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HUMAN RESOURCES

Ask the Expert: Where Teams Trip Up

An expert in team-building shares some of his insights about patterns common when growth companies try using teams.
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What are the most common stumbling blocks for companies that try teams? Bruce Hodes, president of CMI, in Oak Park, Ill., specializes in coaching teams at growth companies, and he's noted the following patterns:

· Companies adopt the team structure for the wrong reasons. "When teams are made the flavor of the month, they fail," says Hodes. "If there's not a group-performance issue, there's no reason for teams."

· Management has unreasonable expectations. "People think teams are a quick fix; when problems emerge they just quit," Hodes says. "As they discovered at Hyde Tools [see 'Second-Stage Snags,' right], it's predictable for productivity to go down in stage two. Sometimes you need to go slower at first in order to go faster later on. "

· Teams aren't properly supported by management. "When management abdicates responsibility for the teams, there's trouble," Hodes notes. "The group gets mired in issues of authority, power, and focus, and spins its wheels. The manager as a leader has been pulled away, and nothing else is substituted."

· Employees aren't adequately trained. "Teams cannot compensate for lack of skills," Hodes maintains. "You need training to raise people's competency. The organization must constantly improve and develop its workers."

· Interdepartmental squabbling erupts. "The shop floor can usually get into teams much easier than the office staff can, and that can lead to departments battling each other, as they did at Hyde," Hodes observes. "Employees need to think of one another as internal customers and remember that they are really on the same larger team."

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