What organisations can learn from sports teams

My ten-year old daughter plays field hockey and this year I have the privilege to be the coach of the team. Every Saturday I find myself on the field coaching the girls so they can have fun and enjoy the game.

Just before the start of the game we always have a team meeting. We quickly discuss last week’s game. What went well? Where can we improve? What can we expect this time, who is taking what role in the corners? Every week we discuss the game so everybody knows what to do. And at half-time, we do it all over. How is our plan working? Do we stick with the plan and who is rotating?

The approach is common in sports and works well. This proud coach can report that, although we are not often winning, the team shows progress and the girls are having fun.

How are we discussing business processes in companies?
In all team sports the team-discussion is quite common. Both at professional teams as well as amateur teams, team discussions are part of the deal and happen prior, during and after each and every game. And all roles participate.

How can we make it normal in organization to discuss our work openly, evaluate how we are doing and discuss improvement thoughts? This seems to be pretty hard! Most organizations are still organized in functional departments. Employees of these departments hardly ever discuss the work-at-hand with other departments in an open team discussion.

Team work is essential for good results
We often visit organizations that are looking to improve their processes. When we ask for the improvement goals are and why these goals are not easily met, we often get the same answer; It is not clear “who is doing what” and where the challenges are when looking from A to Z at the primary processes. There is no overview and there are no frequent team discussions with all players involved.

Effective teamwork does not start by itself. Most organizations are complex and multiple roles and teams are needed to deliver a product or service. The more complex it is, the more it is needed to discuss roles and the players can expect from one another. Having a process description that is updated and distributed once a year is not enough.

Ongoing critical review of your processes is needed
All processes will benefit from team reviews in which the teamwork, the work at hand, and distribution of tasks is discussed. What is going well and where are suggestions? Ongoing team discussions are important in defining and achieving realistic goals. Productivity will go up and your customer service will improve. But also the fun factor and job satisfaction will improve.

In sports teams we teach our children at a very young age that team meetings are important. But it takes time to build an effective team. Over time, the team spirit will grow and together the team can do more than each member alone.

Let’s hope that more companies copy this from the sports fields. These organizations will be more effective and employees will enjoy being a team member.

Ted Twaalfhoven
CEO Engage Process

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