TMS-182x182We all know that a team should be well-balanced, but what does this mean? How do we really find out? Just how balanced is your team and once you know its weaknesses, how do we need to act? On a more practical note, how do you know that your new recruit closes a gap in your team? Or worse, what gap is created when someone leaves? This last question is something that I’ll share with you later. As such, team profiling is all about looking into the underlying preferences of the individuals in the team. To identify the strengths and weaknesses and being aware, as a team and transparently, of each individual’s preferences. The Team Management Systems (TMS) is one such tool that helps us and I’d like to introduce you to TMS in this blog and illustrate with two examples, how it has helped.

The Dysfunctional Team

Firstly, as some of you may know, from 2008 to 2011, I worked at a software house in a senior management position. We were already working in an Agile way with five teams working on our product. However, the management team were not really a team. We never really understood why. It was extremely frustrating for us all. We all respected each other as individuals, but there was something just getting in the way. It’s difficult to describe and certainly difficult to put on paper! That was until we run a workshop. The workshop was for three days as an offsite “strategy” retreat, with an external facilitator. The facilitator had however, introduced us to TMS as part of the preparation. We all had to fill in the questionnaire. So when it was time to discuss the team’s profile there were some extra-ordinarily interesting results. 1. One of the guys was so far off the scale in terms of planning, he quite clearly didn’t understand what a deadline really meant. It was as if the word “deadline” was completely alien to him. This was an astronomical breakthrough as we all considered the work he was doing as well planned and structured! So our view of him was completely wrong. Yet from that moment onwards we knew we had to approach our work with him in a different way and we as a team could adapt. 2. The second main revelation was the fact that five members of the six-man team were primarily Innovators and Promoters. Only one of us was in the area of Producer, which was opposite. Clearly one could see that there was plenty of tension within the management team between these five and this one. So once we had identified this we could plan workshops to be more productive. For example, if two of the product managers were put together without the sixth team member, nothing would get produced. Therefore we knew we had to put the “sixth” member together with the two product managers.

Why TMS?

As mentioned, unlike many other “profiling” systems TMS focuses very much on the team as well as the personal preferences. This means the team can see areas that they are weak in. This can help the team members understand the gaps. For example, our management team was clearly lacking several key areas, including Developing, Maintaining and Advising. Just perhaps your team is lacking one or more of the preferences. Wouldn’t it at least be interesting to find out?

So how does it works?

Well, we have to ask all the team members to complete an online questionnaire. The responses are then evaluated to identify what the major and related roles are. In other words what are the key strengths and where could someone help-out when needed. All the profiles of the team are then placed onto a circle to show where the team’s strengths and weaknesses are. To illustrate this and as a further example, one small team were famous for debating on a personal level, rather than based on facts. You know the symptoms: “His code is not good”, “she does not test”, “why does she always forget”, “if you had have split the story earlier, we would not have this issue”. So, we explored TMS. We asked each team member to sort the eight preferences according to what they thought was their main strengths and weaknesses. We then asked the other two to do the same for that one person. The results were very consistent which actually had the affect of re-assuring each individual that the other team members did in fact “understand” them. There was one exception. One team member did not think he was a “Promoter”. The other two did. When asked why, they recalled a presentation that he’d given the previous month. In this presentation he was indeed “promoting” and they thought he’d done a great job. In fact, he could do it. But he is introverted which means he can do it, but would prefer not to. Which explained why he rated his preference for “Promoting” as low. Incidentally, Susan Cain (no, we are not related!) writes about this in her book “Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking”. Incredibly, the team immediately started to talk about issues and impediments on a fact-based level rather than personal. For example, “why do we get these issues?”, “Wouldn’t it be better if we resolved this like so”. The personal attacks rarely occurred.

So What is it?

The eight key areas, or preferences, are:

Advising Gathering and reporting information
Innovating Creating and experimenting with ideas
Promoting Exploring and presenting opportunities
Developing Assessing and testing the applicability of new approaches
Organizing Establishing and implementing ways of making things work
Producing Concluding and delivering outputs
Inspecting Controlling and auditing the working of systems
Maintaining Upholding and safeguarding standards and processes

They are then organised into the “Types of Work Model” as shown below. TMS In the centre, there is a “Linker”. What is this? Well, you know when you just cannot connect with a colleague. They appear to just function differently? Well, it could be that their preferences are opposite to your own. For example, “Maintaining” is opposite to “Developing”. Think about software developers for a moment. People that like to maintain software and those that build new software are very different beasts. To help to get the two to work together, it may be necessary to get someone from Innovating or Producing to act as the Link. So, back to that question on recruitment. Well, when I resigned, I was the only “Producer” and it meant that the entire management team had no one near that area of competence. “S**t, who was actually going to get anything done?”, was the closing remark from one of my colleagues. Exactly.

What About You?

Do you have a team that just doesn’t appear to gel, click, function? If so, would you like us to profile them using TMS? If so, let us know.