While I was facilitating a problem-solving session in a client facility, I noticed that something was wrong. We were discussing the possible causes for the problem under analysis. Three team members were very active in the discussion providing thoughtful ideas. However, the rest of the group was either silent or being sarcastic. Another person was constantly interrupting others while yelling. I ask the event sponsor if those behaviors were normal, and he said they were. He didn’t see it that way, but the team’s behavior was asking for help. Those actions were a symptom of a deeper problem. That is, team communication needed improvement.
How do you know team communication needs to improve?
The situation described above contains several signs that indicate the team communication is poor. When a team cannot collaborate, productivity and quality can affect the company’s bottom line. Therefore, it is a priority to learn how to identify those signs and fix them.
Despite having technical knowledge, the company from the example hire me as the facilitator. The reason is that they have not been able to get the expected results.
Be on the lookout for these signs
Over the week, I had multiple individual conversations with team members and the sponsor. As a result, I identify several behaviors that affect communication. All of them are signs of ineffective team communication.
Confusion regarding responsibilities or priorities leads to frustration. As a result, you can see duplicate work, missed deadlines, or not getting expected results. In turn, those results create disappointment, anger, and more frustration. When this happens, it is common to see disrespect as part of the culture. For example, you can see rude reactions, demeaning communication, and finger-pointing.
People deal with frustration in different ways. Sometimes, even when they are silent, their demeanor screams disagreement. Team communication is failing when you sense that people have concerns but never voice their opinion. Likewise, if they constantly interrupt the conversation or scream to ensure their voice is heard. Another sign is when team members feel the need to compete against each other all the time. At the same time, there is no collaboration.
How to improve team communication
Effective communication is one of the critical elements for a successful continuous improvement journey. Another element is the cultural transformation from traditional to lean thinking. A culture that values respect and teamwork fosters creativity and collaboration.
People need to know how their work connects with the company goals. Also, they need to understand how their actions affect the customers and business growth. Knowing that information is easier to understand why collaboration is critical to the success of the company. When the company is still in the early steps of the transformation, it is natural for some individuals to push back. However, as soon as you notice behaviors like those previously indicated, it is time to enforce the new expectations. Nothing demoralized the team more than seeing their leaders tolerating disrespectful actions.