In my previous article, I provided four uses for how a manager can use a team strategy document (example here). Today, I provide four more! Today, I focus on the internal uses – within your team — of the team strategy document.
1. Use it as a basis for improving processes, workflows and operational innovation
When you have a team strategy document, it allows you to better understand what the team is trying to achieve. With this, now you can start looking at your team processes and workflows. It also affords the opportunity for you and the team to discuss areas of innovation and opportunity that your team can perform to better achieve the goals. With a strategy in place, you and your team are less likely to meander in the status quo and more likely to strive toward a higher level of performance.
2. Use it as a guideline for strategically placing work assignments and identifying gaps in team capability
The team strategy document identifies who is on your team. You can also add some biographical and work interest info about each member. For example: Walter – management consultant, performance improvement, innovative instructional design. With this info, you can look at the strategy, and think about the job roles of the people on your team, and identify the strategic placement of where the people on your team perform their job. If you have someone who is outgoing, and makes excellent connections with people on their first meeting, and if you have as strategic need to make new connections outside your team, perhaps you should put that person on the task of developing new relationships. Read more
–The team name
–Who is on the team
–What the team is trying to accomplish/what it produces
–Guiding principles and expectations
–Metrics that rate the productivity and quality of the team
–Business metrics that the team could affect
–The plan for how to meet the metrics that rate the productivity of the team
Now that you have the document, here’s what you do with it. In today’s post, I’ll focus on the external uses:
1. Use it as a basis to share with your partner teams and customers
No team works in a vacuum, so if you are armed with a strategy, you can share your strategy with the teams you need to work with to be successful, either the partner teams you receive work from and hand off to, or customers that you provide deliverables to. Of course you need to customize it for the team you’re meeting with. Sharing your team strategy will help your partner teams understand what your priorities are, what you can do to help them, and what your team capabilities are.
2. Use it as a basis for prioritizing work
Now that you have the team strategy in place, any work that comes or opportunities that present themselves should somehow fit within that strategy. Evaluate the opportunities against the strategy, as well as the reactive or legacy work that comes in. Many times a meeting invitation comes in where team members with legacy relationships naturally seem to require that they be involved. So the team member feels compelled to attend the meeting, even if it has nothing to do with the team strategy. As a manager, you have the ability to say, “No, you don’t have to attend that meeting and take on action items from it because I need you to work on the areas that are our team priorities.” It gives you a basis to keep your team focused on the priorities that you and your team agreed to.
The operative word in the term “Team Strategy Document” is the word “Team.” Use your team to create the team strategy document. The manager who doesn’t use the team will create a manager strategy document, which will reflect the manager’s view of the world, and not the team. The team will ignore it, and therefore it is not a team strategy document.
So here’s how you do it:
1. Have a team meeting with the objective of creating a team strategy document
Don’t do the usual agenda items like updates. Those are likely boring anyway. This meeting should be focused on the team strategy document, and the objective is to have enough information to create a document.
2. Set up the meeting to be collaborative and brainstorming
Many team meetings end up being one person (perhaps the manager?) giving various status updates, news from above. This meeting needs to be different. It needs to require input from everyone on the team, even the quiet ones and the ones who possibly think team meetings are useless. Say, “In today’s meeting, I’m going to ask all of you to provide your input. This is an opportunity to think creatively and to get our ideas out. I welcome all ideas, and later we will hone it down and consolidate.”
In addition, find some tools to allow everyone on the team to provide input. If you’re serious about getting input from the entire team, do not just stand in front of the white board and ask people to shout suggestions during brainstorming. Instead, I suggest getting a pen and paper or Post-It notes in each person’s hand. Bring these tools to the meeting.
In my prior post, I discussed the need for team managers to produce deliverables that contribute to adding up to managing. Individual contributors are used to delivering specific items, but when they become mangers, a new manager can believe that there is no longer a need to produce deliverables. However, this is not true! A manager for any team should have at least one deliverable: That is a team strategy document.
It doesn’t matter what team you lead, if the team does not have a team strategy document, then it is the manager’s responsibility to create one. At the minimum, having a team strategy document is better than not having a team strategy document. Once a team manager has created a team strategy document, the manager has “delivered” something that is designed to increase the performance of the team. It is a step in the right direction, and a leading indicator of success. Not having a strategy document is a leading indicator of failure.
What is on a team strategy document? It can vary because there are so many teams out there, and so many ways to define strategy. But there should be some sort of the following elements on it:
The team name
Who is on the team
What the team is trying to accomplish/what it produces
Guiding principles and expectations
Metrics that rate the productivity and quality of the team
Business metrics that the team could affect
The plan for how to meet the metrics that rate the productivity of the team