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Squad Effectiveness: The Ultimate Team Solution

Kim Underhill for Today's Manager

We are ready for our transition into a Smart Nation as long as we do not neglect the need to build and strengthen our human capital.

Since launching its Smart Nation journey in 2014, much effort has been put into improving Singapore’s infrastructure and policies, ensuring we have a digitally supportive environment necessary for innovation and sustainability of our economy.

A noticeable global shift towards innovation, new technologies, sustainability, and digitalisation is changing both our personal and professional lives. Many have succeeded in this transition while others have failed miserably. This begs the question—why?

While it is necessary to have great vision, strategies, and policies, it would be impossible to realise any of these without having the right team in place.

Teams have evolved greatly over time, with today’s teams being more diverse, digitally-adept, and dynamic than ever before. This means that individuals and businesses alike face new and increasingly complex challenges. Conversely, it represents a differentiation opportunity for managers to achieve great results if they can understand what these challenges are and how they can set up their teams for success.

SQUAD (selection, qualification, unification, adjustment, and delivery) effectiveness looks at how to establish the ultimate high performing team in five key areas:

1. Selection: Watch Out for Unconscious Bias at Work What surprises me is the informality and lack of clear direction that exists when some organisations rush to assemble teams for a project.

Whenever I ask workshop participants to identify who they would select for a project, it does not take them long to produce a list of names. However, when I ask them what criteria they used to make those selections, few can provide substantial reasons, instead suggesting “hierarchy”, “gut feel”, or even “friendliness” as deciding factors.

Such poor understanding of team dynamics, of individual strengths and weaknesses, specific knowledge and skills, as well as one’s ability to perform the necessary tasks lends itself to creating a culture of unconscious bias at the forefront of the team selection-making process.

2. Qualification: Essential Qualities for High Performing Teams We must look beyond skills assessment in recruitment, and technical and professional competencies in qualifying team members. Identifying personal soft skills such as interpersonal, decision-making, problem-solving, and leadership abilities for instance, are becoming increasingly necessary. It is uncommon (though not impossible) to find all of the ideal qualities in a single individual. As such, there is a massive need for teams when a mix of qualified members gather to achieve a common goal.

Some key qualities to look for when qualifying team members include:

3. Unification: Stay Away from Meeting Rooms Having selected and qualified the right team members for the task, a team charter needs to be established with a clear identification of roles and responsibilities, timelines, and a commitment to and from each other and to the project.

Besides the formal process and procedure in assembling the team, it is necessary to provide a neutral environment that encourages open communication when unifying team members. Team meetings do not always need to be held in closed-door meeting rooms. In fact, having meetings in a new environment out of the office can help to reduce tensions, build rapport amongst team members, and shift the group dynamic to achieve the desired end result.

4. Adjustment: Continuous Evolution of the Team Even after an early success in the project and the team seems to be operating optimally, unless the team continues to evolve and adapt, there are never any guarantees of continued success. After all, we do live in a volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous (VUCA) world.

When working in highly collaborative environments, there are bound to be internal and external challenges and conflict. In worst case scenarios, you may experience underlying people issues, especially with miscommunication or a lack of communication—both of which require close attention. Managers or team leaders must be diligent in identifying and managing such adjustments.

Synergy is required for two or more individuals to work together. Unfortunately, this is easier said than done. Often people get distracted with “hard work” and forget about “heart work”. As such, it is increasingly important to consciously gather the team as a single, united entity—ensuring everyone’s involvement and collaborative participation towards a common goal. This can be done by gathering teams for targeted and specific continuous learning sessions.

5. Delivery: Celebrating the Little Wins For teams to stay motivated and focused, it is necessary to celebrate the progress and not just the final delivery.

When coming together to share achievements in reaching milestones, remember to celebrate (however small and simple the celebration may be). Recognising achievements keeps the team encouraged and motivated.

Conclusion Are we truly ready for our transition into a Smart Nation? Without a doubt, yes. As long as we do not neglect the need to build and strengthen our human capital.

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