concepts about choice, organizational change, team development and personal commitment. EXCEL programs integrate intellectual understanding with physical challenges of outdoor events.

A key to Saturn's approach occurs in the "processing or debriefing" after each activity. After each activity or event, participants identify what they felt and did during an event or activity. Then they discuss what can be learned about themselves, their team and their organization and how to apply it in their daily experiences. Each activity included in EXCEL services as strong organization metaphor.

It is in these discussions that Saturn consultants take this learning "beyond the ropes". Although completing the Trust Fall, climbing the Partner Pole and balancing on the crow's foot are events that will be remembered forever, what participants learned about trusting their teammates and planning for group problem solving will help them be more effective organization members.

Taking the learning beyond the thrill of physical challenge makes this form of training long lasting and truly impactful. Combining challenging physical tasks with business realities creates a unique learning environment. The physical nature of the program "wakes people up", causes them to look carefully at themselves and the people around them and frequently opens up closed minds. A safe and supportive learning environment is created and committing to change is a sign of strength, not weakness. A renewed commitment to be the best that they can be, and how to help others be all that they can be, is what most participants gain form their EXCEL experience.

Another aspect of Saturn Experiential Learning is that Saturn has developed multi-phased programs that help organization grow, develop and maintain the spirit and energy it takes to facilitate long lasting change. This is vastly different from traditional training that is typically a one time thing with little or not realistic or practical application

For more information call 615-486-5752 or write to:

EXCEL c/o Saturn Corporation

100 Saturn Parkway

P.O. Box 1500

Spring Hill, TN 37174-1500


Coaches play an essential part in the development of High Performance Teams. Coaches work with the team sponsor to develop the team charter. Coaches teach essential elements of High Performance Team Building and establish the initial team agenda. Coaches help the teams through the process of establishing team norms and getting organized. Coaches lead team building exercises and are present during team meetings to encourage High Performance Team behavior. Coaches are not team leaders or meeting facilitators. Coaches are experienced team builders and consultants who intervene only when teams become stifled, frustrated, or lost.

Contact: [email protected]
Copyright (C) 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999 Donald J. Bodwell. All rights reserved.

Teaching Essential Elements

One of the primary roles of the High Performance Team Coach is to teach the newly forming team about the behavors that set High Performance Teams apart from other teams. One technique is to list each essential element on a sheet of flip chart paper, explain the element, and tape it on the wall of the team meeting room. This will help keep the elements in front of the team as it works towards meeting its objectives. Each element should receive its own page so that the text can be written large enough to be seen across the room. If technical support is available the elements can be printed using a graphics program such as Freelance or Powerpoint and printed on three by four foot paper.

The elements should be taught right after the team has reviewed its charter and its initial agenda. When teaching anything to anyone its important to keep in mind that learning goes through three separate steps: Hearing, understanding, and believing. For most people these three steps do not occur at the same time. Therefore the coach should expect to have to cover this material at least three times over the weeks that the team meets and works together.

All of the essential elements work together to build team and teamwork. Still the coach needs to deeply understand that even when the team exhibits high performance team behavior and seems to understand and value the importance of the essential elements, they will not work without an underlying environment of trust. So in addition to teaching High Performance Team essential elements that coach must always work to help the team build trust in one another and trust in themselves. Teams learn to trust by working together, accomplishing results together, celebrating successes along the way, and through trust building exercises.

Contact: [email protected]
Copyright (C) 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999 Donald J. Bodwell. All rights reserved.

Trust Building Exercises

Ask any newly formed team member if they trust their fellow team members and you will invariably get "Yes" for an answer. Dig a little deeper and you will discover that this trust level is conditional. Yes, we trust one another to behavior generally within the bounds of acceptable social behavior. Yes, we trust each other to not to overtly put individual interests above the needs of the team. But the kind of trust that a High Performance Team needs to develop in order to reach peak performance takes time to develop. An old saying goes something like this: "Trust takes a long time to build up, but can be destroyed in an instant." We learn to trust only by repeatedly taking personal risk and experiencing positive outcomes.

One of the coach's primary responsibilities is to help the team learn to increase its trust level with one another. Trust building exercises help a team increase team trust levels. The fastest way for a team to learn to work together and trust one another is to attend a high initiative or ropes course. These two to five day programs are offered to business and organizational team by independent training organizations such as Outward Bound, Powder River, and my personal favorite: Saturn Excel. Hanging at the end of each other's rope is a great way to increase risk taking and trust levels, using an ultra safe and highly supervised course. These courses can be somewhat expensive, costing $500 to $5,000 per person depending on course, duration, and travel costs. If you take, or send, a team out on a ropes course: It is absolutely critical to assure yourself that your high initiative course is double safe. That is, any person in the air has two sets of safety ropes attached, held by two sets of guy wires, held by two teams of spotters on the ground. Whatever can happen, will happen!

When time or money do not permit sending team members through a ropes course experience, a series of low-initiatives, meaning low to the ground, are possible using only the space found in office conference rooms and parking lots. Here are several that can be used to teach trust concepts.

Who's got a dollar? exercise

Global Vote

Willow in the Wind exercise

Trust Walk exercise

Out of Control exercise (For Executive Teams)

Contact: [email protected]
Copyright (C) 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999 1997 Donald J. Bodwell. All rights reserved.

"Who's got a dollar?" Exercise

Most people do not have a very good feel for their own personal level of trust. "Who's got a dollar", is a good initial exercise to get newly forming team members to start thinking about their own personal level of risk taking and trust. Here's how it works. The coach stands up and asks the team "who's got a dollar," waiting patiently, eventually someone reaches into their pocket or purse and comes out with a dollar bill. The coach walks over asks for the dollar and holding the bill together with the giver, asks the giver "What are your hopes and aspirations for this company or organization? In other words, what kind of a place would you like this company or organization to become?" When the giver has answered the question, the coach walks over to another person and hands them the dollar, and again holding the dollar together with the recipient, asks the recipient the same question, and listens to their answer. Next, the coach asks the group, "Who's got a ten dollar bill?" More fidgeting and up pops a ten dollar bill. The same question is asked of the giver, and then of the recipient of the ten dollar bill. Now, the coach asks, "Who's got a twenty dollar bill?" Again the question is asked and transfer of money takes place. At this point the coach stops, asks for the money to be returned to its rightful owners, and explains the importance of trust to the performance of teams. The coach asks each person to silently reflect on their thoughts and feelings about taking risk and trusting that the money would be returned while the exercise was in progress. Did you volunteer your money, that is, take risk. How did you feel? A little sheepish? What about when the ante was upped to ten dollars? Twenty? Did you think the volunteers were foolish? We may not all be as trusting as we thought.

The coach should recognize that the question about hopes and aspirations for the company or organization was a ruse intended to give the team something besides making a trust decision to think about while the exercise was in play. However, recognizing that one essential element of High Performance Teams is that they share a common vision, it is useful to point out the similarities in each giver and recipient's answer. In fact this exercise can form the basis for a team starting to develop a shared vision.

Contact: [email protected] June 23, 1996 Revised November 27, 1996
Copyright (C) 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999 Donald J. Bodwell. All rights reserved.

Willow in the Wind Exercise

This exercise requires a team of eight to 12 people. It can be conducted in a conference room, hallway, or foyer. Everyone stands is a circle, almost shoulder to shoulder. The coach explains the exercise mechanics to the team. A volunteer to start off is called for. The volunteer stands in the center of the circle, crosses his or her arms in front of his or her chest and closes his or her eyes. (Handkerchiefs may be provided). The remaining team members place one foot forward and bending slightly at the knee, stretch their arms toward the person in the center. The volunteer then locks their knees, keeps their feet in place, and fall's forward. Encircling team members catch the volunteer and push them back-up. The volunteer then falls backward or to the side, and once again is caught and pushed back up by the encircling team members. This continues for about 45 seconds or a minute. The coach stops the exercise and asks for a new volunteer. The process is continued until everyone who wants to volunteer has had an opportunity to try to be the willow. At this point the exercise stops and the coach asks participants to relate their feelings and experiences while being the willow. When everyone has shared who wants to share, the coach asks for thoughts and feeling about being in support? Which was easier? Why? In which role did you feel more comfortable...trusting or being trustworthy. Then the coach might ask, "How do you think your learning from this exercise could be useful to you as you learn to work together as a team?"

Contact: [email protected]
Copyright (C) 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999 Donald J. Bodwell. All rights reserved.

Trust Walk Exercise

I prefer this exercise to Willow in the Wind. Including processing (discussion ) time, it takes about an hour. When the weather is bad I use Willow, when its good I use the Trust Walk.

Although this exercise can be conducted indoors, it is much more effective outside. A good location is the landscaped grounds around the office or plant. Regardless of the number of exercise participants - at least two facilitators are needed to assure that a safe environment is maintained.

The participants are divided into two groups in two lines facing one another. One line of participants blindfolds the other. The blindfolded group is told to remain in place for a few minutes. The sighted group is led aside out of hearing of the blinded group. The sighted group is told that when they return to their partner they will be leading them around the area. Instruct the sighted group to walk their charges up and down steps, through the shrubs, up to light poles, fire hydrants, and other objects, where they may have the blinded partner touch the objects around them. Remind the sighted team that this is a trust building exercise. All communications are to be non-verbal. Explain that you will visually signal them to rally at a shaded spot in about 8 to 10 minutes, and to keep an eye out for your signal, and that they are to remain within eyesight of a facilitator at all times-don't wander off. Have the sighted group return to their partners and begin. As the pairs move about. The facilitator moves among the pairs making strange noises-stamping feet, whistling, jangling keys, clapping, or brushing the blinded participants with a scarf. If you are in or near a parking area and a car drives by, signal the driver to honk. Encourage teams to walk, CAREFULLY, near or across a drive lane where cars are occasionally moving. The idea is to create some level of concern on the part of blinded participant, but avoiding real danger and avoiding pushing the blinded partner into a zone of terror.

After 8 - 10 minutes, signal the sighted team members to assemble in a shaded area or out of the wind on a cool day. Tell the blinded participants that we are going to remove their blindfolds and that they should open their eyes slowly to allow time to adjust to the light. Sighted team members are encouraged to support their partners. Once everyone has adjusted to the light, have the recently blinded participants blindfold their previously sighted partners. Signal the newly sighted team members to follow you to a spot away from the hearing of the blinded participants. Make sure you leave a second facilitator with the blinded group, in the event the blinded ones decide to empower themselves and remove the blindfolds or start marching off on their own. The second facilitator intervenes if necessary and encourages the blinded folks to remain where they are. They may talk amongst themselves.

The facilitator who has the newly sighted team members aside, explains that they will be non-verbally leading their partners around the local terrain, having them touch various objects and walk safely over and around obstacles. Tell the sighted ones that after about 5 minutes they should switch lead with another pair. It's all right to switch more than once so that everyone has the opportunity to lead at least two different people. Explain that when you give the non-verbal signal they are to lead the team member back into the meeting area and seat them in a chair. If its hot, they may want to lead the blinded person to a water cooler and have them drink. Once everyone is seated, have the blinded folks remove their blindfolds.

Processing the Exercise:

The facilitator asks the participants to arrange their chairs in a circle and asks what did you think or feel during this exercise? I like to use a little rubber ball which participants toss to one another when someone wants to speak. If you need to brake the ice, ask whether it was easier to lead or be led? Many people will conclude that they are not as trusting as they thought. Others will observe that they become anxious when they are not in control. Did anyone in the second group of blindfolded folks notice that their partner changed. What did that do to the non-verbal communication rapport that you had established as a pair? What were the insights or "Ah-Ha's" of this exercise.

Contact: [email protected] April 1, 1997
Copyright (C) 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999 1997 Donald J. Bodwell. All rights reserved.

Out of Control Exercise

The stock market rewards companies that consistently produce year to year revenue and profit increases. Conversely, it severely penalizes those companies who have erratic revenue and profit performance. As a result, there is a lot of pressure on companies to attempt to increase the predictability of the financial performance of their business units. This is usually attempted by the institution of an annual budget and financial forecast. During the planning phase of this annual exercise business units are given revenue and profit targets to achieve. This exercise simulates the behavior of business unit leaders as they attempt to meet their quarterly targets. Participants learn that the likelihood of hitting combined or overall organizational targets is reduced using the traditional target setting process. In the last phase of the exercise participants learn that open communication about where the overall goal stands increases the probability of hitting exact targets by the end of the year.

This exercise was inspired by the "Hive Mind" chapter of Kevin Kelly's breakthrough book: "Out of Control". Facilitators are encouraged to read this chapter as background for this exercise. The exercise is a little complicated to facilitate and should be practiced in advance with 6 supporters. However, the exercise is a real paradigm buster for many managers and its lessons can lead an organization to increased predictability of overall results.

Facilitator's Instructions


This exercise is designed to explain and teach participants that teamwork produces better results than command and control when it is important to exactly achieve a group target or goal.

Materials Needed:

    • (20) Poker Chips
    • (5) 8 1/2" x 11" pieces of cardboard
    • (1) Black magic marker
    • (1) Pad of 3"x 3" Post it Notes
    • (5) Chairs
    • (6) Participants
    • (5) 1 gallon zip lock storage bags
    • (X) any number of observers

Room Set up:

Arrange chairs in a 8'-10' semi-circle facing outward. That is, participants should be able to see the person's lab to their left or right, but not the lap of someone two people away.

Game Set-up:

Place a piece of cardboard and two (2) poker chips inside the bag and seal it. Fill each of the remaining four bags as follows:

insert 4 chips

insert 5 chips

insert 1 chip

insert 7 chips

In the two bags that have 4 chips and 7 chips, include the following note face up on top of the other materials in the bag:

Attention! Very Important!

Do this now!

As quietly and secretly as you can - remove

(1) chip and put it in your pocket or between your seat and the chair

also hide this note.

Round 1

Have 5 volunteers sit in the chairs. These will be playing the role of Account Managers. Have one participant stand to theside. This person will be the BUSINESS UNIT manager to whom the ACCOUNT MANAGERS report. Hand the BUSINESS UNIT leader his or her instructions and hand the seated ACCOUNT MANAGERS a bag of chips and in the case of the two that have the special note point to it as you hand them the bag.

Read the following instructions to the seated ACCOUNT MANAGERS:

Each of you are ACCOUNT MANAGERS who report to the BUSINESS UNIT leader standing over there (point), In a minute the BUSINESS UNIT leader will assign you targets for the coming quarter that you will need to fill from the supply of poker chips in your possession. You may not look at the supply of chips your fellow account managers are holding. You will receive your targets from your business unit leader and "when I tell you to do so", you will hand them to the BUSINESS UNITleader.

    • You will be rewarded by your BUSINESS UNIT leader for meeting your target.
    • You will be rewarded, but less, for coming up short of your target.
    • If you exceed your target you will hurt the company. The BUSINESS UNIT leader needs each person to meet their assigned target. Exceeding the BUSINESS UNIT leader's overall target will cost us money.

Read the following instructions to the BUSINESS UNIT leader

As BUSINESS UNIT leader working together with your affinity group leader you have committed to deliver 16 chips this quarter. Your outstanding staff of account managers have a total of 17 chips in front of them. You need to tell each of them what contribution they need to make in order for you to achieve your overall goal of 16 chips. You will be rewarded for meeting your goal. You will be rewarded less, for coming up short. And you and the company will be in serious trouble if you exceed your goal.

Facilitator has the BUSINESS UNIT leader write and distribute the target for each account on post it notes.

At this point you tell the participants that the BUSINESS UNIT leader has been called away to Europe for 4 weeks and you walk the BUSINESS UNIT a short distance away and ask him or her to face away from the circle of account managers. You then enter the circle, remove 3 chips from the person with six chips and hand them to the person with 3 chips along with this note:

Important! This is a lot of extra chips! You may want to hide one of them for the next round.

Now have the BUSINESS UNIT leader return and visit each account for their contribution. Total will be 14 chips collected, 15 chips collected, if the person losing 3 chips pulls one out of their pocket. Ask the BUSINESS UNIT leader to talk with his account managers to determine why the total is short.

Expected answers are:

    • I had 3 chips taken away
    • I received extra chips.

Facilitator asks is this a realistic occurrence...where the opportunity to contribute at the end of a period may not be the same as it appeared at the beginning of the period. If an ACCOUNT MANAGER with a "secrete" chip, contributed it. Did the BUSINESS UNIT leader notice this. If not, ask him how the person with 6 chips to start could lose 3 chips and still contribute 4 chips. If the BUSINESS UNIT leader doesn't ask, the facilitator should ask the individual who had 5 chips but only contributed 3 chip why he or she did not give all 5 chips.

Expected answer is that individual didn't want to overshoot the target.

Give the BUSINESS UNIT leader 15 M&MS to distribute to the account managers as he desires. Explain the BUSINESS UNIT leader will receive his reward later. The leader will either distribute the rewards equally (3 to each) or in proportion to each person's contribution. In either case ask why he chose to do it that way. If he chose equally. Ask the person who contributed 5 how he felt get the same as everyone else. Is he as motivated as he was before.

2nd Round

Set up:

Facilitator returns each persons contribution so that chips are distributed as follows:

2 - 5 - 5 - 1 - 5 = 18 ( note: the first person with 5 chips is holding two additional in reserve.

BUSINESS UNIT leader is told that his new goal is 17 plus the 1 he was short last time so the new goal is 18.

BUSINESS UNIT leader is asked to look at the contribution opportunity of each account and to assign targets for each by writing out each target on a post it note and handing it to the ACCOUNT MANAGER.

Facilitator announces that the BUSINESS UNIT leader has been called away to Mexico - Walk the BUSINESS UNIT leader away from the group and have him face away from the ACCOUNT MANAGERS.

Facilitator enters the circle and takes one chip away from the person with 2 chips and gives it to any ACCOUNT MANAGER with 5 chips.

BUSINESS UNIT leader is brought back and makes circles the group collecting on his targets.

BUSINESS UNIT leader counts his chips and reports the result.

Answer should be 17 chips received.

Facilitator asks how this could be happening.

Teaching points.

System of rewards and instructions are not flexible enough to adjust to changing conditions. But realistically, conditions do change

Only the BUSINESS UNIT leader knew the big picture goal.

Are ACCOUNT MANAGERS always forthright about revealing the opportunities available. If not why not?

What about the person holding chips in reserve. Why did you not play them. ans. no incentive to play them. or wasn't asked to contribute them.

Facilitator gives the BUSINESS UNIT leader 15 m&m's to distribute.

Third Round

Have the account managers turn their chairs around and face inward.

In this round you will be given a group goal to achieve.

You will be rewarded based on your individual contribution and will share a group bonus only if the target is exactly met. If the groups goes over the target the company will be hurt. If the group exceeds the group target there will be no group reward. If the group under achieves the target you will receive some individual reward but no group reward.

Facilitator redistributes the chips as follows

5 - 4 - 6 - 2 - 1 = 18 (note there should still be 2 extra chips in hiding.)

Facilitator gives the BUSINESS UNIT leader a new goal of 18 and asks him to share this with the group of ACCOUNT MANAGERS

BUSINESS UNIT leader communicates new goal to the account mangers.

BUSINESS UNIT leader is called away to Japan - Facilitator walks the BUSINESS UNIT leader away.

Facilitator takes 2 chips from person with 6 chips and gives them to person with 1 chip.

The team is instructed to discuss the group goal and each persons planned contribution.

BUSINESS UNIT leader returns and accepts contributions.

Quality check did we get 18, YES

Did we meet our goal ...YES

Do we get rewarded.... YES

Facilitator gives BUSINESS UNIT leader 18 m&m's to distribute. + 5 m & m's as a group reward.

Teaching Points.

Why did this approach work better

Communication freedom

No need to hold back

Can see overall opportunity.

Directions: Print and cut the page into individual message strips to hand out during the exercise.

Attention! Very Important!

Do this now!

As quietly and secretly as you can - remove

(1) chip and put it in your pocket or between your seat and the chair

also hide this note.

Attention! Very Important!

Do this now!

As quietly and secretly as you can - remove

(1) chip and put it in your pocket or between your seat and the chair

also hide this note.

Important! This is a lot of extra chips you may want to hide one of them for the next round.

Contact: [email protected]

Copyright (C) 1997, Donald J. Bodwell. All rights reserved.

Global Vote Exercise

Interpersonal trust can be viewed as having five components: Truth, Respect, Understanding, Support, and Trustworthiness. This exercise was designed by Jim Lyness of the EDS Account Leadership Program to get team members to talk openly about their own feelings, attitudes, and level of personal trust. Here's how it works:

Two flip charts are positioned 30 to 50 feet apart. Then the number one and the words "Almost Never" are written on one flip-chart. At the other end the number seven and the words "Almost Always" are written. Participants are asked to imagine a scale between one and seven, think about the statement: "We tell each other the truth", and are asked to vote with their feet. That's is to get up and physically position themselves somewhere on the scale. The facilitator asks each group to declare where they and standing on the scale, ones, twos, etc. Then the facilitator chooses someone, looks them in the eye and asks "Why are you standing there? After hearing the answer, the facilitator moves on to the next person and asks the same question. All participants should be given the opportunity to answer the question on telling each other the truth.

Then the facilitator, makes the statement: "We respect one another", and instructs the team to vote with their feet. Again depending on time constraints and the size of the team, everyone might be given the opportunity to answer the question: "Why are you standing there?"

The statements and voting continue with "We seek to understand one another." "We support one another." And "We are trustworthy". Trustworthy means that we do what we say we are going to do and keep our commitments to one another. As the facilitator gets to the last two or three questions, it might be good idea to call on people randomly, planning to hear from only a portion of the team members.

At this point give the team a short break and do not attempt to process the exercise for take aways or learnings. The value of this exercise is that team members can calibrate each other team member's attitudes, beliefs and convictions on these very important team relationship dimensions. This will guide individual team members in determining the best way to deal with one another when these dimensions come into play later as the team continues to form.

Contact: [email protected]

Copyright (C) 1997, Donald J. Bodwell. All rights reserved.

Initial Team Agenda

Development of a High Performance Team begins with an initial meeting of all team members, coaches, and the team sponsor. Team coaches are usually responsible for developing the initial agenda for the team. After the initial set of team meetings, the High Performance Team will become responsible for determining the time, place, and elements for future agendas. Prior to the first meeting, team members should be notified that they are going to be members of a High Performance Team, the names of fellow team members, and provided a copy of the team charter.

An initial agenda for the team would begin with 15 minutes for introductions. The first substantive item on the agenda needs to be an explanation of the team charter by the team sponsor. Allow an hour for this topic. The team sponsor makes a short speech explaining why the team is being formed and why attaining the objectives are important to the organization. Team members will want further clarification on the team's objectives, and will usually have a number of scope and boundary questions. Additional questions may arise about resources. The team sponsor should be coached to expect these questions. If the sponsor cannot be present to explain the charter, it can be explained by the team coaches, although this approach is much less satisfactory. When someone other than the sponsor presents the charter, questions may arise concerning the sponsor's commitment to the charter and the sponsors willingness to support the coaches answers concerning available resources, scope, or boundaries.

Once the sponsor has answered all questions, the sponsor may leave the meeting or stay. If the sponsor stays, he or she runs the risk of being included as a member of the team. Depending on the sponsor's style of working with people and teams this could be positive or negative. A highly participative style decision making sponsor could successfully work directly as a team member. Someone who is more along the authoritative end of the spectrum will be tempted to control the team's direction and decision making, and consequently runs the risk of de-motivating the team.

The third element of the agenda should include an explanation of the High Performance Team behavior by the team coaches. Allow one hour for this activity. The High Performance Team overview sets the stage for team development. At this initial point in the team's development, it may be enough to simply review the characteristics of a High Performance Team, spending a minute or two explaining each. The coaches should spend a few minutes explaining some of the philosophical underpinnings that support the creation and use of High Performance Teams. Coaches can explain why they believe that High Performance Teams will get results when many other approaches fail. If the organization is attempting to create a new team based culture, the coaches must be up-front and explain that intent. This is a good time for coaches to set the team's expectation that over the remainder of the agenda and during future team meetings, the coaches will be calling for the team to stop work and conduct team building exercises. Coaches should remind the team members that the team charter calls for their development into a High Performance Team, and that the coaches share a responsibility for the team's development. Therefore, as the coaches perceive that a certain aspect of team development needs to take place for team development to progress, the coaches will be stopping team working sessions to inject experiential training.

The next element of the agenda should include a team building exercise. Warp-Speed, is an excellent initial team building exercise because it allows the team to experience an initial success. However, if the coach perceives that the team shares a low level of trust toward each other or the organization's leadership, Willow-in-the-wind would be a better starting exercise. Allow 45 minutes for either of these exercises.

At this point, the team may need to be briefed by a series of knowledgeable speakers from various parts of the organization. Perhaps these individuals hold knowledge or information that the team will need to factor into its solution set. Or perhaps others have background information about similar efforts that have gone before. To the extent that the team's need for this type of information can be anticipated, speakers need to be scheduled to brief the team. Allow 45 minutes for each presenter. It may be necessary to postpone some presenters to the next day.

As the agenda fills toward the end of the first day, one and three quarters hours needs to be reserved for the following three agenda items. First the team needs to take thirty minutes to develop its initial set of team norms. Coaches should lead this activity and may show the team several norms that have been adopted by other teams. Coaches must be prepared to allow the team to develop or modify any norms that the team agrees on.

Next, the team should be given one hour to work together on their own. This agenda item is called "Begin Approach Development", or developing "the Big Idea." Its important that all team members leave at the end of the first day with a positive feeling that what they are being asked to accomplish is possible. The team charter outlined the team's objectives. This is a good point to ask if everyone understands what they are being asked to do. A shared understanding of the problem and challenges ahead set the stage for an initial brainstorming session on the solution or approach. At this point, most of the team members have one or more ideas about how the team can solve the problem, or achieve its objectives. Team members will be encouraged by sharing these ideas with one another. Also you can bet that the organizational leaders that nominated each team member will be checking with them to see if this High Performance Team thing is worth the investment. While some skeptical team members are to be expected, most can be won over if they are given an opportunity to talk together about their objectives and ideas for accomplishing them. If the initial team meeting was scheduled for a single day, an agenda item needs to be added at this point called "Next Steps". This involves asking the team to determine when and how it will meet in the future, and to develop a high level agenda for the next team meeting.

Finally the first day should end with a quality check and celebration. Allow fifteen minutes for this activity. Coaches begin by asking the team members, "In reviewing the activities we have covered today, which activities can be improved and how?" Anyone who still is having heartburn over being on the team, or the need for the team, or the objectives, scope, or boundaries of the charter, will probably express these thoughts now. If one of these concerns is expressed the coach should remain silent or ask for other team members thoughts on the question. Thus the coach allows team members who have a better understanding of the issue to explain the logic to the concerned team member. Coaches should attempt to approach such individual team members after the meeting concludes and assure that the individual's concerns are resolved.

The first day ends with a short celebration. The coach asks the team if they feel good about the day or asks the team if it feels like it has anything it wants to celebrate. The coach acknowledges any positive comments and leads the celebration.

If the initial team meeting is to extend to two or more days, the second and following days should begin with a review of the agenda for the day, followed by a High Performance Team building exercise. At this point, unless more briefings are carried over from the first day, the team is ready to grab control of the agenda and decide for itself how it wants to allocate the remaining time to accomplish its charter.

Contact: [email protected]
Copyright (C) 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999 Donald J. Bodwell. All rights reserved.

Getting Organized

Once the team's charter has been explained, High Performance Team Concepts have been introduced, the team has received any necessary background briefings, initial brainstorming around the big idea has been conducted, it's time for the team to get organized and plan the team's approach for getting the charter objectives accomplished.

A very effective process for organizing and planning involves the use of 3" x 5" Post-it-notes and a large liquid chalk board (large pieces of paper can be taped to the walls of the meeting room). Each team member is issued a pad of Post-it-notes and a broad tipped pen. The coach provides an overview of the following process and then asks the team members to identify the tasks that the team will have to perform in order to accomplish the charter objectives. Each team member should silently list every task he or she can think of on a separate note. Allow 20 to 25 minutes for this activity. Once everyone has completed their notes, each person in turn goes to the board and sticks their notes on the board, taking a moment to read each note. Team members are encouraged to remain silent during this operation, but are told to create additional notes when someone else's note sparks a new thought about an additional task that needs to be performed.

The next step can be performed during a 30 minute break. Each person approaches the board and attempts moves the notes around into groups that have a similar theme. Team members can work together on this, asking questions about the meaning of specific notes, and suggesting themes for grouping tasks. Duplicates should be placed on top of one another. It is also a good idea to create a boxed-off area for any notes that suggest activities that may be out of the scope of this team's charter. This "Parking Lot" can be revisited from time-to-time as the planning process continues.

Next, the team is asked create a name for each theme. This involves looking at the grouped tasks and trying to come up with a word or phrase to describe each theme. Then the team is asked to determine the natural order of the themes. Some themes will have to be performed before others can occur. Some can, or will have to be performed simultaneously.

The coach then asks for a volunteer to grab a marker pen and write on a flip chart. With the volunteer leading, the team creates a refined list of tasks by theme. It is usually a good idea to ask the team to determine which activities are essential and which are nice to have. Next the team estimates the time needed to perform each essential task. Individuals are asked to volunteer to work on one or more tasks or themes until all themes.

At this point, the work to be performed by the teams has been determined, time-frames for accomplishing each task have been estimated, the order of the tasks have been determined, and volunteers to perform the tasks have been identified. Nearly all the elements for a detailed project plan have been created. It only remains to determine any task dependencies and enter the data into a computerized project planning program.

Contact: [email protected]
Copyright (C) 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999 Donald J. Bodwell. All rights reserved.

Team Building Exercises

High Performance Teams spend part of their time learning how to work together as teams and having fun. Two or three 1/2 hour exercises during the course of the day are plenty, when the team is having a planning, problem solving, or organizing session. The coach will usually introduce and lead the exercises, being careful to use exercises that relate to one or more of the issues that the team is struggling with at the moment. Once the exercise has been completed, and the team has celebrated its successful completion, it is important for the coach to ask about the behaviors that the team observed in themselves and others, then to ask how what they learned during the exercise can be used in by their team going forward.


Contact: [email protected] November25, 1996
Copyright (C) 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999 Donald J. Bodwell. All rights reserved.

Warp Speed Exercise

This exercise requires a team of eight to 16 people and a tennis ball. Everyone stands in a circle. The coach explains that "during this exercise we will use the tennis ball to establish a process. The process starts with one team member receiving the ball from the coach and tossing it across the circle to another team member. The receiving team member then tosses the ball to another team member and so on until each team member has caught the ball one time. The last team member then tosses the ball back to the starting team member, thus completing the process." To facilitate establishing the process, team members are asked to hold out their hands in a ready to catch position until they have caught the ball one time. Team members who have already caught the ball, drop their hands to their sides so everyone can tell who has yet to catch the ball. Each team member is instructed to remember the person who threw them the ball and who they threw the ball to. Team members are told that if they drop the ball, just pick it up and continue the process. Once the process is established, the coach explains that he or she will now time the exercise with a stop watch to determine how long the process takes. After the initial timing run, the coach announces the time the team took to complete the process (usually around 35 to 45 seconds).

The coach reminds the team that the process only requires that the ball start and end with the same person, that everyone must touch the ball, and that the order of touching the ball must remain the same. The coach then explains to the team that their customer needs a substantial decrease in the speed at which the process is being executed. In fact the customer would be pleased if the team could cut the time in half. The coach asks the team if they think they could achieve this objective. As the team begins to discuss the request, the coach interrupts and asks the team how much time they need to discuss how to achieve the customer request. The coach agrees to anything under two minutes. Longer requests are met with "I can't give you that much time - you may have two minutes." At the end of the discussion period, the coach hands the tennis ball to the starting team member and starts the stop watch. When the ball returns to the starting team member, the coach stops the watch and announces the time achieved. Invariably teams will improve the time to execute the process by about half, sometimes slightly better. However they will have to have made some change in order to achieve the objective-perhaps moving closer together.

The coach again asks the team if they can cut the new time in half, reminds the team that the process only requires that the ball start and end with the same person, that everyone must touch the ball, and that the order of touching the ball must remain the same, asks how much time is needed to discuss the problem, provides up to two minutes, hands the ball to the starting team member, starts the stop watch and announces the result. This process is repeated three or four times until the team achieves a time under two to four seconds. The fastest process involves having the team members sort themselves into the perfect order of flow, that is, a straight flow in one direction, the starting/ending team member then swipes the ball across the outstretched hands of his fellow team members.

The coach helps the team members to process the experience: Team members are asked to explain what they learned from this exercise. "How many of you thought it wasn't possible to cut the speed in half the first time? How about after you had achieved one success, did you think you could repeat the success a second time? What had to change in order for you to achieve success each time?" The coach points out that the team managed to get from 40 plus seconds to under two. "So what if you had been asked to achieve sub-second performance right off the bat? Would you have been able to achieve it in one try?" Probably not. "So what happened that allowed you to ultimately get to such a superior level of performance? (The team built on previous successful experiences). What can you take away from this experience and use on your team?

After processing the exercise, the coach leads the team in a cheer to celebrate their success as a team: "1, 2, 3, YES!"

Contact: [email protected] November 25, 1996
Copyright (C) 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999 Donald J. Bodwell. All rights reserved.

Warp Speed Reprise

This exercise is most powerful when performed after the team has experienced the Warp Speed Exercise. The reason is that Warp Speed Reprise or Warp Speed II looks to the participant as if it is going to use the same principles as Warp Speed but it has a totally different emphasis. For materials you will need 10 to 12 different round objects or balls of approximately the size of a tennis ball i.e. tennis ball, wiffel ball, cosh ball, rubber ball, etc. A few minutes in a toy department will usually provide the needed variety.

The coach forms the team of eight to 15 people into a circle. As in Warp Speed, the coach hands a team member a ball and asks the team to establish a pattern so that each person catches the ball. Instead of returning the ball to the starting team member, the last team member drops the ball into a box. Once the pattern has been established the coach explains that he will be handing 10 balls to the initial team member one at a time and that each ball will need to go through the process in exactly the same order as established by the initial pattern. The exercise begins, the coach starts the stop watch, and starts handing balls to the starting team member. When the last ball drops in the box the coach stops the stop watch and the reports the time elapsed to the team.

At this point the coach explains that the customer is pretty impressed with the team's performance at this point and wants to know how long the team will require to pass all ten balls through the process without dropping any balls. The coach explains that, unlike Warp Speed, the team members must maintain their relative position to one another. As the team begins to discuss the question, the coach interrupts and asks how much time the team will need in order to respond to the customer's question. The coach allows up to five minutes for discussion. When the coach has the answer, he or she starts the stop watch, and hands the starting team member the first ball. When the last ball drops into the box, the coach stops the stop watch and reports the elapsed time.

The process is repeated several times at which point the team has figured out that speed through the process is not what the customer requires. In essence, this is a just-in-time problem, where the customer is asking the team for a delivery schedule so that the customer can set his own production plans. Reliability of delivery is paramount versus throughput speed.

Coaches should realize that team behavior is fairly variable in this exercise: When 10 balls, of different weights are being thrown around a circle at the same time the results can be chaotic, with balls banging into one another, or being shuffled too fast. Some teams will take steps to minimize the cross tossing and may come up with a solution that involves bringing the circle in very close where the starting team member's hand is on top, the box is directly below and all other team members hands are in the correct order between the starting team member's hand and the box.

When the team has successfully passed 10 balls without dropping any and has performed the process within the committed time frame, the coach declares the exercise at an end, leads a team celebration, and helps the team process the experience:

What did we learn from this exercise? What did we learn about team communication? What assumptions did the team make about the objective of this exercise that was not present? What can we take back to our work environment from this exercise?

Contact: [email protected] November 25, 1996
Copyright (C) 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999 Donald J. Bodwell. All rights reserved.

Spider Web Exercise

The Spider Web exercise is one of the most powerful exercises for teaching High Performance Team principles. The downside is that it takes three to four hours of preparation time to construct the web. Teams of 12 to 18 team members can tackle the web. A second or third web can be constructed for simultaneous experience by additional teams.

Kick-off Instructions

Position your team on one side of the web. The coach stands on the other side. Tell the team that the web represents a learning barrier for the team and that your customer needs to have all team members achieve a minimum level of new knowledge. This new knowledge will be represented by having each person successfully pass through the web. Explain that this is not an out-of-the-box thinking exercise. In other words, no props, tools or support items can be used. This exercise requires that everyone pass through a hole in the web. Touching the web is not allowed and has serious consequences. Touching by anything including clothing constitutes a touch. There is an invisible barrier around the web - above it, below it and to the sides. This barrier cannot be penetrated. The exception is that team members may extend their arms - but not legs or bodies -- below the web to support someone being passed. Once someone has passed through a hole, it will close. A closed hole will be represented by a piece of masking tape placed at the bottom of the hole. It is very important to stress the fact that running, diving, or throwing people through a hole is not allowed and is dangerous. Explain to the team that if a touch occurs, any team member who sees the touch will have to report it to the team and the team member who is being passed will have to be returned to the starting side. Stress to the team that when a touch occurs, it is very important for the supporting team members not to let down and drop the team member who is being passed. Once team members are through the hole they may assist in helping other team members get through the web. Explain to the team that some rules cannot be known at the outset and that they will have to be discovered as the exercise progresses. Offer the opportunity for anyone who is uncomfortable attempting this exercise to walk around to the other side. The coach needs to stress that in any group there may be one or more people with physical or psychological concerns about participating and that that is OK. However, anyone who elects to walk around will not be able to help their teammates until the first person successfully passes through the web. Explain to the participants that they will have 25 minutes for 12 people to complete the exercise (add 2 minutes per person over 12). Ask the team if they have any questions before the exercise begins.

Start the exercise and note the time. If the team touches the web, use a strip of masking tape to make the hole slightly smaller, but not so small that no one in the team can pass through that hole. If a team member calls a touch and the team responds by returning the person being passed to the starting side, you may go to another place on the web and increase the opportunity by widening an unused hole slightly or removing a closed hole tape marker. The team is demonstrating accountability and quality and should be rewarded about half the time, but not every time. Each time the team passes a person through the web, you step up and say, "Did we have a successful pass?" The team shouts "YES". "Did we have a touch?" The team shouts, "NO." "How do we celebrate success?" "1, 2, 3, YES!" If you see a touch, AND you see that one or more of the team members also say the touch, but decided not to report it: When you ask the question, "Did we have a touch?" and the answer is NO, you look the person in the eye who touched and say "Remember, quality is everyone's concern." Then you say "How do we celebrate success?" and flag the hole as closed. The team should not be rewarded in any way for knowingly fudging on the rules. However a successful pass, with no touch may be rewarded by surreptitiously widening a open hole, removing the tape from a closed hole, or forgetting to close a hole that has just been used.

In the beginning most teams chew up about a third to a half of their available time trying to plan an approach to the problem. Some teams will draw diagrams and try to measure people, others may try to prototype passing a person through an imaginary hole. If a team is bogging down on planning, and 10 to 15 minutes have passed, you will want to announce to the team how much time it has left. During this initial stage, its normal for one or two people to pull apart from the team and just stand around. If you see this going on, walk over and blindfold the watchers. If the team asks what's going on, explain that they have some unused resources standing around and that the team knows what happens to unused resources, they get even less useable. When, and if, the team starts using the blindfolded people, walk over and remove their blindfolds.

As the team approaches the deadline, determine if another minute or two will allow them to successfully complete the exercise. If so, give it to them. If they obviously have no chance, meaning they have four or five people left to pass and are out of time, stop the exercise at the deadline.

Give the team a short break and when they return form them in a sitting circle to process the exercise.

Processing the Exercise

The coach asks the team the following questions and gives everyone a chance to contribute their thoughts:

    • What are some of the key learnings or takeaways from this exercise?
    • What would you do differently?
    • What did you do well?
    • Were any team members blindfolded? Why? Why were the blindfolds ultimately removed?

Contact: [email protected] November 25, 1996
Copyright (C) 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999 Donald J. Bodwell. All rights reserved.

Spider Web Construction

This very powerful team building exercise requires four to five hours of advance preparation:

Materials required are:

    • (2) 4" x 4" x 8' posts
    • (2) 2" x 4" x 8' boards (cut into two foot lengths)
    • 4" Nails for securing 4 lengths of board to each post
    • Several hundred feet of colored nylon string

Construction of Web Posts:

Bottom View

With one 8' post lying on the ground, place a single two foot length of 2 x 4 perpendicular to the end of the post. Square the 2 X 4 with the edge and end of the post. At this point you should have about 4" of the 2 x 4 overlapping the bottom of the post. Using two 4" nails, nail the 2 x 4 to the post. Now, using the 2 x 4, roll the post over 1/4 of a turn. Take the end of the second 2 x 4 and butt it into the standing 2 x 4 that is nailed to the post, making sure to square the edge of the second 2 x 4 with the end of the post. Rotate the post one more time. Take the third 2 x 4 and butt it into the second, now standing, 2 x 4 and square the third 2 x 4 with the end of the post. Now stand the post up so that it is supported by the three 2 x 4s. Butt the fourth 2 x 4 into the third 2 x 4 and nail the fourth 2 x 4 to the post. You now have a stable post standing 8' tall supported by the four 2 x 4s. You are going to need two posts, so repeat the process and build the second post with stand

Construction of the Web:

Place the posts 14' apart. Using the colored string, one end of the string to one post at a point 6 1/2 ' off the ground. Attach the trailing end of the string to the second post at 6 1/2 ' off the ground. Tie another piece of string 3 ' off the ground between the posts. Tie a third piece of string between the two posts positioned half way between the first and second pieces of string. Now, standing midway between the posts tie a piece of string vertically to the top, middle, and bottom horizontal strings. As you tie this first vertical piece of string, you want to tie it so that the center of the horizontal lines are about 8" closer together than they are on the posts. Continue to tie vertical lengths of string between and connecting the three horizontal lengths of string. Each vertical length should be about 18" to 2' apart. As you tie these additional vertical length to the horizontal lengths do not decrease the natural distance between the horizontal strings as you did with the first string. Now, we are almost done. Leaving the center vertical string alone, gently slide the upper and lower knots of all other vertical strings four or five inches to the left or right. You should now have something that looks very much like a very large spider web. If you use your imagination, you can vaguely visualize people being passed ever so carefully through these holes.

Contact: [email protected] November 25, 1996
Copyright (C) 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999 Donald J. Bodwell. All rights reserved.

Toxic Rescue Exercise

This is an exercise for 12 to 18 person teams. Before the start of the exercise, the coach pours 2-3 inches of water in a 2 lb. coffee can. The can is placed on a round piece of paper that is approximately 2 feet in diameter. Around this is placed a 25 foot rope with the loose ends tied together.

At the beginning of the exercise, the coach divides the team into 3 sub-teams. One team is given 6 ropes, each approximately 8 feet long. The second team is given 6 carabieners. The third team is given a bungie cord. The coach tells the team that they are going to be given a rescue mission. The can is sitting on an island belonging to their customer. The island is surrounded by a lake of toxic chemicals. The can contains a precious commodity that their customer needs rescued from the island. If anyone touches the lake they will be severely injured. If anything touches the lake, it will be destroyed. The coach then tells the team that they have 20 minutes to complete the rescue.

The solution calls for the three sub-teams to get together and pool their resources. Ropes are tied to carabieners, which are hooked to the bungie cord, which in turn has its ends hooked together to form a small circle. Team members holding the ends of the ropes, then distribute themselves around the lake and pull evenly on the ropes to expand the bungie cord to pass over and around the can. Pressure is released and the can is captured by the bungie cord. Gentle, even pressure is exerted on the ropes and the can lifts and passes safely over the lake. If successful, the team can be asked to put the can back.

If the coach sees that the team is having no trouble figuring this solution out, the people who are holding the rope ends are blindfolded and the team is told that only the blindfolded people can touch the ropes. After 25 minutes, or when the team has successfully completed the mission, the coach forms the team in a circle of chairs and processes the exercise.

Questions the coach should ask the team:

    • What did we learn from this exercise?
    • Was it more difficult to be blindfolded or not blindfolded?
    • What did this exercise teach us about team communication?
    • How did our team communication process work? Could it have been improved? How?

Supplies needed for this exercise:

Six pieces of rope, each 8' in length

Six Carabieners (These are oblong circles of metal that mountaneers use to attach gear to their climbing harnesses). Carabieners are available for under $5 each at outdoor experience stores.

One empty two pound coffee can

One large brown paper bag, opened and cut to roughly a two foot circle.

One bungie cord (experiment to find one that holds the can fairly tightly when released)

Twenty-five foot length of rope (used to make the border or shore of the toxic lake)

Contact: [email protected] February 13, 1977
Copyright (C) 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999 1997 Donald J. Bodwell. All rights reserved.

The River Exercise

This team building exercise can be used with teams of 16 to 60. Participants are divided into two groups and are placed behind pieces of masking tape that are taped to the floor 50 feet apart. Participants are told that these pieces of tape represent the banks of a fast flowing river. A two foot by two foot square is created in the middle of the river using masking tape. Participants are told that this square represents an island in the middle of the river. Participants are issued two foot long pieces of two by four wood boards. Each team is given 5 boards. Participants are told that these boards represent boats to get them across the river.

Participants are told: that the object of the exercise is for each team to get to the other side of the river. That once a boat leaves the shore that it must go all the way to the other side before it can return. That no more than four people can stand on the island at one time. That participants must stay in physical contact with the boats at all times while they are in the river or the boats will float away. That there are monsters in the river and that they are attracted by noise and that the facilitator will let them know when monsters are present and that when they are present everyone must be absolutely silent or that person will lose the use of one of their arms. The facilitator will let the participants know when the monsters are gone. If anyone steps into the river the entire team must return to the starting shore. Participants are given 30 minutes to get across the river-20 minutes for smaller teams.

The facilitator monitors the efforts of the team. If a boat is left untouched, it is kicked out of play by the facilitator. At the end of the allotted time, or upon earlier completion of the exercise, the facilitator calls a halt, gathers both teams in a circle and processes the exercise:

    • What happened?
    • How did the team organized itself?
    • How did the team handle different ideas?
    • Did the team learn from its failures? From its successes?
    • Did the two teams cooperate? If so, how did that come about? If not, why not?
    • How can this learning be applied in the way the team works?
    • Who are the monsters in real life?
    • What was communication like on the team?
    • How did leadership evolve?

Team Leading and Facilitation

High Performance Team coaches must be careful to avoid slipping into the roles of team leading or team facilitation. A coache's role is to teach and encourage High Performance Team behavior and to provide options and approaches when the team becomes stuck.

The use of meeting facilitators is a very common practice in conducting meetings throughout the world. Well trained facilitators help groups stay on the subject, organize and record ideas and thoughts, draw thoughts out of quiet people, and keep individuals from dominating a meeting session. This is a lot for one person to be responsible for. Facilitators are forced to summarize and record people's thoughts. The facilitator is in control of the pen. When putting these into words on a flip chart, the facilitator will often record the thought a little differently than the speaker intended. Depending on the professionalism of the facilitator, he or she may have some ideas of their own about solving the problem or determining what needs to be done. Indeed, to keep the meeting focused and moving along, most facilitators will offer their own thoughts or ideas for solving the problem.. As a result, when the session ends, a number of participants feel that the conclusions drawn are slightly to significantly off the mark, or that the approach is flawed. From a group buy-in point of view, the result is somewhat lacking. The group probably lacks the required degree of commitment to see the effort through to a successful conclusion. A facilitator who "over-steers" a group or seems to be steering the group, can also cause individuals to "quit and stay"; a situation where group members lose interest, enthusiasm, and ownership

A High Performance Team is coached to accomplish the roles and responsibilities of the facilitator. Each member is keyed to the body language of the other team members and stops the action to gain understanding when another team member looks uncomfortable with the line of discussion. Until the team reaches this level of behavior, the coach will need to carefully monitor discussions and activities to make certian that all team members are involved and getting their concerns heard and resolved.

Contact: [email protected]
Copyright (C) 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999 Donald J. Bodwell. All rights reserved.

Coach Intervention

Nothing gets accomplished without expending energy. Teams have the potential to create their own energy. Energy is building when team members are creating their own ideas and figuring out how to solve difficult problems for themselves. In this kind of electrically charged environment all things are possible. High Performance Team coaches are responsible for helping teams learn the behaviors that build team energy and are responsible for monitoring the team behaviors for actions and situations that deplete team energy.

Coaching a High Performance Team is a lot like trying to teach a child to ride a bicycle. At first the parent holds onto the seat, as the child masters steering and peddling, then runs along beside the child still holding the seat until the child gains a sense of balance. Then the parent finally lets go still running along to try to catch the child if it looks like they are going to fall or hurt themselves. All the while the child was gaining experience, skill, and confidence.

Continuous coach intervention is like teaching a child to ride a bike but never taking off the training's never quite the same thing as doing it by yourself.

With this mental model in mind for coaching in mind, Coaches only intervene, that is, interrupt the flow of team activity or dialogue when individuals or cliques clearly demonstrate serious anti-team behavior. Anti-team behavior can take a number of forms, but basically it is any behavior that is destructive to team building and team objectives. This could take the form of showing disrespect to another team member, or withdrawing from team activities and discussions. In most instances the coach should err on the side of waiting a little to long to intervene. Usually a gentle reminder is all that is needed to get individuals or the team back on track. Team building exercises and trust building exercises can be used to reset team behavior. Sometimes referring the team to the team charter, or the essential element of High Performance Teams displayed on the wall is all that will be needed. In extreme cases, individuals may need to asked by the coach to meet separately from the team with the coach. Here the coach gently explains his or her observed behavior, and asks the individual to work on improving it. If the individual disagrees, the coach should urge the individual to raise the issue with the rest of the team to see if the team has observed the same behavior the coach observed.

Contact: [email protected]
Copyright (C) 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999 Donald J. Bodwell. All rights reserved.

A Little About Myself

Hello, I am currently the head coach for High Performance Teams at Electronic Data Systems. For the past 25 years I have held a variety of management positions with EDS. During the past several years I have been helping to build a consulting capability within the company, with a very strong emphasis on process improvement and business processing reengineering. These activities, led me to see High Performance Teams as a true enabler of reengineering efforts.

I would be happy to dialogue with anyone interested in High Performance Team building. In most instances, you should contact me at the e-mail address below. In an emergency--don't laugh--they do happen, you should feel free to call me at my home office (972) 734-3026. Please leave your name, phone number, and the fact that it concerns High Performance Teams, and I will call you back within 24 hours Monday-Friday.

Special Thanks To:

    • Jack Dickerson, formerly of A T Kearny, CSC Consulting, and now Sapient Corporataion, my partner in developing this concept and for encouraging and editing this effort.
    • Chris Egberts, EDS Management Consulting Services, retired, for teaching me how to work with teams.
    • Todd Drass and Rick Morphew, of Saturn Excel, for showing me the ropes and the light.
    • Neil O'connor, EDS, for much constructive advice and help with the content.
    • Prudence Cole, formerly of EDS, for supplying energy and imagination when mine was in short supply.
Contact: [email protected] July 4, 1996
Copyright (C) 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999 Donald J. Bodwell. All rights reserved.

High Performance Team Building Sessions

Half-day and full-day facilitated team building sessions are available through PT Consulting Partners. Typically sessions are either conducted at the client's work site or premises that the client rents at a nearby facility. Minimum space requirements for a team of 25 or fewer participants are 20' x 50'. Clients may choose to hold two half-day team building sessions on the same day or may elect to have a single whole day session.

Team building sessions are appropriate and effective for teams at all levels, from executive teams to back-office and plant floor teams.

All team building sessions are highly interactive and are based on experiential learning principles. That is, participants learn by doing and by discussing what they have learned. Sessions are fast-paced, fun, and intense. All exercises are handled as "low initiatives" that is, the exercises are designed to be safely conducted close to the earth. Both full-day and half-day sessions include solid grounding in High Performance Team principles, essential elements, norms and relationship styles. Full-day sessions spend additional time exploring and resolving issues that are hindering that specific team's ability to perform at a high level of performance. Full-day session attendees leave the training with a clear understanding of the issues and barriers that are unique to their team as well as action plans for resolving and eliminating the major issues and barriers.

A typical engagement would involve facilitation of either two identical half-day sessions or one-full day session. Teams of up to twenty-five would be trained per session. When the situation requires additional teams to be trained, additional days will be required. Pricing is based on the assumption of one to five days of team building sessions per visit. Client's are billed $2,500 per day. A typical facilitation of two half-day's (up to 50 team members) or one whole day (up to 25 team members) will run $2,500 plus travel related expenses.

References and typical agendas are available by request.

I also offer a two to three day program to train one to five trainers to deliver High Performance Team building sessions. This program provides a complete set of training materials, facilitation notes, and presentation coaching. Pricing depends on format (amount of coaching desired, location of training, and whether the coaching is combined with live team building sessions) and typically costs between $5,000 and $10,000 plus travel.

Meeting Facilitation

Increasingly clients are interested in combining High Performance Team building together with team planning for the future. I have the experience and ability to plan and facilitate this type of meeting. Injecting high performance team concepts, exercises, and events at off-site meetings targeted at gaining team commitment to action plans and results produces highly focused and dedicated team members.

Advance planning involves clarifying goals, developing and reviewing meeting objectives and agenda items, and logistical arrangements. Typically I work with the executive or team leader to develop the meeting plan. Typical total costs for my meeting facilitation services run $3,500 for one day and $5,000 for two day meetings plus travel. These charges include all advance work and travel time.

References are available by request.

E-mail me to learn more or call me at 972-734-3387 (home office). Send E-mail to [email protected]

Donald J. Bodwell, PT Consulting Partners, Dallas, Texas