With business relationships reframed, it was time to begin aligning protocols, or ground rules for transacting business individually and as a team. The team was divided into three work groups, each of which was charged with examining how one aspect of their interaction had been handled in the past and how it would be handled going forward. Based on an analysis of the team data, the three areas that most needed to be probed were the role of the team leader, meetings, and conflict resolution.
The following are some of the conclusions that the work groups later shared with the full team:
In the past Art had often been viewed as a rescuer. He had always been the main decision maker, the authority figure for the group. The others had waited for his lead or his approval before taking action. He had always been the "front man," the risk taker for the group the one held accountable for all of R&D.
In the future, Art would be less involved in day-to-day operations and more strategically focused. He would be more of a coach and mentor, a talent developer; he would be seen as a change agent for the organization; he needed to keep elevating the bar for the team. One indication that the team was beginning to take responsibility for its own destiny was that team members suggested that they needed to do a better job of facilitating decisions, that they needed to provide Art with more timely feedback and suggestions, and that they needed to tell him when they needed his helpwhen they felt he was too removed.
Past meetings had been unstructured, with no agenda provided beforehand and no minutes distributed afterward. They had been enormous time wasters ; attendance had been unpredictable; and team members had popped in and out at will. Discussion had been guarded ; information exchange had been limited, and the psychological drop-out rate had been high. After all, this was considered to be Art's meeting. Issue resolution and follow-up had been nil.
Future team meetings would no longer be solely Art's responsibility. Instead, there would be a rotating meeting leader, and structure would replace improvisation. An agenda would be distributed prior to the meeting, and it would be formatted to include a business update, key issues to be resolved, progress reports on issues being worked on, and next steps to be taken. There would be fewer meetings, but, instead of the old sixty-minute quickie, each would be extended to ninety minutes. Not showing up would be the exception rather than the rule. Forget tardiness and interrupted meetings. Open discussion and participation would become the norm. The two team members from California and Canada would arrange their schedules to join the team in New Jersey at least once a month. Decisions would be reached, accountabilities assigned, follow-up and follow-through expected, and minutes distributed. The agreed-upon changes were radical , but they were readily accepted by all members, including Art.
Art's team could have qualified for an advanced degree in triangulation. Disagreeing team members had routinely gone to Art, pleading their case and asking for his support against their "persecutors." Recruiting allies had been a weapon of choice. Accusing in absentia and postmeeting gripe sessions had become the norm.
Going forward, triangulation would be out. The team announced that drawing third parties into disputes would no longer be tolerated, and each member took personal responsibility for refusing to take part in divisive practices. The team members also promised to stop behind-the-back griping. If they had an issue with another person, they would go directly to him or her and put it on the table. The use of coaches was suggested: objective parties who could help mediate disputes not by taking sides but by facilitating closure between the two parties. A forty-eight- hour rule was adoptedresolve it within that time or let it go.