Select a Great Team or Suffer the Consequences

by JoeWhite 28. May 2010 08:45

Series: Executing a Kaizen Event

If you read this title and were immediately reminded of that ONE miserable project with a bad team (or team member), then you will probably be responding to this post. But, this post isn’t about bad team members or how to avoid them. Instead, it is about how to select a group of people that can fill the roles required by a project’s scope (be sure you read the post: Kaizen is not Japanese for Free Lunch) effectively and increase the probability of success.

For the sake of discussion, the selection of a Kaizen team will form the foundation for my thoughts. After the project scope has been defined and the project charter has been developed, the next step to leading a successful Kaizen Event is team selection. Thinking through all of the tasks that may be required to achieve the goals of the project and making a list of the skills that will be needed to accomplish those goals is a great way to start. Listing the skills first will allow you to keep your mind open and may lead to selecting a team member that you never would have considered otherwise.

Once the necessary skills have been identified, it’s time to start thinking of individuals that may have a desire to be involved with the team. Remember, you can’t force someone to participate passionately and you can’t fake desire, so it is rarely beneficial to force someone to be involved. Match the individuals that have the needed skills with those that have the desire, and the selection of the team will usually be easy.

An often overlooked team member is the “ringer”. I use this term to refer to the individual that comes from a completely unrelated part of the organization and knows very little of the processes that the team will be working to improve. It might seem strange that I recommend including one or two of these individuals, but these folks often turn into the real gems of the group. They ask the most important question of all… WHY? They are not encumbered by knowledge so they ask questions that no one else on the team would even think to ask. They see those forms of waste that others have grown to accept as part of the process and they challenge the rest of the team. Be sure to encourage them. The idea they bring to the table may seem crazy, but the idea that surfaces because of their off the wall suggestion may be the next “BIG ONE”.

A quick note on team size: my magic number is 6-8 team members and 1 team leader for Kaizen Events. If you have a co leader, be sure to count them as a team member. Any more and the team becomes less nimble; any less and you lose the critical mass needed to generate creativity. I realize that project scope and organizational culture is going to impact this significantly, but in a perfect world, 6-8 is an ideal team size.




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