Practical Developmental Ideas #2 May 2003

Extending Team Work further

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Extending teamwork further.

The sample ezine, now on Practical Developmental Ideas April 2003 described ways to extend team work by working with pairs of people and across systems.

Organisations can also gain much benefit by building teams between teams and groups of people. A team can be very happy and satisfying to work in but will only be effective if what it produces is valuable to other teams in the organisation or outside (like customers).

How can we build teamwork between teams?

Just visiting

People in one team, say in marketing, often know very little about the people in another team they depend on, say in production. So a very simple idea is to visit the people in the other team, listen a lot and try to understand their pressures, needs and concerns. This will work best in very small groups or pairs and in friendly and informal way, even over lunch. When you meet, encourage everyone to have a turn to speak and listen respectfully without interrupting. There is more about support on the website and Nancy Kline’s book “Time to think” is very good on the process.

Rebuilding bridges

Things sometimes go wrong between teams and this can lead to bad feeling and poor cooperation which can last for years. You could lead people from both “sides” through some of the elegant dialoguing processes from Marriage Enrichment to get to a more productive place. You may say “What has marriage got to do with work?” Rebuilding bridges in marriage is often very difficult because of the strong feelings involved. The situations at work are rarely as difficult so methods that will work in these situations often work easily at work!

Consider a recent conflict. Then ask each side to list separately, what was the conflict about?, what could I/we have done differently to manage it better?, what could you have done differently to manage it better?, what can we learn about managing conflict so we don’t get in the same difficulty again? Then each person or side says what they have concluded while the other side listens respectfully. Then ask them what they will do. You can use similar questions with a current conflict.

An inter-team workshop

However good the relationships and cooperation are between teams, they can always be improved. The outline that follows is of a workshop between an analytical and a production group in a company that made ethical medical products. The theory behind the design draws on work from the cocounselling world that shows that people are more able to listen to people from different groups if they are reasonably comfortable in their own group. So, people did work on their own groups first.

Workshop between an analytical and a production department

1) Presentation (up to 10 minutes) from each group on who you are and what you do. Your role in the company and the value you add. Who are your customers? What do they need from you? After each presentation, answer questions to clarify things people do not understand.

2) Form separate groups (two groups from analytical and two from production). In each group, list on flip chart paper: –

  • What pressures and frustrations do you experience in your work and why?
  • What would you like from the other Section (Analytical or Production)?
  • What would you think they would like from you?
  • If you could use a magic wand to make things better, what would you use it for?

This is to improve efficiency, effectiveness, job satisfaction, reduce stress and have more fun!

3) Share and discuss the results from both groups. First, have people mill around and look at the flip charts, then share their impressions and comments in the large group. Finally, have people form small groups to identify the topics or activities that require some action.

4) List the topics for further work. Put in priority order.

5) Set up temporary working groups to work on the topics. Ask for volunteers. Some will attract volunteers from both Sections.

6) Working groups meet and produce one practical way of improving their issue.

7) Collect up the best ideas from the working groups.

8) What next? Review of the workshop. What have people learned? How have their feelings about the other group changed?

I have used similar processes to build team work between research scientists and technicians. In this case the relationships were one to one between the scientist and his/her technician and we used the workshop format to help with the learning. As a result, the scientists spent more time in the lab and used the technicians practical expertise much more. The technicians understood and valued the scientists’ thinking more too. If you want to know more please email me.

Team building between groups

These methods can help to build understanding between groups that may otherwise stereotype each other unhelpfully. I give below a summary design for a session at a conference (100 people) of Head Teachers, Governors, Governor Trainers and HM Inspectors of Schools. You can adapt this to fit other settings.

1) Introduce myself briefly. Introduce the event, explain the objectives, structure and guidelines. Explain it is an opportunity to listen, shareideas and feelings and thinkthings through. There will be no evaluation, be as open as you can, make sure you listen to everyone.

2) In ‘like’ groups, for example, Head Teachers, Governors, Governor Trainers take equal time for each to talk about.

  • What is good about being an X?
  • What is difficult about being an X? How does that feel?
  • What could you do to overcome the difficulties?
  • What could others, in particular those represented at the conference, do to help?

3) We re-formed the original syndicate groups. These contained members of all the groups at the conference. In the syndicates have the whole group listen to each subgroup, (Head Teachers, Governors etc.) also talk about their learning from the previous session and, in particular, how the other groups could help them.

4) List the things that you could do in futurethat would help to improve the way your system works and foster good relationships. Pick out thebest idea and one thing you have learned today.

5) In Plenary. Ask each group to share one thing they have learnedso far and their best practical idea. Listen hard to the answers avoid criticising.

Quotes from participants that show these methods work.

“Those were the best and most open discussions I have ever had in the profession”

“We had much more common ground than I suspected”

If you are interested in the some principles behind the design of learning events and two worked examples, including the session above, click here to get to an article on my website. There is also a brief piece with some more ideas on team work between teams.

A thought and a question.

I would love to see some of these very simple methods applied more widely to build some more bridges and stop stereotyping in this country and the world. Do you have any ideas about how we could do more of this? None of this stuff is technically difficult. It is emotionally and spiritually challenging but it is possible.

Feedback please So, I hope you have found this information interesting and in a useable form.

The subjects I might cover in the next issues are : –

Eliminating unnecessary work

Improving working relationships

Thinking tools and processes

Improving meetings

Developing your people

Are these important to you?

I am sure there are many ways to make this more useful to you. Please let me know what you think of it, if you have time. If you have any particular developmental interests you would like me to cover, please let me know. I will try and respond if I can and if I don’t know anything about the subject, I will tell you.


I very much enjoy working in the background to help clients design and deliver developmental programmes. Just lately, I have worked on “People Development” workshops that a European HR director is delivering across Europe. The company has not done much of this sort of work before so we started with a blank sheet of paper. We created something much better than either of us would have done separately and enjoyed the process too. You can see the managers guide to accompany this on the site.

If you have a programme or intervention planned for the future and would like some design help, do get in touch. If you want to follow anything up, or have an exploratory conversation, please give me a call or e-mail

You will find information about my work, background and lots of free resources on my website .

If you would like help using this idea, or have any comments or questions please contact me. Thanks, Nick