How to Design a Team

From the Ask Tom mailbag –

Question:
I attended your workshop on organizational structure and levels of work. I am a manager without much influence in the company. I want to implement the principles you talked about to design my team. Do I have to wait for the rest of the company or can I start without them.

Response:
Start without them. In the midst of any organization, any manager can be more effective in the design of the work. Start with your own team. Ask yourself these questions –

  • What is the work output expected from my team? Quality standard? Volume of output?
  • What are all the elements required? Materials, people, equipment, tools, consumables?
  • What is the sequence of work elements? What are the steps in the production of output?
  • Does each step in production require a dedicated role or can multiple steps be combined into a single role? What roles are required?
  • In each role, what is the level of work required? What decisions have to be made by each role? What problems have to be solved by each role?
  • What is the sequence of work between roles?
  • What is the work output standard from one role handed off to the next step in the sequence?
  • How often are standards inspected? Are standards inspected embedded into production roles or are standards inspected a separate role?
  • What decisions have to be made, problems have to be solved in the inspection steps?

You may find that drawing this sequence on piece of paper will be visually helpful in creating your team design. As you create this drawing, you may find value in more detail or less detail.

This is an exercise in designing work. One of the biggest problems most teams face is that managers do not adequately think about or design the work of their teams. With the work designed, including decision making and problem solving, you can now describe, in detail, each role definition.

Only with an accurate role definition, can you now be more effective at hiring the right people for the role. -Tom

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