Teaming Practice

Stewards: John Breininger and Edwin Jansen

The Teaming Practice offers support for self organizing teams.

Some teams have recently been using the P2P Liberating Structure instead of the Teaming Practice. Both achieve the same general purpose – offering a structured approach to norming team practices.

Setup

The first step of the teaming practice is work through and finalize a Team Charter document, which describes your decisions for each of the following sections:

  1. Purpose
  2. External Success Metrics
  3. Roles
  4. Practices
  5. Guardrails

It is suggested that each team nominate a single person to be the main facilitator of this process, as well as a participant. If you’d rather not have a “player/coach” then you can invite JB or Edwin to facilitate.

There are a number of ways to work through the five sections and build the Team Charter, ranging from doing all sections together in group meetings, to doing as much as possible as individuals and in small groups, and then using GDM to finalize each section.

The most common and recommended way of completing this is to do the Purpose section together, and then afterwards ask each person to individually answer each of the questions in the other sections, as well as indicate which of the sections they’re most passionate about. Then have pairs or smaller groups take-away and finalize each section into a proposal which gets GDM’ed back with the entire group. And voilà – your Team Charter is done.

Team Charter Sections

1: Purpose

This is not a recitation of what you do, but why you do it. The team’s purpose should fill a gap in supporting the purpose and Thematic Goal of the larger organization, and it should be deeply meaningful and inspiring to everyone. Be as concise as possible – you should be able to recall your team’s purpose from memory.

Decide:

Why does our team exist? What are we working toward? Put it in this format:

We exist to [contribution: actions we do, for who or what] so that [impact: the value or difference created].

What type of team are we?

  • Client-Centric  (e.g. West, Nuclear, Payroll)
  • Functional  (e.g. IT Recruiting, New Business Sales, Contractor Success)
  • Cross-Functional (e.g. TCB, Corezii, Sales/Recruiting Prioritization)
  • Major Project Team (e.g. ERP Project)

What should we call our team? (c’mon, make it fun and inspiring!)

One way to do an engaging session on Purpose that will uncover people’s most meaningful sentiments is to do the “9 Why’s” exercise, which is one of 33 Liberating Structures.

2: External Success Metrics

These are the measures that we track so that we can see progress against the purpose of our team. Each of the metrics should be “external” from your team, either with customers/contractors/partners or, if you’re a back-office or support team, then other teams within the company would be considered “external” to your group.

Examples: 

  • TCB team: IMG Budget, Productivity Ratio >2.75, Thematic Goal
  • Fitzii team: Total Buying Accounts, Avg Spend, NPS, Hiring Rate, Net Profit

Decide:

  • How do we measure our work as a team? What #s are we accountable for? Is there one measure which is most important?
  • Are there any qualitative metrics or other descriptions of what success looks like?
  • How often (and where/how) will we update our numbers?
  • What benchmarks can we draw upon? What does continuous improvement look like?
  • Should we create a Thematic Goal which reminds us “what’s most important”?
    • Note: it should align with the company’s Thematic Goal and be big & enduring.

3: Roles

In self-organizing companies people don’t hold “jobs,” they fulfill necessary “roles.” Job titles and job descriptions are static and rigid; roles are fluid and adaptive. Roles are granular – usually smaller than a full-time job – and people usually play multiple roles. In this section you should clearly define the roles that are needed for the team to thrive.

Decide:

What are the “team roles” that will be needed for the team to fulfill its purpose? Label each role as recurring (ongoing) or occasional (as needed), and permanent or rotating.

  • E.g. Organizer, Facilitator, Notetaker, Data Master, Liaison with other teams

With those team roles in mind who are the specific people on this team and what roles does each person hold?

  • Note: 5-10 members is ideal and multiple people can play the same role.

How do people join and leave the team?

How and when will people with only “occasional” roles interact with the team?

What roles or responsibilities will we expect everyone to have?

  • e.g. Generous listening, make proposals, SBI feedback, fully participate, volunteer to lead projects, etc
  • Tip: focus on the things in which there is a question of full commitment
For Client-Centric & Functional Teams only:

In reference to your team’s purpose and external success metrics, what are all the different “work roles” that you need?

  • e.g. Recruiter, Account Manager, CS, Resource Manager, etc.

Would it be valuable to describe the “work role” responsibilities of each team member and then compare that to all the functions of the team to ensure that everything is covered, and everyone knows who is responsible for what?

What work capacity formula will you use to determine how many people/hours of work you need for each different work role?

  • E.g.# of JO’s per recruiter, # of Contractors on Assignment, # of Accounts to Cover

Do you have a guiding principle on managing any of your work roles capacity?

  • E.g. have 1.5x as many recruiters as current demand

Do you have rapid expansion/contraction or seasonality to manage as it relates to work roles capacity?

4: Practices

Consider experimenting and innovating frequently with things like meeting types, frequencies, and tools for tracking work. Your practices should always be improving your ability to serve the purpose of your team.

Decide:

What “types” of meetings will we have, and what’s the agenda for each?

  • e.g. Review the #s, Project Review, Dynamic Agenda, Proposals, Workshop, Lightning Round Updates, etc.
  • For each type, how often do we meet, and for how long?

How do we communicate outside of meetings? What tools will we commit to using to support “working out loud” (being fully visible to each other) and accountability?

  • e.g. MS Teams channel for meeting actions, tasks and updates, 15five for weekly updates, Loomio for Sensing

How will we check in on projects and committee work?

What connection and psychological safety practices will we experiment with?

  • e.g. Share the Love, AMA (Ask Me Anything), Balderdash, Dot Voting, Red Hat, Do Well/Do Better, etc.

Will we do retrospective meetings to review our Team Charter, projects, and/or overall success?

Would it be helpful for the team to define and regularly revisit its “crux polarity”?

Note: This is especially helpful for long standing teams that have often faced issues which can’t be solved, but need to be “managed”.

5: Guardrails

Having great clarity around who can decide what, and how, increases speed and quality decision making. Having clear expectations about how we behave with each other increases trust, connection, and continuous improvement.

Decide:

Are there decisions which we exclusively reserve for this team? (e.g. only the TLab can create a Teal Common Practice). Are there any decisions which need to involve this team in order to be made? (e.g. Finance team needs to be in the GDM for any spend >$x)

  • Note: Keep this list short or non-existent, since anyone in the organization can make any decision provided they use the Advice/Sensing Process which would include seeking advice from those affected + subject matter experts.

Are there any things which should ALWAYS or NEVER be talked about?

  • e.g. NEVER talk about: people’s performance in group meetings unless they are present; ALWAYS start group meetings by talking about the most recent #s

Do we have any special expectations around giving each other feedback?

Do any members have competing commitments, and if so, how will they be prioritized?

  • e.g. other meetings, other roles in conflict, not enough time, etc.

Any other rules or guardrails we want to put in place?

e.g. no cell phones in meetings, parking lot, no black hat of proposals, etc.

[end of questions]

Team Charter Implementation Recommendations

Publish this somewhere accessible and visible for everyone on the team (e.g. wiki tab in MS Teams) and review or refer to it often.

Recognize that you’ve just made a lot of decisions about how to work together and many of those decisions will turn out to be sub-optimal. Your charter is not set in stone, it’s an evolution, so decide how you’re going to change, add-to, and improve your team charter as you go along.

  • Are you going to review everything in 3 or 6 months?
  • Are you going to ask people to bring change proposals to the team for GDM as they arise?

If you saw ways to improve the Teaming Practice (especially this document) then please provide your ideas or feedback to JB and Edwin. We also expect to continually improve the Teaming Practice, and you have a responsibility to share the problems and opportunities that you discover.

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