Teamwork: Why Can’t We All Just Get Along?

When teams at General Electric’s corporate university in Crotonville, NY, begin an assignment, the first thing they do is discuss their “ground rules,” capture them on a white board, and ensure they stay visible to the whole team throughout the entire project.

It’s not an activity that’s unique to training at GE. It’s an acknowledgement that for any team to “play” well, it has to plan well.

Simply throwing people together and hoping they will all “get along” is not an efficient or effective strategy for good teamwork. The team needs to establish a team charter. That’s where all team members come to an agreement on how it will work together to make decisions, and how it will share responsibilities to finish the job.

The value of a charter is to establish clear expectations for team member behavior. A four-step plan for setting up a team charter is introduced in the teamwork toolkit, and includes templates your own team can use. The process is:

1) Individual Preparation

Each team member answers questions to zero in on their personal capabilities. The individual’s availability, preferred methods of communication, strengths and weaknesses regarding the project are addressed in the survey.

2) Hold a Team Charter Meeting

The meeting focuses on one thing: producing a team charter. The information from step one is shared, and the team completes a table capturing its goal, roles and responsibilities, desired behaviors and expected performance.

3) Create a Document

A team member drafts the team charter and includes all team members’ preferred contact details and circulates it before the next meeting.

4) Review, Sign and Bring the Charter to All Meetings

When the final form of the charter is agreed upon, all team members sign it. Each individual receives a copy and it should be brought to all future meetings to serve as a constant reminder of the agreed ground rules.

Additional information on establishing a team charter, with suggested questions and a template, is available from the TeamMATE® Teamwork Toolkit.

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