In most countries the pandemic restrictions are now being eased to facilitate economic activity and work. It has been an unprecedented few months with some industries at a complete standstill, some doing work arounds and being inventive to keep functioning and some thriving are at least experiencing a surge in demand.
That was the first wave and the expert advice is that this is only the beginning. There will likely be further periods of disruption coming perhaps managed differently based on the expanding knowledge of the virus and how it replicates. We are also facing an uncertain environment in terms of how quickly economic activity will pick up and what that means for our businesses.
How have we performed so far?
It is very likely that every team has had to have a hard look at how their business has been performing and what needs to be adapted, adjusted or transformed to navigate the coming 12 to 18 months successfully. For many small and medium sized businesses success may be just being able to survive. Either the supply chain in which they functioned has ceased or is being pruned or the ongoing social distancing constraints make their business uneconomic.
What may not have been addressed when the team took a hard look at the business is how are we as a team. What has been the impact on our team of the last 4 months? What has changed in how we function as a team and what may need to change going forward?
What has the team learned when reviewing the recent experience? The disruption has been challenging and for many painful. If we are to find the good in this very negative event we need to be sure to learn from what we have done and take those lessons to help us prepare for the future. No doubt many business lessons have been noted and priorities identified for what needs to happen now. Have we also reviewed how we are as a team of people, what we found personally challenging, how we supported each other or not, and how we may need to support each other going forward so we regain or sustain the success we aspire to?
What did we let go off or have managed to live without? Is it worth leaving/letting go of that going forward? What new piece of perspective/learning helped us to move on? Is it worth holding on to while we build the future?
What may we need to reframe?
What has been very different about this crisis as opposed to others in recent memory is that organisations and teams have been challenged with the question – are you still viable? Do you have a future? This raises issues for the team and the individual members that need to be surfaced and processed.
You will have been conscious to consult the important external stakeholders of the team to get their feedback and views. How do they see the business evolving and also the role of the team? What do they expect from the team now and going forward? Is it different than it was three months ago?
What are the implications of this for your team? Do you need to review the team goals or objectives? Is how we are configured as a team the right way? Are we like an athletics team where each team member runs their own race and the team performance is just the accumulation of the individual outcomes? Or are we a soccer team who need to operate in close cooperation and concert to achieve our goals? Might we need to rethink this to be prepared for what is coming?
Are the relationships within the team robust and working well?
Once we have a shared understanding of our team goal, roles and team processes are easy to clarify. However how we relate to each other as people – the interpersonal relationships – may need work. Do we give each other feedback and how do we do it? Has the fact that we may have to work remotely changed the way we give and receive feedback? Might we need to revisit this?
Do we give each other recognition? Do we make an effort to tell our colleagues what they are doing and have done well? Or do we just take it for granted?
Now is the time to ensure that how we function as a team and how well we function interpersonally is healthy and resilient. Values congruence is a powerful way to hold the team together in the face of unexpected buffeting and disruption. This will be important for the team having the psychological safety space and the good emotional practices in place to cope with the likely challenges coming that will demand rapid realignment and response. As a team we also need to learn to adapt.
How PPI Network can help
We facilitate teams addressing these questions. It can be useful to have an instrument to gather the team perceptions as a starting point to having the discussion. We use a team assessment instrument labelled ORPI (objectives, roles and responsibilities, processes and interpersonal relationships) based on the work of Bekhard, Organisational Development Professor of MIT in the early 1970’s, as a good tool for gaining a picture of the current functioning of the team. A second instrument we use is the Harrison Behaviour Inventory as the team profile it produces highlights strengths and potential gap areas in the team behaviours. These are useful as starting points to have a discussion as they make what some may see as a soft or intangible subject substantive and easier to discuss.