There’s no doubt that team problem-solving is an excellent way to develop effective solutions to core organizational challenges. Great teams can produce a better result 80% of the time, and solving problems together helps the whole team buy-in to the solution. However, as anyone who has ever been on a team knows, it is one thing to bring people together, it’s another to make them “work” together.
You will not achieve optimal results if you have a disengaged or chaotic team, but even high-performing teams must manage and work through obstacles that can get in the way of successful team problem-solving. We’ve identified 6 common barriers to team problem-solving that all leaders need to be aware of in order to best manage the problem-solving process and harness the full potential of the team.
1. Increased Competition
Working in a team can bring up competitive feelings amongst team members. While competition has upsides, it can come at the cost of reduced cooperation. It is also important for team members to understand that the competition isn't necessary - because the solution is designed to generate success for the group - not just one person
Ensure your team understands that the success of the team, and the larger organization, is a “we” mission and individual rivalries must be set aside. Focus your team on shared goals and de-emphasize individual rewards. While leaders can, and should, recognize individual team members, be wary of over-recognizing any one individual and ensure that any celebration centers on the contributions of all team members.
2. Level of Confirmation
It can be tempting to execute what you think is a great idea from one team member without adequate discussion and confirmation from other members. Make it a point to seek additional input from all your team members to gain their perspectives and learn about new possible solutions. It may be that the initial idea is excellent and has broad support throughout the team, and it is just as likely that other team members have a better solution. It is important to not push decisions or solutions through too quickly to not allow for adequate discussion and confirmation as a team.
3. Lack of Objective Guideline
If a team has not adopted a problem-solving framework or they lack a sense of purpose, it may be likely that they are uncertain of their objectives - or guidelines they need to follow to create a solution. Even the most ambitious team without direction or guidance is unlikely to achieve its goals. Having solid objectives will set the standard of performance for your team and motivate them to work with success in mind.
4. Time Constraints
A lack of time can lead to quick and sometimes poor decisions. Allow for the most appropriate amount of time needed based on the importance and level of risk of the problem and solution. Do not let time push you too quickly - or prevent you from moving forward. Although deadlines are important, they should not be an excuse to compromise on the quality of the solution.
5. Unequal Participation and Unwillingness to Participate
Most teams consist of people who love brainstorming and thinking out loud and others who prefer to think things through on their own. It’s normal to have a mix of internal and external processing styles, and in order to get the best solutions for your team, it’s important to create an environment where everyone can feel comfortable participating.
Take the time to identify team member preferences and develop ways to engage people’s thinking ahead of time so those who think best outside of a group setting can come prepared with ideas so they can participate equally.
6. Lack of Team Spirit
At certain times the team morale may be down or the obstacles may feel too large to generate commitment and perseverance. In these cases, team members and team leaders are responsible for encouraging the team and communicating their own individual commitment and beliefs in the team's capability to be successful. Take the time to slow down in order to speed up, and spend time rallying the team in order to increase overall performance.
Understanding and preparing to tackle these barriers to team problem-solving will prepare you and your team to handle larger and more complex challenges - leading to greater success for the team and the organization.