This is the first post in a series of practical tips on how to successfully adopt Microsoft Teams in your workplace.
You created a team on Microsoft Teams and you probably found the ‘Create Team’ experience was as simple as can be. Hopefully you spent a bit of reflection time before you completed the ‘Description’ field, as it just might end up being the most important entry you will make for this team. Is it a statement of purpose? The reason others might want to join you in active collaboration? The scope of your aspirations for the team? Do you need to go back and re-visit to description?
The default setting for a team is ‘Private’. If you choose to set your Team to ‘Public’ this would flag an intent to create a community or forum, more so than a traditional team. At this point you may want to question whether your intended team is better hosted on Yammer.
Who should you invite to join the Team?
From here on, we are assuming that you have created a ‘Private’ invitation-only team. If your team mimics a formal organisational structure, then this step is quite straight forward. However, if your team is set to draw from across the organisation then it will pay to spend some time considering this.
Firstly, do not fall into the trap of inviting anyone you think might be interested and would readily accept your invitation. This might be appropriate for Yammer, where interest groups are being built, but for Teams, the focus should be much more on who can actively contribute to delivering on your stated team purpose. Building an effective digital team should be no different to building a non-digital team. Sure, if you are senior enough, you may be able to have staff assigned to your team. But if your team purpose is not compelling enough for team members to assign some of their valuable time to the team, they will exist in name only. And the Team analytics will show this with brutal honesty.
In recruiting your team, be prepared to engage with potential members off-line if necessary, especially if the prospective member is now well known to you. After all, would you accept a digital invitation to give up some of your valuable time, if the host was not well known to you?
The above graphic is an example of a Team in the early stages (first two weeks) of its formation. The team creator has invited eight people and created an initial post. Four have responded and some preliminary discussion is happening.
As the leader of this team, it is your responsibility to engage with each member around your stated team purpose. You should aim to do this online and transparently, so the team becomes accustomed with talking online. Remember, any one-on-one discussion will be transparent to all team members. As an initial goal, aim to have each team member actively engaged in a conversation, at least with yourself as the leader. Use this time to tighten up your team purpose, agree on codes of interactions e.g. all interactions to be made or documented in the team space, time zone agreements for online meetings, shared content repositories for team use, identification of stakeholders outside the team itself etc.
After the initial two months, activity levels are ramping up. There are now 10 active members. The team is behaving like a “single leader team”, with the founder still ‘calling the shots’. But there are now three other members helping to connect the team. The increased momentum bodes well for this team becoming a highly productive unit.
Resist the Temptation to Add all Stakeholders to the Team
The Teams platform caters for teams up to 5,000 members. It also currently has some restrictions on who you can mention in a post i.e. currently have to be team members. Inviting members in bulk is made very easy. Unless your team is being formed with the express purpose of being an information sharing platform only, you should resist this temptation.
To the point, if you are part of a non-digital team, would you be comfortable having your meeting conversations broadcast live to an audience of several hundred people? If indeed this was the case, don’t you think that the existence of an audience might affect the way you interact with other team members? Could you really have those tough conversations and challenging negotiations that high performing teams always have?
There are other ways for sharing information with your interested stakeholders. Perhaps you form a team that is directed specifically as an information sharing forum; hosted on Teams or even better; Yammer. Decades of research have shown that high performing teams have less than 10 members and ideally 4-6. Think about this when forming your working team.
The above graphic shows an idealised ‘Teaming’ organisation, where Teams are restricted to an optimal size for high productivity, but still interconnected by the existence of overlapping team membership. Such team interconnections provide a facility for shared tacit knowledge. The larger information sharing forums are then designed to engage with the broader community, who will have variable and changing information needs.
The risk in teams growing too large is that high frequency rich interchanges that characterise high productivity teams is replaced by tame information exchange with little, if any, tangible outcomes.
Norming: Towards Becoming a Sustainable High Performance Team
Now that you have recruited the team, personally connected with each member, set the ground rules for collaboration and sharing, created a core of members with whom team leadership can be shared, its time to move forward to deliver on your defined outcomes.
In our next blog post, we’ll be exploring; “What Sort of ‘Team’ should I be aspiring to? Should I be on Microsoft Teams or Yammer?”
Learn more about SWOOP for Teams.