A high-performance team is brought about not by will but by hard work. It would be wonderful if a group of individuals from different functions and with different core beliefs, perceptions, communication styles, and agendas could ”from the very beginning ”put aside their many differences and work together in complete harmony. Unfortunately, day-one performance miracles do not happen very often.
Figure 3-2 illustrates in somewhat idealized fashion the contrast between a dysfunctional team and its high-performance counterpart . It underscores how much hard work is needed to transition to high performance.
On a dysfunctional team:
On a high-performance team:
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From the vantage of conflict management, it is typical for a newly formed team, whatever its level and whoever its members, to progress through four different stages in its evolution toward high performance. One of the pioneers of group-development theory, B.W. Tuckman, summarized the results of more than fifty studies conducted on team development into the now-familiar four-stage model shown in Figure 3-3: 
The Four Stages of Team Development
Stage One: Forming
Characterized by testing and dependence
Stage Two: Storming
Characterized by open conflict
Stage Three: Norming
Characterized by the development of team cohesion
Stage Four: Performing
Characterized by functional role relatedness
Copyright 1965 by the American Psychological Association. Adapted with permission.
On the basis of our twenty years of observing the evolution of teams from the tentative first stage to the seamless fourth, we have not only expanded on Tuckman's model in our own team-development wheel, which is pictured in Figure 3-4, but we've made it relevant to the new performance environment of the horizontal organization.
To understand the obstacles a team must overcome to reach stage four, let's look more closely at the behaviors that characterize teams at each stage on the wheel.
You know you are in a stage one team by the barometric pressure in the room. The air is thick. When you enter the room, you can feel the tension before a single word is spoken. This is not surprising. In stage one, many teams are made up of individuals who are working together for the first time. As relative strangers, they come into the game wary and inhibited. They hide behind a faade, afraid to expose themselves to the judgment of the group. Their initial behavior includes testing and assessing each other to determine the level of candor that will be accepted by the team and, especially , by the team leader. 
When a team is made up of individuals who have a track record of dysfunctional interaction, the air in stage one may be even thicker. One executive told us recently that until we began working with her team, she had always gone into meetings thinking that people were out to get her. Like so many going-in stories, this had become a self-fulfilling prophecy , since her defensive stance rankled her teammates, although no one said a word because of the team's wariness of confronting the situation.
When a team knows that candor is not acceptable to some or all of the players, many subjects remain off-limits ”at least, during full-group sessions. Conflict remains underground and emerges in inappropriate places and forms, such as water- cooler and hallway conversations and ubiquitous closed-door strategizing. Triangulation is rampant, as warring parties attempt to recruit supporters. Under-the-table deal making becomes the primary modus operandi and is often the only way issues are resolved.
By paying careful attention to what is not being said during team meetings, it is often possible to pick up undercurrents that would otherwise be missed. In addition, paying attention to what is being said during meetings, who says it, and what the group's reaction tends to be can be equally revealing .
Many executive teams claim ”and perhaps believe ”that their working atmosphere promotes conflict resolution. But this is an illusion, especially for stage-one teams. In reality, these same teams suppress, rather than address, conflict. Team members, wary of rocking the boat of superficial togetherness, refrain from expressing their true opinions.
One facilitator was working with a project team when a relatively junior person advanced an idea that was quickly dismissed by the group. Within fifteen minutes, a vice president made virtually the same suggestion, with a slightly different twist, and for the next twenty minutes the team brainstormed ways in which to make the idea work.
When the facilitator pointed this out, the vice president was incredulous. He was not aware that the suggestion had originally came from a junior team member, much less did he realize how quickly the others had dismissed it. And he was embarrassed at the fact that everyone had bowed to his rank, rushing to agree with the idea because he had presented it.
This type of selective hearing often occurs on teams, especially when the members are accustomed to working in an organization where candid dialogue is discouraged. Differences of opinion, however well intentioned or calmly expressed , are viewed as a threat or challenge. Holding one's tongue becomes the preferred meeting behavior, and following the leader ”or the most senior-level person ”becomes the favorite game. It is not surprising that stage-one teams are often characterized by a certain fatalism and victim mentality .
This stage-one dynamic tends to become even more pronounced as one climbs the organization ladder. Think about it. The higher up a person goes in an organization, the less incentive there is to challenge the status quo. Keeping dissenting opinions to oneself may seem a small price to pay for holding on to a six-figure salary, stock options, a corner office, and the other accoutrements of position. This encourages playing things close to the vest, avoiding confrontation with peers, and gaining advantage indirectly, often by co-opting the CEO. Because they have so much to lose by bringing conflict out into the open, members of high-level teams often defer to the CEO.
Perhaps this dynamic explains the results of a survey that we have been conducting for the past ten years, with more than 300 executive teams from a cross-section of industries, on the subject of conflict resolution.
One of the areas the team members were asked to assess was the atmosphere in which their team works: from a wary, tentative atmosphere to one in which people are open, relaxed , and find it easy to speak their mind. Only 30 percent of the respondents gave their working atmosphere below-average marks in this area.
However, when the same individuals were asked to assess how their team handles conflict, the results were far less positive. Fifty-five percent of the respondents said that their team has little or no tolerance for confrontation, and conflicts are suppressed.
This fairly dramatic disconnect underscores the importance of "knowing thyself ." Unless a stage-one team is willing to undertake the "forming" ”to look at itself in the mirror and acknowledge what it sees there ”it will be unable to progress to the open conflict, or "storming," that characterizes stage two.
Stage-one teams most resemble married couples who give one another the silent treatment for days after an argument. Stage-two teams are more akin to the Hatfields and McCoys.
Stage two often begins after teams have been working together for a while and have fallen into a set behavioral routine. In stage two teams, viewpoints are aggressively advanced. The tension clouds that typically hang over stage-one teams have given way to thunder, lightning, and a flood of accusations. There is a great deal of finger-pointing and backbiting. Executives feel vulnerable and on the line.
In stage one, the refusal of team members to take a stand makes it difficult to gain closure; their refusal to budge from their position brings them to a similar impasse in stage two.
But stage two is not always all bad. In fact, it is here that many breakthroughs in conflict resolution take place. The fact that issues that were once swept under the rug are now being put on the table indicates that positive movement has occurred. Remember the group of German managers whom we talked about in Chapter 1? In stage one, they were afraid to express their dissatisfaction with their leader's autocratic style. When he gave them the green light to express themselves, they moved to stage two, where their pent-up anger was released and a breakthrough occurred.
But many stage-two teams are unable or unwilling to take the leap to the next stage. They either continue their open warfare and pitched battles , or they revert to stage one, closing ranks and going underground once again.
Stages one and two are naturally occurring stages in a team's evolution. If left to their own devices, most teams would start out in stage one, move to stage two, and perhaps continue to vacillate between the two as their leaders and membership changed and new issues surfaced. But they would not likely progress further on the team-development wheel. For a team to move to stage three, there must be concerted effort and, usually, outside intervention.
Following Tuckman's model, after the "forming" and the "storming" comes the "norming" ”the identification of, and first efforts to acquire, the attributes that are essential to high performance. Stage-three teams have realized that to become high performers, they cannot continue to either bury conflict or allow it to run rampant. They must transform it into dynamic energy that produces results.
When a senior team is aligned around all four factors discussed in Chapter 2, it is on its way to high performance. The same is true for teams further down in the organization. They too need to forge strategic and key operational goals; clarify individual roles and accountability; agree upon protocols or rules of engagement, by which individuals and the team as a whole will conduct themselves; and reach an understanding regarding the communication styles to be used among and between members.
In addition, each member needs to develop key skill sets, such as the ability to influence others, the ability to listen, the ability to give feedback, and the ability to depersonalize. Chapter 5 elaborates on the importance of each of these skill sets and how to attain them.
Stage-three teams are in a learning mode. Some members of the team will grasp the needed skills faster and be more naturally adept at applying them than others. As the team progresses to stage four, its success will depend as much on its leader and these quick learners as it will on the willingness and ability of team members to follow the new group norms and processes. By role-modeling the requisite behaviors and holding their colleagues accountable for doing likewise, they can spur the group onward to its ultimate goal.
One leader who did exactly that was Joe Campinell, president of L'Oral's consumer products division. Campinell took over the division in 1986 and led it through twelve consecutive years of double-digit growth. So, when he decided to take his senior-management team to the next stage, it was not because they were underperforming. They were doing many things properly, but Campinell believed they could do better. As he puts it:
After going through an initial alignment, we could point almost immediately to areas in which we had made significant progress. But we felt we still had to go through a "massaging processing" before we would feel we were truly a high-functioning team. At the same time, industry dynamics kept changing, and the bar was constantly being raised. To keep up, we had to continue to evolve . We had to keep moving ahead, getting better and better at resolving cross-functional issues. And we had to start doing it early on, when the problems were minor.
In stage four, "performing" replaces "norming." The team translates into action the lessons it has learned during its evolution through the team-development wheel.
Although high-performance teams come in many shapes and sizes, they all share important common characteristics. Over the years, we have identified eight key attributes that separate high-performance teams from their less-effective counter- parts .
The mission, goals, and business priorities of the team are clear to all team members. For a team to operate at peak performance, its mission, goals, and business priorities must be clear to all team members. While this has always been true, it has now taken on increasing importance because of the current need for speed. As Coach's Lew Frankfort explains,
The velocity of change has never been faster. When you need to change strategy or direction, as is so often the case today, you need to do it in a seamless, fluid manner. Otherwise, the business will suffer. Your team must stay in alignment on business goals and on the strategies and tactics needed to execute.
According to Frankfort, because of the interdependency that exists in today's complex, global organizations, the second major driver is the need for congruency. As he explains, "Today, more than ever, success depends on having the ability to communicate and execute a consistent, unified vision across product, advertising, sales, packaging, etc. ”and that requires a team that to the consumer appears as one."
The process of setting team goals for the next level down is one of diminishing senior-management involvement. At the beginning of that team's life cycle, senior management typically sets the goals. It has created the team and knows better than anyone else what outcomes are required. This only works, however, if the goals set and transmitted by senior management are clear, the results are measurable, and the team's commitment to achieve them is carefully tested . If not, senior management is setting the team up for failure.
As the new team achieves success, it assumes more ownership for achieving business results. After all, its understanding of business requirements is deeper than that of executives at the top. For example:
Campbell Soup's team in Australia has a better feel for that market than the corporate team in the United States, so it sets its own priorities and goals. Senior management becomes involved in the business unit's overall strategy, but the team translates it into actual deliverables, by using SMART (specific, measurable, action-based, realistic, and time-bounded) criteria. So, a clear goal for the Australian team might be to increase the sale of chicken noodle soup in New South Wales by 20 percent by the end of the fiscal year.
Kellogg's has been focusing on building up international sales to Wal-Mart. That was the overall goal that senior management transmitted to the team assigned to WalMart. The team, in turn , with the input of its Wal-Mart partners , was responsible for defining specific SMART goals and priorities.
Before its sale in 2001, Bristol-Myers Squibb's Clairol Herbal Essences brand was run by a cross-functional team that defined key deliverables for marketing plans, production goals, etc., for the brand.
Generally, the further down you go in the organization, the more circumscribed the teams' tasks and the clearer the goals. It is not always as simple for senior teams.
In the mid-1990s, the corporate administration division of a large conglomerate was undergoing a raft of changes. Several members of the division's twelve-person top team had retired and been replaced . The reconfigured team was already in conflict. Not unexpectedly, it was in the area of resource allocation that the disputes were hottest.
The vice presidents who made up the team represented a variety of disparate functions, such as real estate, corporate engineering, construction engineering, technical resources, contributions, compensation, benefits, human resources, community and workplace programs, flight operations, quality management, and global purchasing. Each function served different customers. Each also had its own cycle time for delivering its products and services, whether these were compensation or benefits programs, new buildings , purchases or sales of real estate, validations of regulatory procedure, protocols around safety training, or the maintenance of corporate aircraft.
The member of the division's executive committee who headed up the team had envisioned it operating as a professional basketball or hockey team ”that is, as a group of players, each of whom must know exactly what every other one is doing at all times. In order to coordinate their plays, they need to be totally aligned, each in the correct place at the correct time to ensure flawless execution.
However, when the team members first met to assess their situation, the basketball analogy made by the leader went over like a lead balloon. The team members made it clear that they saw themselves more as a track team comprised of sprinters, long-distance runners, relay runners, pole vaulters, and other individual contributors. Although the common goal of these athletes is winning points for the team, they do not need to be coordinated to do so. Likewise, each vice president believed it was up to his or her function to win as many points as possible, without worrying about being fully in sync with the others.
In truth, although all the functions were housed in corporate administration, they were not aligned by a common mission, strategy, or purpose. It was not until they began to discuss strategy in an alignment session that they realized what they had in common.
Each of the twelve functions was committed to delivering high-quality customer service, cost-effectively and on time. Each needed to help its operating companies to create value. As they began to focus on the issues that they had in common and explore ways in which to resolve them, they began to see connections and leverage points that had previously escaped their notice. This common vantage led to the articulation of an overall vision that served as a unifying principle for the division team. By focusing on common goals and working together, pooling their resources and sharing solutions, corporate administration became a winning team.
The team comprises the "right" players. High-performance teams deal with key business issues. As individuals further down in the organization begin to serve on teams, it becomes imperative that all employees ”from senior executives to first-line supervisors ”possess three competencies.
All team members must be technically proficient in their particular function; they must be good interpersonally and be able to reach across functions to build support to get the job done; and they must be strategically literate ”that is, they understand the organization's strategy, how it relates to their function, and how it impacts their day-to-day actions.
Cross-functional teams do not occur naturally in an organization. They are not made up of people who normally work side by side. To construct such a team, senior management must make a deliberate effort to identify and bring together the key players in every area that have a stake in the process or operation under consideration.
A person can have excellent technical skills, but if he or she lacks one of the other competencies, think twice before putting that person on a team. Peter Wentworth, vice president of global human resources for Pfizer's consumer health care division, has the following advice for identifying individuals with the skills needed to serve effectively on a team:
We look at people's track record working in matrixed organizations; we look at the impact they have had in influencing key decisions during the course of their career. We look for people who have had cross-functional roles and assignments where they really had to contribute in areas in which they were not expert, and how well they performed under those circumstances. We try to get people who don't rush to judgment, who are not overly judgmental in general, yet who have a sense of urgency and are able to bring closure to issues.
People can change. A technically competent and strategically savvy team member may initially seem hopeless when it comes to interpersonal skills. However, when provided with a few coaching sessions and a supportive team environment in which all four factors are aligned, there is a good chance the individual's behavior can be transformed.
The roles and responsibilities of each player are clear to that person and to all team members. At the former Bali Company, now Sara Lee Intimate Apparel, as in many organizations, marketing and new product development (NPD) had a long history of competition, not only for resources such as personnel and funding but also for authority. The senior vice president of marketing and his reports honestly believed that they had the responsibility for and authority to come up with new product ideas, because of their role as custodians of customer feedback. They felt perfectly justified giving NPD a mandate such as, "You need to get this product into a deliverable within two months."
As could have been expected, the members of the development team took exception to marketing's version of the division of labor. Being the midwife of bright ideas conceived by the marketing department was not NPD's idea of a compelling vision. They did not think marketing should be mandating anything without their input, and they wanted to be brought into the decision process much sooner than the point at which marketing deigned to include them.
The two groups were stalemated, and so was the company's future product line. A company that cannot quickly bring its products to market in the trendy women's apparel industry risks becoming a dinosaur. For this reason, CEO Chuck Nesbit decided that the situation had to be addressed ”and fast.
The senior vice president of marketing and his research- and-development (R&D) counterpart were each asked to write down what they perceived to be their three major responsibilities. When it became clear that both claimed responsibility for the same parts of the NPD process, Nesbit stepped in and mandated that within one week a viable process, with clear accountabilities, be agreed upon by the two departments. No longer able to remain isolated within their respective silos , the two vice presidents, along with their direct reports, sat down together for the first time and hammered out an agreement. In one week, the cobwebs were cleared away, and the NPD process was seen in a new light.
Nesbit did not stop his work at new product development. Every one of his senior VPs was asked to write down his or her perceived accountabilities, and the results were compared in the full group. Wherever unclear or gray areas were identified, the principal players were directed, as NPD and marketing had been, to bring together their respective teams and redefine the process or operation in question.
One week later, the vice presidents returned to report their decisions to the entire senior management team and to ask for approval of the newly engineered processes. In most cases, this was a mere formality , and approval was granted without question because the team knew that all the right players had been involved in the decision and, therefore, felt no need to second-guess them.
Team leaders who want to take their team to stage four should consider following Nesbit's example. In the case of a newly formed team, the accountability exercise helps to properly launch a high-performance team. Timing can be everything. In cases like Bali's, we advise the team leader to step in as soon as it becomes apparent that there is confusion in this area. Waiting only compounds the conflict and can force a retreat into the dysfunctional nature of stage one or stage two.
Team members are committed to the team "winning" ”achieving business goals ”over their own parochial/functional self-interest. When an individual joins a team, that person's first concern is for his or her own well-being. Then comes concern for functional colleagues.  Loyalty to the folks back home is fine, but it often distorts an individual's ability to commit to the primacy of team goals.
When teams reach stage three, where they begin to focus on common goals and become comfortable sharing their opinions, individual team members begin to see themselves as having a dual role in the organization. They are no longer merely a conduit between their function and the team but an active member of the team who is committed to helping the team to achieve its goals.
In stage four, team members not only recognize their dual citizenship but also know that they must put their duty as a member of the business team over their functional role. Now, the mind-set is: "I'm not the vice president of finance who sits on the senior-executive team. I'm a member of the senior-executive team who happens to be in charge of finance." This represents a fundamental shift in mind-set .
One way to ensure that team members put their common goals first is to tie their compensation to the achievement of the team's goals. At Campbell Soup's Asia/Pacific division, John Doumani and his leadership team were rewarded for the performance of the overall business, and the members of every other cross-functional team were rewarded for how well they achieved their common goals.
When their compensation is at stake, their mind and heart will follow ”provided, of course, the performance environment is aligned.
The decision-making/leadership mechanism that the team employs is understood and accepted by all team members. When a team meets, there are three ways it can make decisions: unilaterally, consultatively, or by consensus. No one way is necessarily superior to another. In fact, one approach that we recommend is to work toward identifying categories of decisions and then assigning the appropriate decision style to the category. For example, the team leader can always unilaterally make decisions relating to the formation of subcommittees. Decisions that are made by the numbers might always be the responsibility of the financial representative, who is expected to make the call after consulting with all interested parties. Decisions about team protocols might also be made by consensus. Categorizing decisions by type, wherever possible, avoids those endless debates that surface over first principles for determining how to proceed.
Setting the ground rules for decision making is a relatively straightforward process, which is tied to assigning responsibility and accountability. Manuel Jessup, vice president of Sara Lee Underwear, Sara Lee Socks, and Latin America North for Sara Lee Corporation, explains how the process works at Sara Lee Underwear:
A decision related to the operations side of the business ”for example, consolidating our distribution centers ”has implications for both manufacturing and sales. It also has financial implications. So, the VPs of those functions would be consulted. But at the end of the day, as the person responsible for coming up with the most effective process for getting the product to retailers, it's the VP of operations who has to make the call.
But, adds Jessup, anyone who makes a decision, whether unilaterally, consultatively, or by consensus, has a responsibility to communicate the results, if not to the entire organization, at least to all those who will be affected by the choice they've made.
Every team member feels a sense of ownership or accountability for the business results that the team is charged with achieving. The notion of shared accountability is another important and unique aspect of high-performance teams. Cross-functional processes transcend the individual silos that exist in an organization, and unless there is shared accountability, work can easily slip into the white space on the organizational chart. For example, the processes for moving from raw materials to end products ”an organization's supply chain ”is collective property. So is the development and launch of a new product. No one function or department owns these activities.
As the members of a high-performance team begin to view themselves as the custodians of these organization-wide processes, they begin to think of themselves in a new way. After all, they are being asked to operate at a level of accountability that they've never been asked for before. They must see themselves as owners of a process or operation in its entirety.
Adding to this challenge is the fact that it is difficult for peers to hold one another accountable. For example, if I'm in marketing and concerned about something going on in operations, it is my duty to question ”and question deeply ”the operations people on the team. At first, they might not like it, and I might not feel comfortable doing it, but any threat to the achievement of the team's goals is my responsibility. Likewise, if I see a problem between the operations person and the salesperson, I owe it to the team to see that these individuals resolve their differences. And, if I realize that it is the company president who is getting in the way of our meeting our team goals, I have equal license to say something to the president.
Pat Parenty, senior vice president and general manager of Redken, U.S.A., believes strongly in the need for team members to speak up when they feel one person's actions are compromising the team's ability to get the job done: "Someone needs to say, 'You know what, you're not cutting it.' Anyone on the team has an absolute right to say that to anyone else in front of the whole group, and there should be no personal feelings involved. It's based on how business is being handled."
This is what we mean when we say that a high-performance team works like a miniature managing board of directors. On a high-performance team, members operate as though the team's salary were coming out of their pocket. They try to bring issues to closure quickly, openly, and effectively, because every minute that conflict rages, they are losing money. In this model, each individual accepts responsibility for the overall performance of the team and, therefore, feels that he or she has license to speak on any matter concerning how the group functions.
All team members are comfortable dealing with team conflict. During stage three, team members begin, somewhat tentatively, to put issues out on the table in a nonthreatening, depersonalized way. In stage four, candor and depersonalization become second nature. Whether or not a team reaches this point depends in large part on the leader's reaction to initial outpourings from his or her disgruntled underlings.
The leader sets the tone and either helps or hinders the group as it strives to reach stage four. Those who give lip service to the need for candor and authentic interaction while taking down names of dissenters must either change behavior or stand aside in an organization that is truly committed to resolving conflict.
Susan Fullman, corporate vice president and director of customer solutions and support for Motorola, is a leader who did more than give lip service to candor. When she realized that her extremely efficient, no- nonsense style intimidated some of the members of her management team and had a chilling effect on discussion and debate, Fullman made a concerted effort to tone down her image. In individual and group meetings, she deliberately solicited feedback, both negative and positive. When they realized that she was serious about wanting their input, people became increasingly open and comfortable with her.
When team members realize that they will be applauded rather than punished for expressing their opinions honestly and constructively, they no longer hold back. They vigorously attack the dead elephant heads that have been cluttering up their work life and impeding high performance.
The team periodically self-assesses its progress as a group, focusing on how it functions as a cohesive entity. To ensure that a high-performance team maintains its edge, it must be in a continuous learning mode, acquiring and honing the numerous skill sets discussed earlier. It must also assume a self-critical role. Part of every team's standing agenda must be to look at how it operates ”not only to track its progress against deliverables and goals but also how it is functioning as a team. It should ask: "How are we doing on individual accountability? On honoring contracts that we made between one another? On observing the protocols we agreed on when we first began working together?" This is one reason for writing down all protocols and agreements and keeping them in front of the team ”not merely posting them on the walls but continually holding them up as standards that must be met.
Teams frequently ask how often they need to self-assess . Although there are no hard-and-fast rules, if a team meets once a week, they may want to conduct a brief self-assessment session monthly, at the end of a regularly scheduled meeting. If they meet monthly, a quarterly assessment is probably appropriate. Self-assessment should be woven into the fabric of a team's behavior rather than treated as a stand-alone event.
Even remote, global teams must self-assess periodically. They may only meet once or twice a year, but during those meetings they must ask themselves how they are doing as a group, how their protocols are holding up. Whether they meet in person, on the telephone, or by videoconference, performance against protocols must be continually tested.
 B.W. Tuckman, "Developmental Sequences in Small Groups," Psychological Bulletin , vol. 63, 1965, pp. 384 “399.
 A similar testing period often occurs when a team that has been working together for some time gets a new leader or new members. The injection of any unknown quantity into the mix means that acceptable behaviors will need to be renegotiated.
 As expounded in the Gibb Model of Group Development. For further explanation of the model, see L.P. Bradford, J.R. Gibb, and K.D. Benne, eds., T-Group Theory and Laboratory Methods in Reeducation (New York: John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 1964), pp. 279 “309.