Three teams – a marketing, PR and events team – worked within an organisation. They had work they needed to do together…. But they had HISTORY.
There were clear and well-remembered tales of ‘them doing this’ to us, and ‘I said to her’; there were regularly recounted stories of upset caused and offence taken; there were no specifics at all, but an inherited ‘norm’ that says ‘we don’t like them very much’.
By working with these teams, they found ways to have fun together and work productively with one another. They agreed ways of running projects, roles within them and responsibilities for who does what. They designed a planning methodology they would all use. Time together was spent doing, delivering and having enjoyment whilst doing so.
They also agreed, together, ways they would tackle things if they crept back to the old ways, felt offended or found an interaction to be less than pleasant or unproductive.
How we did it
The Leadership team from each of these areas knew they needed to do something and had ideas of what was needed. I started by speaking with them and agreeing the approach we would take. As always, I suggested I start by asking the teams themselves what was going on and what they felt needed to happen. This way, the actions we then take are the right ones, and they are going to lead to the change needed.
I began with sessions with each team (with their manager there only if the team agreed to it). I facilitated some thinking about what the team’s purpose, goals and success criteria looked like, under the umbrella of that of the organisation. I then led a conversation about what they needed from the other teams in order to be successful. Next came a discussion about what those other teams were trying to achieve, followed by some thinking about what those teams then need from them to be successful.
All the feedback from each of the 3 teams was rolled up into themes.
I brought the 3 managers together and played through the themes – as is often the case, there was commonality across all 3. I then asked the managers to consider this feedback – what thoughts and feelings did they have about it and – crucially – what did it mean for them as a team of managers.
Next came a session to bring the teams together. This was a half day event that began with me playing back the themes and giving an overview of the outcomes and commitments from the manager’s session. This showed that their managers were invested in making things better and had role-modelled collaboration.
The lens for this session was thinking as ‘one team’ but I began by asking each team to give an overview – from their perspective – of how they work, what they are proud of and something that might surprise the other teams. This built empathy and understanding and helped teams to feel heard.
Together, we considered workflow and touchpoints, before defining their joint aims and goals. I facilitated some thinking about expertise versus collaboration and we did some work around team strengths and ‘what makes a great team’. It was important that I also led some learning about the importance of trust and how to manage conflict.
With all of this insight, the team then defined a plan of what they needed to do to move forward, with specific actions and timescales.