8 Reasons Why Teams Fail
September 23, 2015
Co-Founder, The Ken Blanchard Companies
TopicsLeadership, Management, Teamwork
We use the word team so often that it has almost become a garbage can word. Everything is a team.
We have our department team, our sales team, our whole company is called a team, and we have even called the guys who meet every Friday night a team.
Because we use the word so frequently, we think we know how to work effectively with teams. Unfortunately we do not.
Teams are complex dynamic systems that face many challenges. In fact 60% fail to reach their potential.
Listed below are eight of the most common reasons teams fail based on our experience and research:
- Lack Of Clear Purpose & Goals - Without clear purpose and goals, the team will falter. Not knowing what to accomplish and why it is important is a major reason for lack of performance.
- Unsure Of What Requires A Team Effort - Not every decision or action requires a team; some are best accomplished by individuals. Team action is required when the result calls for multiple skills and perspectives and for a common goal.
- Lack Of Accountability - The very definition of a team is one where mutual accountability for outcomes is a given. Effective teams hold themselves and each other accountable for commitments made and results.
- Lack Of Effective Or Shared Leadership - Applying leader behaviors that do not meet the developmental level of the team impacts both productivity and morale. Every team needs a leader, but as the team develops leadership needs to be shared. You will never have a high performing team if the leader does not give up control.
- Lack Of Trust Among Team Members - Teams are trust- based systems. The lack of trust leads to poor communication and withholding of information, which is a barrier to relationships and innovation.
- Inability To Deal With Conflict - Not dealing with conflict will cause productivity and morale to come to a standstill or worse. Rather than being seen as differences, it can become a struggle for control. If dealt with correctly can be the source of innovation and deepened relationships.
- Ineffective Problem-Solving Skills - The strength of the team lies in its ability to creatively and effectively deal with challenges. Without this skill set (which thrives on different perspectives), it will not reach high performance.
- Lack Of Focus On Creativity & Excellence - Creativity and excellence cannot be taken for granted but ideally written right into the values and norms of the team. Continual improvement is applauded and honored. Team members should be allowed to take calculated risks. If mistakes occur, they are treated as learning opportunities.
Overcoming these challenges is not easy but doable. Teams are a powerful vehicle to produce results and build morale. When managed effectively, they can outperform any group of individuals and do more to unleash creativity and build skills than individuals working alone.
I’d add the inability of the team, or the leader, to manage down internal political rivalry to a level at which they can begin to perform. Everyone has an agenda, and some place that above their team’s agenda. At which point, rivalry begins to fester and team morale (and performance) stumbles.
I love your starting point, that we abuse the term “Team”. We can now add “Team” . to a short list of other abused and misused terms, such as “Leader”, “Coach”, “Engagement”,and so on.
When people use a term such as “team” imprecisely or without really having a distinct idea of what they mean, it should not be surprising that employees sometimes stop taking the use of the term seriously. Piles upon piles of unused and unloved, but expensively printed T-shirts which heralded one or another corporate initiative bear silent witness to this:).
I have nothing to offer as additional markers for teams. Your list is thoughtful, comprehensive, and clear. Each of these could easily be a blog post (or even a series) in itself.
Thanks for a strong addition to the move toward intentional and effective leadership:)
Hi Eunice. Welcome! Great post!
To answer your question: What would you add to the reasons teams fail?
Like John, I’m not sure I have anything substantive to add, except maybe this: Teams fail because the assumption is made that people will know how to work together as a team by throwing them together.
I think it overlaps and perhaps is most relevant with your point about whether or not a team is really needed – this is when I see people not really trying to be a team. Nevertheless, when a team IS needed, should we assume people KNOW how to work together collaboratively, hold each other accountable, understand others depend on them? I think we all know the answer to that one.
Good start, Eunice!
Welcome to Lead Change Group Eunice!
I like this post, simple and to the point.
I think a couple of other sons teams fail are 1) unrealistic expectations and 2) a lack of adding value to the individuals and the team as a whole.
I’ve seen many times where what is expectations cannot be reasonably attained, but the “just do it” charge sets them up for failure. Teams then get fragmented as the members start to look to survival tactics just to get through, then eventually disengage.
If the team is not valued for their talent or contributions, it takes away from the vision of the mission, no matter how big or noble the cause. By valuing the members of the team, they feel a deeper appreciation for what they’re setting out to accomplish.
John is right, each topic could be its own post. A great way to start conversation, and look forward to more from you!
i agree with your comments Paul. teams need to be recognized for their contribution if they are to continue performing
Lack of Knowledge of the Opposite Sex. This one is a more recent/modern problem. For the past three decades we have been preached at that women and men are the same and can equally do everything at a high level of competence. Of course this is wrong. Obviously there are things women tend to be better at than men and other things men tend to be better at than women. There is a mountain of scientific proof that we are totally different beings with overlapping skills and abilities, but in the end we are different (especially in the way we think). Try this: Sit down with your partner and discuss what the word “love” means to each of you. You will find some similarities and you will find some aspects of love your partner has that sound totally ridiculous to you and vise versa. If not understood, these differences in how we think eventually cause strife and disengagement between a couple. This is one area where Alternate Realities come into play. When you think that your husband doesn’t love you anymore because he checked out the neighbor’s ass, or you think your wife doesn’t love you because her affection seems to be tied to something you think is unrelated to love.
You made a good point when you shared that it is important for a team to have a clear purpose when working towards a goal. Besides, it is important to ensure that everyone is working with each other efficiently. I would like to think if a company wants to improve the teamwork for its employees, it should consider providing training for them.