Team Management Systems

Finding the Missing Link in Team Management

By Dick McCann
Copyright © Team Management Systems. All rights reserved.

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Teams need to link well together to perform to a high standard.

A large consulting firm was experiencing a number of problems within their team of consultants. Conflict was rife and meetings were considered to be a waste of time, as they often degenerated into arguments.

All consultants were highly qualified in their field of expertise and had proven ability. Individually they had worked with a variety of companies, many of them international. This team had been formed to work on a major project, re-engineering a large finance organization. In all, there were twelve consultants involved, some full time and some part time. The project manager had been appointed because he was the one who sold the project to the client.

The finance organization was going through enormous changes, all designed to reduce costs and improve customer service. changes were being made right throughout the company. The head office was being downsized and some of the regional offices closed. The project team had been asked to facilitate this change by implementing new training schemes, new marketing strategies, and improved logistics. The aim was to provide a streamlined organization, which could compete internationally.

At the beginning of the contract the project manager and the team were all very enthusiastic. Between them they had the technical knowledge required to see this client through the changes quickly and effectively. Initially they had several meetings but once the areas of responsibility had been decided, the meetings ceased to be a regular occurrence. From this point on, the information flow was poor. Occasionally meetings were called but they were usually very frustrating and ineffective. Some consultants would dominate the meeting and then leave when they had made their point while others would arrive late and unprepared. Some never bothered to attend, including the project manager who always had something more important to do. Others complained that they were not listened to.

For a while they managed to survive their declining performance. Slowly though, minor problems began to arise. However quick thinking and action usually averted any potential disasters.

The Problem

Four months into the project the first major problem arose, when two of the consultants began running training programs for the country offices. One of the participants had gone through the full training programme and had enjoyed it tremendously. On the assessment paper she had written, "What a pity we couldn't have had this training before. We won't get to practice our skills now."

The consultants had spent hours on these training programs and were delighted with the results but this comment was unexpected. They decided not to question the manager of this regional office but to wait until they returned home when they could speak to the project leader. He had no idea of what was going on as he was busy preparing another important tender. He advised them to speak to one of their colleagues whom he thought was responsible for that area.

They spoke to the person responsible for organizational restructure and discovered that she had recommended changes in the regional servicing strategy. She confirmed that many of the country branches had been scheduled for closure within the next few months and this particular branch was one of them. Needless to say they were devastated that they had wasted their time training people who would either be redeployed or made redundant. On learning about this the project manager was unconcerned. "We will find a way of passing on our costs to the client. Don't worry about it." he said.

Linking Skills

This team is a classic example of where excellent skills and experience in their professions was eroded by poor team 'linking'. The model below shows the Team Management Systems (TMS) concept of good linking covering the areas of people, tasks and leadership.

Margerison-McCann Linking Leader Model

Margerison-McCann Linking Leader Model

The Solution

Their first step was to call in an experienced consultant to help them identify their main problems and put in place an action plan for improvement.


The first Linking Skill in desperate need of improvement was the skill of Communication. The consultant facilitated discussions around individual work preferences and how these were affecting the way they communicated. They had allowed their meetings to deteriorate and eventually cease. Many of the problems stemmed from the extreme net scores on the Extrovert-Introvert continuum. One member with a net score of I:19 complained that no-one ever listened to her and that the high net E scorers in the team came to meetings unprepared and wasted valuable time talking through half-formed ideas.

Other problems came from the extremes on the Structured-Flexible continuum. The two high net F scores in the team were always late for meetings and one of them, who was also a high net E scorer, often went off on tangents talking about lots of irrelevant ideas.

Once the meetings stopped altogether, the main avenue for keeping in touch with the different aspects of the project had been terminated too. These meetings had to be reinstated, but based on agreed ground rules.

The project manager was replaced with another team member. The former leader enjoyed tendering for new contracts and winning them but had no interest in maintaining them. The new project manager organized a bulletin board to be placed in the team work area which ensured that the progress of the different tasks was charted regularly. This took the drudgery out of the meetings which could then focus on major decisions and new ideas. The agenda was also put up on the board to warn everyone about the likely discussion topics at the next meeting.

It took a few months before the format of the new meetings became acceptable to all, but slowly the information sharing became efficient and the projects moved along more smoothly. Once communication was improved, the rest of the linking skills followed suit. Each of the Linking Skills was addressed as part of their fortnightly meetings.

Copyright © Team Management Systems. 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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