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I.  Team Goals


In Teamwork: What Must Go Right, What Can Go Wrong  Carl E. Larson and Frank M. J. Lafasto list "a clear, elevating goal" as its first characteristic of effective teams.  Larson and LaFasto write that a  high performance team has both  a clear understanding of the goal, and a goal that embodies a  worthwhile or important (elevating) result (27).

          Ineffective teams are ineffective due to something related to the goals.  This could be because: 1)  goals are unfocused, 2) goals are politicized, 3)  lost significance/urgency of goals, 4)  goal dilution, and  5)  individual goals have taken priority over team goals

A clear and elevating goal  is characterized its two elements; 1) the goal is clear and, and 2)  the goal is elevating.  Goal clarity means that there is a specific performance objective, phrased in such a way that there is no doubt whether or not it has been reached.  A goal that is elevating  is personally challenging to individuals and/or group by stretching mental and/or physical limits (31), and has a sense of urgency because the objective makes a difference and provides opportunity to excel.


Teams That are Ineffective

        When a team is ineffective, ask yourself "What is the team elevating above the performance objective?"  You might find one of these for answers to that question:  1) politics, 2) personal agenda, 3) worry about promotions, 4) mistrust, 5)  who's in charge, 6) autocratic, 7)  personal vs. team objectives, and 8) what's in it for me.


II.  What Makes Good Goals?


Operational definitions

An objective is a clear statement of what could and should be.  An objective must have a compelling quality (Francis  97).  A goal is a statement of results to be achieved (Maddux 36).  Jessup calls goals incremental, short term steps toward realizing a vision.  "A set of viable goals,"  writes Jessup, "may be viewed as a pivotal way station on the road from expectations to results" (67).

    Hersey and Blanchard use the acronym SMART to give five important attributes of  goals (382):

S    pecific

M  easurable

A   ttainable

R   elevant

T   rackable


Hoevemeyer also has five attributes of goals which are similar to Hersey and Blanchard's (Hoevemeyer 1993) :

1.  Clear

2.  Specific

3.  Measurable

4.  Realistic

5.  Achievable

Francis and Young's five attributes of goals (Improving Work Groups: A Practical Manual for Team Building) are system oriented, giving both what goes into goals and what can be expected from them (84).

1.  Achievable and Important

2.  Clear

3.  Broad at first, then narrowed

4.  Do not destroy creativity

5.  Help to understand and evaluate

Maddux (36) writes that goals communicate important information to teams.  This information includes:

1.  Conditions to be met

2.  Time frame

3.  Needed Resources

Jessup (67) writes that goals must be measurable:   Why?

1.  Goals must be timely

2.  Goals are used for corrective action, not for historical data

3.  Goals compare current performance with norms and trends

4.  Goals must compare basic, business focused mission


III. Team Oriented Goals

There has been a great deal of literature written about goal setting specifically for teams.  This literature gives the definition of goals, the important elements of goals, and what the leader can to do use goals to improve team effectiveness.


Shonk (1982) gives four attributes of team goals, which differentiate them from individual and corporate goals. First, team goals should require the team, because they can't be done by individuals.  Second, team goals are critical for success of the team's mission.  Third, team goals are the product of individual members' goals.  Forth, team members believe they can influence and accomplish team goals.


Jessup (65) wrote that new teams often focus inward.  The team has control, and gets quick rewards.  Managers should see that these are positive steps to improvement.  Sharing goals is considered on of the two bases for team development (along with team growth phases).  Jessup wrote that there are two types of team goals: group environment goals ( like housekeeping); and group process goals (like meetings)


Katzenbach and Smith in The Discipline of Teams: A Mindbook-Workbook for Delivering Small Group Performance wrote that team goals are those where the purpose belongs to team (collectively) and to team members (individually) (The Discipline of Teams 113).  These are transformed into specific performance goals . Goals define the team, write Katzenbach and Smith, because they differ from organization-wide goals, differ from individual goals and require teamwork  Goals facilitate clear communication, leading to constructive conflict because clear goals facilitate discussions about how/why to change. Attainable goals focus on getting results and have a leveling effect, when  rank, status, and personality are less important.  Katzenbach and Smith suggest small goals, because small wins lead to big wins and this builds commitment.  Goals should be compelling, for they are symbols of accomplishment that motivate, energize, and challenge teams, giving them a sense of urgency and  fear of failure.


Scholtes in The Team Handbook writes that team goals are linked to mission and larger projects (6). The team, writes Scholtes,  1) agrees on its mission, 2) sees the mission as workable, 3) has clear vision, 4) can progress steadily toward goals, and 5) is clear about larger project goals

Parker, in Team Players and Teamwork,  writes that team members must have a common goal, purpose, vision, or mission, and that tasks must be interdependent.

Francis and Young (84) talk of shared team goals, defining the following:

a.  basic beliefs and values;

b. the ways in which the team culture should be developed;

c. the outputs that are needed;

d. the team's roles within the larger organization;

e.  Key success factors -- what the team has to do really well; and

f. what the team will always strive to do and what it will never do.

Shonk writes that team goals are as much a task oriented part of teams as they are behavior oriented (1982: 11) Team oriented goals, writes Shonk, have these characteristics:

a.  team's goals are clear, understood, and communicated to all team members;

b.  team should feel ownership of goals;

c.  goals should be operational (do-able);

d.  goals should be shared; and

e.  team goals should not conflict with other goals.


IV. Goal Clarity

Jessup writes that "try harder" goals are not enough.  "Sustained and substantial improvements require deliberate changes in operating procedures,"  writes Jessup, "and these changes require action planning with substance" (67).

Joy and  Joy write that Improvement Project Team goals should be written out, posted, and be clear and objective (50).  Clear, consistent, measurable goals also appear in  Teambuilt: Making Teamwork Work as an important part of team building.  Sanborn writes that team goals should tell what, when, how well, how much, for whom the team is working, and should have both  long term goals and quick team wins (QTW) weekly.


V.  Compelling Goals

Likert  writes that goals should be "high enough to stimulate each member to do his or her best, but not so high as to create anxieties or fear of failure" (Parker 26).   Hersey and Blanchard write that goals are best if set at 50% probability of success for highest motivation.  This is because if there is a low probability of success ( at or near 0%) there will be no motivation.  On the other hand, a high probability of success (at or near 100%) will also reduce motivation to reach the goal. 


VI.  Vision and Mission in Teams

 "Vision is the starting point for any team" writes Bass. "Vision is the team's overriding purpose for existence"  (Bass 65). "The vision describes a target," according to Jessup, "where the team wants to be at some future time" (67).

Peter Senge's The Fifth Discipline is a best selling current work dealing with vision.  "When people truly share a vision, they are connected," writes Senge, "bound together by a common aspiration" (206).  Senge writes that shared vision emerge from personal visions, and that personal mastery is a "bedrock for developing shared visions" (211).  Shared vision, says Senge; 1)  provides focus and energy for learning; 2) "uplifts people's aspirations"; 3) causes "their company" to become "our company"; 4)  increases courage; 5)  fosters risk taking and experimentation; 6)  increases commitment to the long-term.

Handy is another author that writes about vision (8).  Handy writes that the vision must be different --it must reframe the known scene.  The vision must make sense to others,  must stretch people's imagination, must be within the "bands of possibility", and be related to work, and not too grand -- it must be useful.  Handy says the vision must me understandable, and that the leader must "live the vision" by exuding energy and integrity. Vision comes from the inner belief system, according to Handy, and the leader must remember that vision remains a dream without the work of others.

Shonk writes that a mission determines direction and goals, is clear and agreed upon, and provides focus for goals (66). Hoevemeyer writes that the team mission should support the department mission and the organization's mission, and  be customer focused. "It's easier for the team to do its job" writes Shonk, "if it knows why it is doing the job"(69).  A mission statement, says Jessup, is a "restatement of the expectations of prime stakeholders," and describes the team's product or service, represents the expectations of the organization, and is endorsed by the entire team  (66).




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