Defining Real Purpose

“The performance challenges that face companies in every industry…demand the kind of responsiveness, speed, on-line customization, and quality that is beyond the reach of individual performance. Teams bridge this gap.” -Jon Katzenbach & Douglas K. Smith, The Wisdom of Teams

On Monday we discussed what differentiated real teams from simple groups of employees. Undoubtedly, understanding what defines a real team is only the start of the dialogue. What defines the performance of a team? What distinguishes high performance teams from others?

I believe that the single defining mark of the highest performing teams that I have had the privilege of working with, is clarity and commitment to purpose. Defining and crystalizing a team’s purpose means a great deal more than crafting a catchy vision statement. In fact, the process by which a team’s purpose is evolved and agreed to is as important as its central role in informing high performance!

So what of the journey? The journey of defining and committing to real purpose?Defining Real Purpose

  1. High Performance Teams define their purpose collectively

As we discussed Monday, Katzenbach and Smith provided research supporting the fact that real teams share in the definition and evolution of team purpose – I suggest that the evolution of purpose as a collective is even more critical for the creation of high performance teams, and forms one of the characteristics of High Performance Teams.

A high performance team is a grouping of people who share and commit to a common vision, goals and measurable results, and who challenge and hold each other accountable to achieving those results.

Establishing commitment and buy-in requires providing the opportunity for input into crafting that purpose. Once agreed to, the process provides the glue that allows each team member to hold the other accountable as well as themselves. But even more, creates a team where members want to be accountable one to another.

With that clear definition of purpose, the team is positioned to excel.

  1. High Performance Teams share equally in the ownership of Success

To use a sports analogy, teams do not win and/or loose as individuals, they win or lose together. So it is with high performance teams within a business context. The commitment to achievement is a shared responsibility and group ownership of that success grows from the commitment. Even more important perhaps is the realization that taking ownership for failure as well as success lays the foundation for future successes.

  1. High Performance Teams translate commitment to Purpose into Tangible Results.

The best of the high performance teams are specific as to what they plan to deliver. Tangible, measurable results pointing to either success or failure, equally owned and committed to by a team. It is the difference between a performance indicator that says “we will deliver x 2 months early in Q2” and “We will deliver x on October 15th  The difference may seem subtle, but in reality quite powerful.

So back to the original question – what of the journey? Put in place the process by which purpose is collectively developed, committed to and owned, and regular middle of the road teams become High Performance Teams delivering critical successful work!