Most managers like the idea of forming a team, at least in theory. They figure that the group will probably validate an idea that the top brass already favors, making everyone’s life easier during the implementation stage.
In practice, however, teams will not necessarily rubber-stamp what the head honchos want. Participants may point out problems or raise concerns that require a let’s-start-from-scratch willingness from all parties.
If you go to the trouble of convening a team, give it a fighting chance to succeed. Commit to considering the group recommendations even if they interfere with your best-laid plans. If you’ve already made up your mind, don’t bother forming the group in the first place.
Here’s a real-life example. The Metro public transportation system for Washington, D.C., announced in late April that it will spend as much as $1 million over five years to hire professional “mystery riders” to evaluate customer service on its trains and buses. Meanwhile, Metro staffers already work in teams to respond to customer complaints (of which the agency receives between 3,000 and 4,000 a month).
Imagine how you would feel if you were a team member who responds diligently to complaints and proposes systemic solutions to prevent such problems in the future. Metro riders report that the air conditioning fails or certain trains run late, so you lead your group to fix what’s broken and eliminate a recurrence of such mishaps.
Then you see that your employer has spent a large sum on outsiders to assess service quality. The implicit message to you and your teammates is, “You’re just not doing the job. We need to invest in professionals.”
Put faith in your team to deliver on its promise. If you doubt its effectiveness, set measurable short-term goals and track its success. Unless you amass evidence to the contrary, stand by your team and let it deliver.
In scrutinizing a big decision, follow the three-step TOP process. TOP stands for Target-Options-Produce results. Begin by defining your goal—the specific, quantifiable target that you’ll use to measure success. Then list the options at your disposal to execute your plan. Finally, spring into action to produce results. Adhering to the three steps protects you from rushing into a misguided or ill-conceived plan.