Last Updated on 18 September 2023
It’s rare that you’ll be doing Six Sigma projects alone. You’ll need to be part of a team as you won’t have the knowledge and expertise to do it all yourself. Later when you reach Black Belt, there will be too much work for one person, and you’ll be able to achieve more quicker by delegating to a team. You’ll therefore need to be able to put a team together. Effective team management is a key part of stakeholder analysis.
Types of teams
There will be various types of teams that you will encounter, that you’ll need to be aware of:
- Functional – Teams made up from staff all from the same department, such as a sales improvement project entirely staffed with sales staff. They will usually be from the department that the project is in, allowing them to get up to speed on the issue quickly.
- Cross-functional – Teams made up from staff from many departments, such as when sales and research come together to solve a problem affecting both of their departments. This can bring together a multitude of different skills and knowledge from different departments, and can be useful for large scale projects.
- Continuous improvement – A team that is long term, often cross-functional team that will be used for multiple projects, leading to a program of improvements over time. This leads to them getting used to working together, which may result in longer proportion of time in the ‘Performing’ stage. They will also be more experienced at the tools and methodologies.
- Self-managed – Not all teams are brought together by management. If a team comes together of their own accord to solve a problem that is affecting them, it is called ‘self-managed’.
Stages of Team Evolution – the Tuckman life cycle
There are five steps to a typical team development that you will when putting together teams for Six Sigma projects. They are known as the ‘Tuckman life cycle’.
These are in order:
At the start of a project, a new team is put together, often with staff from different departments. They don’t all know each other and there isn’t a high level of trust yet, but they are chosen and introduced to each other. It will take time for the trust levels to build up.
When the work starts (even just initial meetings), there will be conflict as people get used to working with each other. They will start to gain confidence, and so will begin to assert themselves.
Different personalities will clash as they try to get attention, power or leadership of the group. This is a natural stage as team members find their role in the group, so don’t lose heart that the team isn’t working out. The issues will need to be resolved before the group can get to the next stage.
There will be groups that managed to avoid this stage, so it is not a certainty that you will have these issues.
Once the team has been working together for a while, they will settle down as people find roles they are comfortable with, and learn to trust each other. They will learn either formal or informal ‘group rules’ that let them start to focus more on the task in hand.
When the team has got used to working together and the initial conflicts are worked out, they reach the performing stage. This is the most productive time, and it’s when the team focuses on the target and accept that they can reach it between them. You should be able to achieve the goals of the project during this stage.
Adjourning (sometimes mourning)
This was a late addition to the life-cycle, which was previously just the first four steps. At the end of the project, the team has no further role, and so it is broken up and the team members return to their original roles and departments.
For a team to work together effectively, it is important that they have strong communication methods. Without clear communication, effort and resources can be wasted, and team structure can suffer. Creating a good communication plan can help keep your team and project running smoothly.
Meetings are the main form of communication for a team. With the number of people taking time out of their schedules, they can waste work resources (time) very quickly. The first thing to do is to ensure that the correct people are in the meeting, as having inappropriate people will both slow the meeting down, and waste their time.
It’s very important to have good structure for the meetings, such as by using agendas and meeting minutes.
Project status reports
Project status reports can give updates to stakeholders in a predictable form (making it quick to make and interpret), saving the huge amount of time that an update meeting would take. They can also get the ‘standard update’ out of the way before the meeting, allowing the meeting to be used to tackle bigger issues, rather than getting bogged down in the day-to-day.
Agendas lay out what is to be discussed in the meeting. These need to be sent out with enough time before the meeting so that people can prepare what they want to say, and get back to the meeting organizer if there’s any other vital things to be discussed. This will keep the meeting from going off-topic, and make sure there is time for the important points are covered.
It will also give important information to members such as start and end times and what they will need to bring, so time isn’t wasted waiting for people who turn up late or need to get other resources such as notes or a laptop.
These should be made during every meeting and written up after to be sent to all attendees so that they can have a record of the meeting. This avoids important actions being missed and discussions having to be repeated.
If you are facilitating the meeting you will need to appoint someone to be in charge of the meeting.