Why teams fail and how to fix it

We’ve all worked in teams that fall short of their promise. On paper, each person’s experience might be perfect for the job, but somehow the team never gels. Deadlines are missed, it’s hard to make decisions, people start blaming each other for lack of progress and, in the end, they distance themselves until the team falls apart. But why does that happen? Why are so many teams failing?

Google why teams fail, and you’ll discover almost as many reasons as search results: a lack of trust, ego, lack of commitment, personality clashes, poor communication … the list goes on. These are all symptoms of failure, but they don’t get to the heart of the issue – the cause of the failure.

Teams fail, primarily, because of a failure to understand and integrate different value systems.

Value systems and teams

A values system is a cluster of related ideas that, when taken together create meaning or motivate a person. We assess values with the Complete Values Profile. The results show the dominant values for an individual. Assess all the individuals on a team and you’ll get a fascinating insight into what’s causing the issues in that team. Very different dominant values can lead to a lack of understanding of others’ perspectives. Too many similar dominant values and the team risks ‘groupthink’. But understanding values isn’t just about team selection, it’s the start of a conversation that enables everyone on the team to appreciate and value each other. It’s fundamental to team success.

Three steps to transforming team failure:

  1. Assess. Start with the data and a reality check. Results from the Complete Values Profiles for everyone on the team will clearly reveal the key challenges for the group.
  2. Build. The hard work begins with some guided facilitation to build team effectiveness. We want to move from a group of talented individuals to a coherent team who are in it for the team’s purpose, not for their own ends. This facilitation could include building a common language so that everyone understands each other, creating psychological safety so people can bring their whole selves to the team, and establishing a common purpose that motivates everyone.
  3. Measure. Of course, you’ll see the results of effective team development in the fact that the team delivers the metrics and enjoys its work. Your team won’t fail. But you might also like to have some tangible measures on that progress too. A Complete Team Development Index conducted at both the start and end of a team journey quantifies the progress that team has made. It can also highlight, where the team could go next.

Teams don’t just happen, they take work. Throwing together a group of talented individuals almost never delivers the results you would like. However, investing a little time and effort into setting the team up for success makes a world of difference. It’s worth getting it right at the start, but don’t give up on a failing team either. The steps outlined above have fixed many teams in some of the biggest organisations in the UK.

Discover how values insights and team journeys have transformed  The Linde Group and Pets at Home.

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