Team recruitment, motivation and team building
How to «design» teams and how to get the right people participate when participating are voluntarily?
The questions raised has to be discussed separately. The question «how to design teams», mainly focus on how people relate to each other and also a lot about complementariness. The other questions focus on how to motivate people to participate.
How to design teams
There are three factors who look to be important when designing teams;
- Skills (knowledge, skills and ability)
The most important question when designing a team are which skills are necessary to do the tasks. Following categories of skills are seen as important.
- Technical and functional expertise (knowledge)
A team who has the task of making new software (new versions) should have proper expertise about programming, user needs, and HCI.
- Problem-solving and decision-making skills (skills).
Skills in how to solve problems and design decision processes.
There should at least be one person in the team who are skilled in this part.
- Interpersonal and personal skills. (ability)
Ability to communicate, cultural sensitivity, awareness. Ability to self-management.
In most cases, abilities who are difficult and time-consuming to change.
But it not necessary to have all skills in place at the start. Working teams has the ability to learn and grow. Organized training is also an important part here.
The most important skills has to be a part of the team from start.
Another important aspect is the team members diversity (team diversity). With diversity we are talking about differences in cultural and social background, differences in experience and education and differences in age and sex. High diversity will foster higher degree of innovation On the other hand, high diversity will reduce the shared understanding, and will make it more difficult to communicate in the team. Experience tells that shared understanding are an important factor in team development, and has direct impact on team effectiveness. Shared understanding develops in teams who are well managed.
The aspect of diversity is especially important i virtual teams. Without digging deep into explanation, experience shows that in virtual teams a high level of diversity is much more difficult to cope with. It's also more difficult to develop shared understanding in virtual teams. The advice is to try to reduce the diversity to a lower level in virtual teams, but not in a way that reduce the teams ability for innovation to much.
Team can't function without a high level of trust between the team members. You have to trust your peers in the team to;
- do their part of the work
- being accessible when necessary
- telling when they have problems with deadlines or part of the task
- giving feedback/comments when needed
- giving a helping hand
Trust is something that can be developed through training and processes in the team. But all experience tells that developing trust in virtual teams are more difficult than in on-site teams. In on-site teams you see the others doing their work, when they are accessible, easy to give feedback and you can also interpret others expressions trough their face and behavior. On-site you also have the Â«dailyÂ» conversation about hobbies, family and so on, who are important trust builders.
The advice when designing virtual teams are either to choose people who already have a high enough level of trust in each other, or to initiate a process in the team sharing knowledge that build trust. The latter is also important regarding building shared understanding, and should be done even if the team when starting has necessary trust established.
How to get the right people on board
Some motivation theory.
A lot of motivation theory are defining people as being Â«Resourceful, Evaluating, Maximizing ManÂ» (REMM). The theory has four postulates.
- Every individual cares; he or she is an evaluator.
- The individual cares about almost everything; knowledge, independence, the environment, honor, interpersonal relationships, status, peer approval, group norms, culture, wealth, music, art and so on.
- REMM always allows for trade-offs and substitutions.
- Individual preferences are transitive
- Each individual's wants are unlimited
- If we designate those things that REMM values positively as «goods», then the individual prefer more goods to less. Goods can be anything from art objects to ethicals norms.
- REMM cannot be satiated. The individual always want more of some things, whether they are material goods or intangible goods.
- Each individual is a maximizer
He or she acts so as to enjoy the highest level of value possible.
- The individual is resourceful
Individuals are creative.
The easy conclusion possible to draw; motivation is complex, difficult to interpret, differ from person to person, and change over time for each of us. And it's more or less always possible to find which «goods» a individual really prefer.
What are important to motivate, why need we know about the motivation factors. Because people need motivation to participate (be a «member», and stay as a «member») and they need motivation to perform.
At last, some word about inner motivation. All people have a inner motivation, who are spurred by self-efficacy, content of a job and needs of a higher level. Also flow, the feeling of everything working as you were on rails, has a large motivation effect.
Motivation and incentives
The normal way to enhance motivation is through incentives. Most people think about incentives as salary and different forms of bonuses. And money are a very powerful type of incentives, mostly because money can be substituted with almost every other kind of incentives.
Something to be aware of, incentives are cultural dependent. Same incentives have different impact, when used in different cultural settings. Thats the reason why rewarding with money sometimes don't motivate at all (and even are unmotivating).
Experience from Norwegian research give evidence that with highly skilled persons, incentives (motivation factors) as working environment, autonomy, peer approval, status, reachable but challenging goals, inner motivation and flow are more important than economic compensation.
A short note here: There are a lot of test who are designed to find the motivation factors for people. Often used as recruitment tools.
Initial motivation and continued motivation
The reasons for voluntarily participate in a team isn't necessary the same who make you stay. If team has success, both internally and with their external output, team members will want to stay in the team. Sometimes team with great success are difficult to disband, even if it's necessary.
Experience tells that feedback (both internally and from outside the team) and team environment are important when talking about continued motivation. This is one of the main reasons that teams in the TYPO3 community has to be seen, and followed up by the association.
How to put the team together and get it going
I don't think I have the one and only and correct answer. But a way to recruit the teams and start training could be.
- Define the result (goal) for the team. Not in details, but as a framework who gives people the opportunity to know what primary tasks the team will do.
- Define which skills are essentials for the team to success. Some skills are essentials and others are important. Which of the skills are difficult to learn i a short period, and which are possible to learn. Don't think names.
- Put up the shortlist of people in the community who has the skills wanted. Maybe also ask the community about people who will volunteer. But tell exactly what is wanted, and what you have to do as a team member. What are expected regarding to participating, delivery and so on. Also give information about what «benefits» you will get as a team member (There isn't much direct economical benefits, but there is both long time economical benefits and benefits as learning, personal development, friendship, peer approval, status etc.)
The volunteers should give necessary information about skills, either through skillbased tests or through references.
The shortlist shouldn't be large; if a team should be 5 - 8 persons, the shortlist should be about 12 - 16.
- Ask the persons on the shortlist who not are volunteers if they want to join. Probably key persons should be asked first.
- «Test» the shortlist regarding to diversity and trust. Between some people it's more and less impossible to build trust, and they shouldn't be put in the same team. Of course the trust can be rebuild, but why take the chance when trust are so important in virtual teams. I suppose the easy way are to check out with key people on the shortlist.
Diversity are more difficult to «test». As I know, there are «tests» who can give some answers about cultural and social diversity.
The people on the shortlist should also be asked some questions about teams. These questions has to be carefully designed. The goal is to find out if some of the volunteers has wrong expections about teams, or somehow don't really believes in teams.
- Put together the team and start the team socializing and training process.
Don't start the work with the task in hand straight away. Before any codeline or solution is put on the table, the team should have a real process on the following:
- Get to know each other. Hobbies, family, interests, life experience.
- The team goal. The team goal is both the goal for the task in hand, but also a goal for other outcomes from the team
- Communication rules (both outside and internal)
- How to work, - processes.
- Teamnorms and roles.
- Decision rules.
- Knowledge sharing
- Conflictsolving rules
All of these processes, done in a proper way will build trust and shared understanding in the team
The process may look complex and timeconsuming. But teams who not work, is even more timeconsuming. Therefore it's important to do the initial work in the best way possible. But the process isn't a rulebook.
Most times the team leader will be the first person to recruit. If so, he/her should be recruited before the process of team recruitment starts. Reason; the team leader need ownership to the team, goals and tasks.
A lot of teams with success don't have a team leader to start with. They are using the socializing and training process to give people in the team «leader» roles. We call it self-managed teams. The advantage of organizing the leadership of a team this way are; different leadership roles can be assigned to the persons with the best skills/ability. The disadvantage is mainly a not coherent leadership, who may give conflicts.
Even with a leader recruited at the start, he/her can assign in cooperation with the team some of the leader roles to others in the team.
Some short advices on virtual teams
These advices are from the book «Virtual Teams that Work». It will partly give the same advices as before in the paper, but some may be new (the list is more complete).
Practices for facilitating shared understanding:
- Compose teams in which members have similar backgrounds.
- Highlight and emphasize similarities among team members.
- Facilitate sharing of personal information, especially early in the project.
- Facilitate sharing of information about day-to-day activities throughout the project. Day-to-day don't means daily, but on a regular basis agreed on in the team.
- Identify essential knowledge that is needed on the project (in the team), and make sure that this knowledge is shared.
- Encourage face-to-face meeting with team members early in the process. It's not always possible, if not at least try to use some sort of videoconference.
- Encourage team members to to visit the work location of other team members.
- Build a strong team identity.
- Try to keep turnover low.
- Provide easy access to and support for videoconferencing and on-line team spaces.
Shared understanding, together with good processes for goalmaking, communicating processes, conflictsolving are the big trustbuilders in team. And trust are the glue in virtual teams.
The importance of supporting organization.
The role of a supporting organization can in short be put this way.
- Defining the overlaying direction and goals for the different teams. The teams may be part in these process.
- Follow up the team, especially feedback are important. Feedback, even constructive criticism gives the team a feeling of being acknowledged, who work as a motivation factor.
- Intervening in teams that really don't work. Change team leadership, redefine roles, conflictsolving.
- Training and advice for the team/teamleaders.
- Help with communication between different teams, and from the teams to the community.
- Building the technological structure the teams need. Different kinds of supporting systems.
These are only some points that research and practice point on.
Some research results at the end
These are from the chapter about «team and team effectiveness» in my MBA thesis. They are built on my thesis about teams from my Master of Management, but shortened down. The Master of Management thesis are a metastudy of about 20 different research surveys done on teams.
- Small size (5 - 10) and heterogeneity in knowledge/ability and personal skills gives good processes and team effectiveness.
- Complex tasks demands balancing the teams independence and support/control from the organization.
- Reward systems who aims both at the team and the individuals gives effect (rewards aren't necessarily economical benefits)
- Constructive feedback/support from organization and training in important processes (goal, communication, conflictsolving) makes both processes and team effectiveness better
- Clear strategies and goals gives team effectiveness.
- Good communication gives good processes and team effectiveness.
- Conflicts about tasks makes teams more effective, but personal conflicts makes teams less effective.