Team Management Systems

Team Ground Rules

By Dick McCann
Copyright © Dick McCann. All rights reserved.

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Values and preferences are important parameters in the formulation of team ground rules. Where team members have significantly different work preferences and values then it is important that these are well understood and incorporated into agreed actions and behaviors that become a benchmark of best practice for the team. Once agreement on behavioral standards is reached, it is easy for team members to express their concern when violations occur.

The main differences between preferences and values are that preferences are enduring dispositions whereas values are enduring goals. Preferences vary in the frequency and intensity of their occurrence whereas values vary in their importance as guiding principles of behavior. People believe that their values are desirable, at least to a significant reference group, whereas preferences may be considered by them to be positive or negative. People may explain their behavior by referring to either their preferences or values, but they refer to their values when they wish to justify choices or actions as legitimate or worthy.

Values are cognitive representations of desirable abstract goals such as security, justice, or freedom. Similar to needs, motives and goals, values motivate actions. Values differ from specific goals because values are trans-situational. Unlike needs and motives, values are inherently desirable to the holder and must be represented cognitively in ways that enable people to communicate about them.

Work preferences and value types have differing underlying conceptual structures and should show a degree of independence. However, we would also expect some cross linkage because values and preferences can mutually influence one another. For example, values will affect preferences because, all things being equal, people will try to behave in ways that are consistent with their values. People may strive to reduce any discrepancies they sense between their values and behavior by changing their behavior.

Preferences too, can affect values, particularly when the behavior defined by the preference is continually rewarded by a successful outcome. The person concerned will then value the goals that this preference serves and thereby embrace the relevant value.

The volume Team Management Systems Session Designs: Team Management Profile includes a process for developing team ground rules using both the Team Management Profile (TMP) and Window on Work Values Profile (WoWVP). As a prelude, each participant refers to their individual Profiles and draws up a list of behaviors and actions they feel the team needs to adhere to, in order for their own preferences and values to be respected.

To hasten the process you could give them a simple structure to follow by suggesting the following:

  • Look at your net scores on each of the four work preference measures in the Team Management Profile and decide which of these measures are most important to you. For example, if your score on extroversion were high it might be essential to you that the team meets regularly so that you can develop your thoughts through talking. Usually there will be one or two preference measures that participants care most about.

  • Look at the section in the 'Linking' section of the Team Management Profile which suggests behaviors and actions you prefer when others interact with you. Pick out two or three of the more important ones. Add any more that occur to you as you go through this process.

  • Now read through your Window on Work Values Profile and choose the two or three value types that are most important to you. Select behaviors and actions you would require from other team members that align with these critical value types.

At this stage it is worth showing participants the spider diagram from the Window on Work Values materials. This diagram shows the component values that map into each value type. For example the value type of Equality is composed of underlying values such as Equality of Opportunity, Tolerance, Diversity, Honesty, Support, Trust, Forgiveness, Sharing, and Co-operation. This helps participants identify which component values are important to them.

At the end of this activity participants should have a page of information to bring to a team discussion on ground rules. The discussion centers on the ground rules that are necessary to ensure that all preferences are catered for. What ground rules are necessary to ensure any imbalances are corrected? The focus then moves to the Window on Work Values. Participants mark their top three value types on a Window on Work Values poster to see what shared values are held. Each participant now offers the ground rules they would like included to reinforce their own underlying values. If there is commonality of value types then this process is relatively easy. If there are substantial differences then time needs to be spent on meeting everyone’s needs.

Finally a list of the twenty most important ground rules becomes part of the Team Charter. Such a list is often displayed in the team meeting room or is readily at hand when important team topics are discussed.

Copyright © Dick McCann. All rights reserved.

With a background in science, engineering, finance and organizational behavior, Dick McCann has consulted widely for organizations such as BP, Hewlett Packard and Hong Kong & Shanghai Bank. He is coauthor of Team Management: Practical New Approaches with Charles Margerison; author of How to Influence Others at Work, the TMS E-Book Series and The Workplace Wizard: The Definitive Guide to Working with Others; and coauthor with Jan Stewart of Aesop's Management Fables and The Half-Empty Chalice. Dick is coauthor and developer of the Team Management Systems concepts and products and also author of the QO2™ Profile, Window on Work Values Profile and the Strategic Team Development Profile. Involved in TMS operations worldwide for over 25 years, Dick is now Managing Director of TMS Australia and a Director of TMS Development International.

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