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
- 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
- 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 commitments made to one another.
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 can cause
individual team members who receive zinger 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
- 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?"
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Copyright (C) 1996-2002, Donald J. Bodwell. All rights reserved.