The Team Challenge Process - Why it Works

1 Introduction

Figure 1: A structured process that focuses on the social processes that exist within a team


Let’s consider the following scenarios:

  • How would you feel if you had a refreshing new way to improve your business performance?
  • What would it be like to access the intelligence of the people to solve a complex problem?
  • What would happen to your performance if you were able to unlock the innovation mindsets of your people?
  • What could you do if you had access to the rich balance of the experience and knowledge of your people?
  • What it would be like to introduce new system or process without any resistance?
  • What would it be like if you had a means of simulating real business scenarios for staff recruitment?
  • How would you like to build strong, motivated and innovative teams in a safe and controlled environment?

All the above scenarios are individual processes that all present a particular challenge. In all cases, a challenge that involves the people in the business - teams. To tap into that intelligence and engage these teams to overcome a challenge is “process".

The list below is list of challenges facing many local businesses and here in Cork. It is by no means an exhaustive list, but covers those that business’s are struggling with today. These represent typical challenges that can be resolved using the team challenge approach.

  • Business problem
  • Diversifying
  • Systems & procedures 
  • Staff issues
  • Recruitment/Retention
  • Finance issues
  • Pricing
  • Time management
  • Growth & expansion
  • Exit strategies
  • Debt Collection
  • Work - Life Balance
  • Emerging markets
  • Legislation
  • Brexit
  • GDPR
  • Retirement & pension
  • Government/Legislation
  • Technology/Automation
  • Becoming Obsolete
“It is a structured process that focuses on the social processes in the business.”

The Team Challenge Process approach works because of two very simple reasons:

  • it utilises the social processes that exist within any business; and
  • it is a structured, closed-loop process.
This article explores both in greater depth. But, first it is important to consider any business as a process.

2. A Business is a Process


Consider any business as being a process. It consists of a series of actions taken to achieve a particular end. In all cases this involves people and that much needed "human" factor to meet that end.

Figure 2: Only by viewing a business as "process" can we begin to achieve realistic continuous improvement

Businesses are like ‘live’ organisms and are influenced by many factors. Some can be controlled, others, unexpected and beyond the control of its owners. Owners have to learn how to use their people to adapt to changes in their business environment.

All businesses are continuous processes that evolve and are subject to change at any time. The evolution of a business can be both voluntary and non-voluntary where change maybe due to internal or external factors.
Some organisations evolve by default. Others have to adapt in response to a change in their business environment.

Larger organisations are often made up of lots of sub-processes. These streamline the operation toward achieving a common goal. Each sub-process has a specific function in the business and achieves a specific end.

By viewing a business as a process, owners will:
  • Begin to understand what they need to do to achieve targets.  
  • Develop a clearer idea of what they need to do to make improvements in performance. 
  • Have better understanding of the role of their employees
  • Realise the true value of their employees
  • Learn how to improve employee engagement in the business.
This is by no means an exhaustive list of reasons why owners should view their business as a process. What is important, is that, business owners need to understand that:

“Only by viewing a business as "process" can we begin to achieve realistic continuous improvement.”

3. Focusing on the Social Processes

The Team Challenge Process utilises the social processes that exist with the team. By adopting this approach, this process:

  • encourages the socialising between the team members as ordinary human beings.
  • enables the team members to get to know one another on a more personal level.
  • unites them as team to achieve a common, challenging goal in a more social setting.
It was Armstrong (1993) who highlighted the value of social processes in teams. He claimed that "Although considered of value, team building initiatives tend to neglect the social processes”. 

Most team building models (organisations) do encourage this social interaction and life expectancy of these techniques are short-lived.

These approaches only work for a limited period, because the results do not become a 'habit'. The team challenge process is longer term process produces long lasting techniques/results - the Team Challenge Process creates ‘habit’.

Figure 3: Creating habit


"The Creative Habit' is basically about how you work alone, how you survive as a solitary artist. 'The Collaborative Habit' is obviously about surviving with other people." Twarp T. (2013).

Twyla Tharp, is one of America's greatest choreographers. Much of what she has written applies to businesses today. Her obsession with routines becoming habit helped her create more than 130 dances. 

Today's turbulent world environment poses a huge threat to all business owners. No business, large or small is immune. They need to have the same collaboration with their employees as Twyla Tharp has with her dancers. She provided them with the storyline. It was the dancers interpretation, on stage, that connected to the audience.

The storyline of each team challenge is it must adhere to the following simple criteria:  
  • be a challenge for the whole team involve every member of the team in some way;
  • stretch and push the team to it’s limits takes the team out of their comfort zone; and
  • use all skills available within the team. 
Figure 4: Stretch and push the team to it’s limits takes the team out of their comfort zone
This is does not need to be a complicated formula, but essential to building innovative teams. It is also because this is a process that it works. Collaboration is essential for success. By focusing on the social processes that collaboration is a natural part of the process. It is also highlights the importance of the role leadership in that process. Natural leaders within a team will come to the fore. Others will emerge as the team challenge unfolds. In the team challenge process, the teams are on their own. All they have to guide them is a few simple ground rules. The rest is down to them.

"I always find that the best collaborations are when you work with people that know what they're doing, and you leave them alone to do it." Twarp T. (2013).

It is the employees in a business that know what they are doing. They have the necessary intelligence to make the desired improvements in the business.

"Give them the destination and let them find their own way.”

The team challenge allows the team practice working together as a team in a safe and controlled environment. This helps to develop their social skills by taking them out of their comfort zones. The challenge itself encourages that much needed collaboration from every team member. The team challenge is a learning process that:
  • encourages individuals to learn more about themselves – strengths and weaknesses.
  • helps them to learn more about themselves and their value in teamwork
  • Increases their awareness of human behaviour at individual and team member levels
  • promotes trust and mutual respect within the team
  • accesses untapped skill sets of each individual within a team
  • facilitates bringing, what the team has learned, back into work place
  • each team member will have a greater understanding and appreciation of teamwork
  • each individual will understand the real value of working together in a team in challenging situations

Figure 5: Team practising working together as a team in safe and controlled environment
Socialising in the work place, is essential for engaging people in the business. It is no secret that team building fosters greater cohesion within teams. It is the social processes that will encourage a team to have a more positive attitude when working towards a common goal.

When creativity has become your habit; when you've learned to manage time, resources, expectations, and the demands of others; when you understand the value and place of validation, continuity, and purity of purpose—then you're on the way to an artist's ultimate goal: the achievement of mastery. Twarp T. (2003)

In business are we not trying to achieve this mastery?

According to Seth Godin, the marketplace is getting faster and more fluid. So, in today's world opting for "safe is risky." He adds, "that businesses need to create an environment where you are likely to create a new purple cow." Murata (1993) cites, "continuous improvement to reduce costs and hold prices is necessary. In Seth Godin's fast changing world, this might prove to be 'risky.'

In his book, Murata goes on to state, that the fundamentals of success means:
  • increasing the output of employees;
  • moving the business in the correct direction.
In my experience this is more likely to occur when teamwork is able to flourish. The Team Challenge approach is a “process” for implementing change. That change can be anything. This is because, being a process, it provides a means for managing and controlling that change. It utilises all the resources and intelligence that already exist within the business. By focusing on the social processes, it is possible to:

  • build effective, motivated and innovative teams,
  • empower the in-built intelligence to identify and solve complex business problems,
  • it encourages creativity to become a habit,
  • engage the team in decision making processes,
  • tap into those innovative mindsets seek out the next purple cows,
  • manage change through people to the business in the right direction, 
  • improve performance through people, and
  • identify potential future leaders.

"We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking that we used when we created them." (Albert Einstein)

Bad decisions and failure occur all the time in business. We should not be afraid to make a mistake or fail in our endeavours. These are essential lessons in the process of learning.

"Ultimately there is no such thing as failure. There are lessons learned in different ways." Twarp T. (2013)

From my own experience, if we do not take risks, then we unlikely to learn anything. If we do take risks, then learning is inevitable. 

"In order to be creative you have to know how to prepare to be creative." Twarp T. (2013). 


The Team Challenge Process provides a framework for making creativity become a 'habit'. In essence, it is:
  • a learning process for building innovative, motivated and creative teams;
  • a problem solving process that best utilises the in-built intelligence in a business;
  • a means for implementing successful and important change, in a business, through people
The greatest challenge is how make this creativity become a 'habit' in every business.

In all three of the above cases, it is all about the marriage between people and leadership.

Leadership is about nurturing and enhancing

Leadership is about nurturing and enhancing (Peters, T. 1992). Leadership is a huge topic and subject to a more detailed discussion in another article. To introduce and comment will suffice here.

My simplistic view on the difference between management and leadership goes like this:
  • Management is prescriptive, in a sense that, employees should know what to do, how to do, when to do it, where to it, and with whom. Because, they are told! The "why" part is of no concern of the employee. This leaves very little room for the flow of creativity.
  • Leadership is open architecture management. Employees are only given the next challenge to solve. The what, how, when, wherefores and with whom is for employees to determine. The 'why' part the employees have to workout for themselves if they are to deliver. Leadership opens the creative flood gates.

In this fast changing, turbulent world flexible leadership styles will become evermore important. Different situations will demand different leadership styles for continuous improvement and effectiveness of teams

Everybody possesses leadership potential and leadership can be learnt. Leadership style in business will lead to trial and error, failures and successes. 

There is no magic formula for successful leadership (Tyson S., Jackson T. 1992). It is a process of continuous engagement of the people to achieve a common end.

The Team Challenge Process can be used to encourage flexible leadership styles. The very nature of the process can also identify and help develop the future leaders.

Conclusion

Finally, imagine there is a 'bridge' between where 'you are now' and what 'where you want to be tomorrow'. The real challenge is 'how' to built that bridge. The team challenge process is thatbridge” and that's why it works!

Figure 6: The team challenge process is that "Bridge"

Want to find how to make "creativity" become habit? Contact us at team@teamchallengeprocess.ie 



References:


  • Armstrong M, (1993). A Handbook of Personnel Management Practice, Kogan Page. fourth edition, pp 185 – 195, 276 – 279.
  • Godin, Seth (2005). Purple Cow. Penguin Books, pp 59, 63
  • Murata K. (1995). How to make Japanese Management Methods Work in the West. Gower Press, pp 65
  • Peters T. (1992). Liberation Management – Necessary disorganisation for the nanosecond nineties. MacMillan. pp 237-248.
  • Walter Moore, Schrödinger: Life and Thought (1989, 1998), 58-59. Moore describes that Schrödinger in his early days in the laboratory, “learned to believe that physics is not based upon mathematical fantasies but on a solid ground of experimental observations.”
  • Twyla Tharp. (2003). The Creative Habit: Learn It and Use It for Life. 
  • Twyla Tharp. (2013). The Collaborative Habit: Life Lessons for Working Together. Simon & Schuster; 1 edition
  • Tyson S., Jackson T. (1992). The Essence of Organisational Behaviour. Prentice Hall. pp 64–82.


About Us


The Team Challenge Process was founded in 2018 and provides a unique approach to solving business problems. Our focus is:
  • Building Highly Effective Teams
  • Solving Complex Business Problems
  • Achieving Business Targets
  • Improving Performance

Our Vision

“To build world class teams in any scenario, involving people with a common goal.”

Our Mission

“To engage people, unlock innovative mindsets and access that intelligence to ensure continuous learning and permanent change.”

Contact us


Perry A. Simpson
The Team Challenge Process Company
Telephone: +353 (0)86 109 2836

Brendan Foley
The Team Challenge Process Company
Telephone: +353 (0)87 793 8641







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