Updated: Nov 18, 2019
With apologies to the glass-half-full optimists among us, the fact is that many workplaces today are marked – or at times, marred – by what can be called low-performance teams.
Unlike their high-performance counterparts, members of low-performance teams are not necessarily comprised of toxic troublemakers; who, if not always easy to remove, are certainly easy to spot (and yes, they take pride in this).
Rather, low-performance team members are often hard working and care about success on all levels: individually, team-wise and organizationally. However, the team building dynamics and structure – or lack thereof – are systematically pulling them back, and unleashing some or all of these symptoms:
1. Excessive Status Meetings
Occasional status meetings are fine. But a proliferation means that status is not being effectively conveyed, and meetings are essentially not happening. In other words: these excessive (so-called) status meetings are time wasting morale killers, and clear evidence that low-performance teams are on the loose.
2. Lack of Visibility
Low-performance teams repel visibility; not because they’re trying to hide something, but because they’re trying to protect themselves from being micromanaged and second-guessed. Consequently, nobody really knows what anyone else is doing, which means that efficiency – when it occurs – is incidental rather than intentional, and team building is a slogan instead of a reality.
3. Aimless Communication
Surprisingly, low-performance team member often communicate as much as their high-performance team member counterparts – sometimes even more. But a close look at what is being communicated reveals that it’s often aimless, in the sense that it’s not aligned with work, and it doesn’t move tasks and activities ahead towards completion. So yes, people are communicating (both online and off). But no, they’re not actually collaborating. And this makes all the difference between fundamental team building and faux team building.
4. Lack of Transparency
As noted above, a lack of visibility prevents team members on low-performance teams from seeing what their colleagues are doing, which directly and indirectly diminishes their own productivity and performance. A lack of transparency is part of the same problem, but the obstacles are more big picture-related. Team members can’t see how their contribution fits into the larger project, program or strategy, and they don’t know why or how high level decisions are made. Without these insights, they feel disconnected, powerless and unsupported – which cuts at the heart of team building, and renders it impossible.
5. Lack of Speed
Last but by no means least: low-performance teams take far longer than their counterparts in other organizations – or possibly even their own company – to “get stuff done.” Even the simplest tasks can be clogged with excessive touchpoints and re-work; to say nothing of complex activities, which usually take on a tedious, time consuming life of their own. Once again, this is not because of a lack of effort. It’s because the work management system – if it exists at all – is fragmented, non-standardized, and chaotic. Instead of enabling team members to be efficient, they’re constantly fighting uphill, swimming against the current, and “doing more to get less.”