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Team Launch System

This model presents the major milestones in our Team Launch System. It is a specific application of our Stages of Team Development to new product development teams, business development teams, and major project teams. Click on the model to explore the elements.

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Team Launch System

The Team Launch System (TLS) is a comprehensive system of team development that consistently develops high performance teams within six weeks of team launch. TLS was designed for organizations that consistently rely on high performance teams for new product development, business development and to drive major projects.

TLS organizes team development into four phases with specific milestones, tasks, and deliverables for each phase. This creates a defined process — with high levels of accountability for performance — that can be Defined, Measure, Analyzed, Improved and Controlled.

Orient Phase

Phase 1 gets “everyone on the same page” by creating a common orientation to the business, the organization, and the situation. The first thing people want to know when they are assigned to a team is why are we doing this and whatís in it for me? To answer these questions team members must understand where the team fits into the business, the organizational dynamics that will support and inhibit team efforts, and the importance and urgency of the situation.

Team Launch

TLS defines a mandatory and formal team launch process that demonstrates managementís commitment to the team and gets a team off to a quick start. This first Milestone has tasks for both management and the team leader. Together the team leader and management can give a team a “running start” and establish an action orientation for the development of a high performance team.

Business Analysis

The second milestone of Phase 1 — Orient is conducting a business analysis that results in a “compelling business reason” for a teamís existence. An accurate business analysis empowers a team to do the “right thing for the business” and to become self-directed in its actions. Specific tasks within this milestone include analyzing current market conditions and determining the teamís alignment with larger business plans and strategies.

Organizational Analysis

The third milestone of Phase 1 is to accurately assess the organizational dynamics a team will experience as it develops the new product. This analysis allows a team to assess what they are “really getting into” and how much time and effort it will require to achieve success. Specific tasks within this milestone include identification of key stakeholders, analysis of costs and benefits that flow to each key stakeholder, and a Force-Field Analysis of the forces within the organizationís culture and infrastructure that will support and inhibit team performance.

Situation Analysis

The fourth milestone in Phase 1 — Orient requires team members to draw on their learning from the previous two milestones to create a situational analysis. Developing a high performance team requires a significant investment of time and energy by team members and by the organization. Specific tasks within this milestone include an accurate assessment of the importance of the team, the urgency with which the team must act, the strength of team dynamics, and the probability of achieving success. This analysis will be used by team members to determine the level of time and energy they should commit to the team.

Organize

Phase 2 organizes the team for success. In this phase the team must reach consensus on its mission, goals, and strategies and then organize itself in a way that provides it with the best chance of accomplishing them. Achieving consensus through highly participative processes that balance participation and create open and honest communications will maximize ownership and commitment to a team and ensure the team does the right things.

Mission

The first milestone in Phase 2 — Organize is to establish a team mission that limits the scope of team action and defines ultimate success for the team. The team mission statement creates focus and determines what a team will do and what a team will not do. Without it a team becomes a “wandering generality” that chases every “hot issue.” It will appear to be arbitrary and capricious in its actions and it will be subject to the forces of personality and politics. Eventually, it will become caught in an “activity trap” where it does more and more to achieve less and less!

TLS defines the elements of a mission statement and provides a participative process for developing the mission.

Goals

The second milestone in Phase 2 — Organize is to establish specific goals that must be achieved in order to fulfill the teamís mission. If a team does not agree on goals in the beginning, it will argue about them later on. Typically, these arguments take place during team meetings, in the heat of the moment, and at a time that destroys team productivity.

Team goals create a foundation for action upon which a team will build its structure. Decisions on membership, leadership, meetings, core teams, extended teams, and sub-teams are all made based on developing the best structure to achieve the team goals. Without a strong foundation of clear goals, it is extremely difficult to build a high performance team.

TLS defines the elements of a goal, provides recommended goals for new product teams, and suggests a participative process for developing goals.

Strategies

The third milestone in Phase 2 — Organize is to establish specific strategies for each of the teamís goals. The mission defines team success, the goals define what a team needs to do to achieve success, and strategies determine how a team will accomplish its goals.

The pressure to achieve results, combined with the action oriented personalities of some team members, often results in the team initiating action before reaching consensus on how it will take action. This typically results in false starts as team members charge off in different directions and creates unproductive conflict as blame is assessed for the false start. When this occurs it reduces team productivity and wastes precious time and energy. Worse yet, the team may have to make an additional expenditure of time and energy to repair damaged relationships.

TLS defines the elements of a strategy, provides recommended strategies for new product teams, and suggests a participative process for developing strategies.

Structure

The fourth milestone in Phase 2 is to organize the team. With clarity on its mission, goals and strategies, the team can now establish a team structure that will provide it with the best chance of success. This final step completes the transition from a collection of individuals to a high performance team.

There are no rules for organizing a high performance team. The downside of this reality is that the team cannot simply copy what other teams have done. The upside is that the team has a great deal of flexibility and freedom to organize itself based on its specific mission, goals, and strategies. The answer to every question about how a team should be organized is the same — It Depends! TLS defines the major dependencies a team must consider when organizing itself for success.

Up to this point, the team has been focused on effectiveness — doing the right thing. They have established the right mission, the right goals, and the right strategies. Now the team must focus on efficiency — doing things right the first time. To maximize its efficiency the team must adjust its membership, establish team meetings, create a team structure, choose methodologies and processes, and define leadership roles.

TLS provides examples of team structures ranging from simple to complex.

Action

In Phase 3 a team begins to take action on its goals and strategies — it begins to build the product or develop the business. To maintain focus and maximize performance a team must not take on any activities that do not directly relate to its mission, goals and strategies. This will ensure the team does not “chase” every “hot issue” that comes up along the way.

But the team must also be responsive to learning and changing circumstances. This means the team may have to periodically return to the Orient and Organize Phases when learning and circumstances require the team to make changes. A change in market conditions, for example, may require the team to update its business analysis, which in turn may cause the team to change its sense of urgency, which may in turn cause the team to change some of its goals and strategies. This ability to quickly adjust to learning and changing circumstances creates a more versatile and responsive organization.

Team Meetings

The first milestone in Phase 3 — Action is to establish routine team meetings to ensure the team stays focused and adjusts to learning and changing circumstances. Team meetings are one of the most time-consuming elements in the team process. In addition to the direct costs of salaries and benefits that meetings consume, every minute spent in a team meeting is one less minute spent back on the job getting things done.

A team will need to hold regular team meetings to keep everybody on the same page, to remain focused on its mission, and to keep team members informed of what is going on. Regular team meetings allow the team to apply learning and adjust to changing circumstances. During the Action Phase the team will learn a lot, and things will change. Applying this learning and adjusting to changing circumstances ensures the team is always doing the right things. It makes the team a self-maximizing system that is always focused on maximizing its performance and results.

TLS provides a recommended agenda for new product, business and major project teams.

Team Norms

The second milestone in Phase 3 is establishing team norms for collaboration. To avoid becoming bureaucratic, teams cannot operate with rigid rules that limit their innovation, creativity and responsiveness. Therefore the team must establish and enforce a set of norms that will define the boundaries of acceptable behaviors. The key norms a team must establish are truth telling, openness, cost and benefit sharing, maximizing results and celebrating successes.

TLS provides a detailed description of each of the key norms and a brief survey that can be used to assess team performance on each norm.

Results

The fourth and final Phase in the team development process is achieving results. Action and results are two different things. Teams take action when they are making a decision, but they do not obtain results until that decision is implemented. It is at the Results stage where teams often come in conflict with functional management.

Implementation

The first milestone in the Results Phase is to fully implement team actions initiated in the Action Phase. During the Action Phase, for example, a functional manager may participate in a decision-making process that decides he or she must redirect some resources — at this point it is all talk. But when it comes to implementing the decision the functional manager may find the costs are too high, so he or she does not follow through on the commitment. Since the team does not have the power to boss a functional manager around, it must find a creative solution to the managerís problem.

When a solution cannot be achieved and/or a key stakeholder refuses to implement a plan, decision, or solution, the team must escalate the issue to the appropriate management for resolution. For example, a function that is under pressure to reduce costs may back off on a resource commitment. In some cases it may be best for the organization to reduce costs and not support the team. In other situations it may be best for the organization to absorb the costs and support the team. When escalating issues like this to management the teamís main concern is that a decision is made, and that decision does the right thing for the business — not just what is right for the team or a function.

TLS provides a suggested process for escalating issues to management for resolution. This process maximizes information and analysis while minimizing personality and politics.

Document

The second milestone in the Results Phase is to document both results and process to create a transparent process that can be reviewed by others. Documentation allows others to determine the validity of team recommendations or actions by looking at the quality of the process used to generate them. Documentation is also often required to satisfy legal or corporate policies.

Documentation creates a “public record” that increases the pressure on those who made commitments to follow through on them. It is not unusual in the hectic and fast paced environment of business for a decision or solution to simply be forgotten or sometimes even ignored as memories fade and people change. Documentation and publication of results creates an incentive for key stakeholders to follow through on their commitments. If, after documentation and communication, a key stakeholder does not follow through, the team will have to escalate to management for resolution.

Documentation also allows the team to go back and capture learning that took place. Capturing and sharing learning in this way creates a learning organization that applies what it has learned to continually increase its performance.

Learning

The third milestone in the Results Phase is to capture and share learning about the content and the process with those who can use it to increase their performance. By sharing learning, a team maximizes the return on its investment by helping to create a higher performing organizational culture and infrastructure. When an organization stops learning, its culture and infrastructure often become outdated and low performing.

Teams expand the organizationís knowledge base and its intellectual properties when they capture and share what they have learned about the content (e.g., technology, processes, opportunities, shortcomings, etc.) of the team effort. Sharing this learning with the appropriate organizational units can increase both individual expertise and organizational core competencies.

Sharing learning on process avoids having to reinvent the wheel to discover the same learning on other teams. This learning often leads to the identification of systemic roadblocks in the organizationís culture and infrastructure. For example, if teams consistently identify a reward system as consistently inhibiting team performance, the organization may decide to “eliminate” this roadblock or provide additional support when working through it.

Recognition

The last milestone in the Results Phase is providing recognition to those individuals and organizational units that made a significant contribution to the teamís actions, performance, and results. Providing recognition to individuals and organizational units that make significant contributions to the team dramatically increases collaboration and trust. If individuals and organizational units know they will get credit for their ideas and contributions, they will be more willing to share them and make them. If the team fails to provide recognition for the contributions of others, whether intentionally or not, it will be seen as taking that credit for itself.

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Team Launch System: Overview (PDF)

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