Ever feel like your team is getting nowhere fast? Teamwork can be an excellent way for colleagues to use their shared knowledge to problem solve and create products or solutions. However, it's important to determine whether forming a team will enhance your company's productivity on a project or just waste valuable resources.
If you're thinking teamwork is the way to go, ask yourself the following questions before you round up the troops and get the project underway.

Are you sure you need a team to do the job?
Sometimes, assigning a team to a project just isn't the best choice. Some jobs will be completed more efficiently if assigned to one person. If an individual has the knowledge, time and experience to fly solo on a project, let her. That will leave more people free for projects that really need a team approach.

Does a team have enough time to do the job right?
There is nothing worse than wasting people's valuable time with undefined goals. Tell your team what you want them to accomplish and why this job is important to the company. Otherwise, it's difficult for people to give their all to a project they consider meaningless. Before you create your team, know what their exact task will be. Having a common objective will keep team members motivated. It's also wise to give team members a clear picture of what role each individual will play.

Does the team know exactly what they need to accomplish?
Team members should have a reasonable amount of time to work together and achieve their goal. Rushing a team will cut down on productivity because of increased pressure and lack of time to come up with the creative results your company craves.

Establish a clear start and finish date at the beginning of the project. The team may disagree and request a new target date, but at least you'll know ahead of time instead of facing last-minute requests for deadline extensions.

Have you picked the right people?
Look for team members who are open to new ideas and supportive of one another.

Build your team from people who can cover all aspects of the project. When feasible, have people from different departments on your team – marketing, accounting, even the mailroom. Ten heads may be better than one, but not if they all think exactly the same way. The job will get done faster when the necessary information and resources are encompassed within the team members.

But remember that no one is perfect. People have different ways of approaching projects, and teamwork sometimes results in disagreements. To help team members get over obstacles and maintain productivity assign a team facilitator.

If you're creating the team for the right reasons and taking the time to set up a diverse group, you'll be sure to see increased productivity on all your team endeavors.

1. Source: Business Week, 11/27/00

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