Want To Build Excellent Teams? Try This Efficient Model

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Want To Build Excellent Teams? Try This Efficient Model

Working as a team is how the best organizations operate, yet it can be challenging, especially without a roadmap. The Drexler-Sibbet Team Performance Model provides a step-by-step framework for understanding team development. It’s one of the most efficient models I’ve seen, and I’m happy to share how it works.

First, take a look at the following graphic. It shows you the basic model structure. (Zoom in for details or read below.)


As you can see, there are 7 sequential steps in this model, represented by circles.

  1. Orientation
  2. Trust Building
  3. Goal Clarification
  4. Commitment
  5. Implementation
  6. High Performance
  7. Renewal

Each step has:

  • A question in the circle, which is the question someone on the team is likely to ask.
  • Resolved and Unresolved Traits on either side of the circle. If the resolved traits are demonstrated by the team, then the team can move to the next step. If the unresolved traits are demonstrated, it’s not yet time to move to the next step.
  • Arrows that point to other steps. If a team is facing challenges on a certain step, the arrows will tell the team which step to move to. For example, if a team is challenged on step 4, they would go back to step 3. However, if a team is challenged on step 5, they would go back to step 3, because the arrow from step 5 points to step 3.

A Diagnostic Tool

It’s important to note that while this model is sequential from steps 1-7, building teams is rarely a linear process. So teams may go back and forth through the steps, as the team matures. That’s why this model can be used as a diagnostic tool. For example, if a team is facing challenges, anyone on the team can look at the model to see where the team is stuck, and then know what to do.

A Way To Build Teams From Scratch

In addition, the model can be used as a way to build teams, giving the team lead and the team members a path to building a sustainable team. Steps 1-4 build the team; steps 5-7 maintain the team. Step 4 is known as the crux of the team’s success.

While this looks like a complex process, it is possible to move through these steps quickly. However, if steps are deemed unimportant and skipped, the team will progress more slowly.

I am going to review the entire Drexler-Sibbet model (DS model) over the course of two weeks. In the end, you will be able to use the model on a daily basis on your various teams. This week, we will focus on steps one, two and three.


Orientation – Why am I here?

Build Excellent Teams

Orientation is about understanding the purpose of a team and assessing what it will mean to be a member. Team members will need to understand three things:

  1. The reason the team exists
  2. What will be expected of them
  3. How they will benefit from team membership

In a new team, these are individual concerns, because the group is only potentially a team. Often, these concerns are felt at an intuitive level; rarely will a team member ask these three questions. That’s why it’s important to provide time and space to address these questions in the first meeting and repeat the answers in each meeting to reinforce the message. Once the members know the answers to these questions, they will feel more connected and are more likely to participate in achieving the group’s goals.

How do you know when Orientation challenges are resolved? You will see:
  • Purpose
  • Team Identity
  • Membership (What are the rules/agreements we play by)
How do you know when the team is blocked at Orientation? You will see:
  • Uncertainty
  • Disorientation
  • Fear

Remember – repetition is key to saturation and understanding. So keep repeating what you want understood. Say it again and again, to those in the team, and with those you serve.


Trust Building – Who are you?

Build Excellent Teams

Trust is a measure of your willingness to work together with others for something important. Teams that know they can depend on the others to work together and accomplish the team’s purpose far exceed teams that do not have this understanding and appreciation of other team members. Because team members have to depend on each other to be successful, trust is essential in direct relation to how much cooperation is needed to get the job done.

In the beginning of a new team, trust involves some risk and uncertainty about dealing with strangers. This is why the key question is “Who are you?” An unstated aspect of this question is wondering, “What will you expect from me?”

So how do you quickly build trust? It depends and it doesn’t have to include trust falls or outdoor ropes courses!

As we evaluate the trustworthiness of potential team members, we generally look at two things about the person: integrity and competency. Most of us start our team building by granting members a moderate to significant amount of trust (depending on our comfort level) from the moment the individual becomes part of the team. As the author Ernest Hemingway reminds us, “The best way to find out if you can trust somebody is to trust them.” Then we increase or decrease that trust based on our continuing experiences with that individual, hopefully achieving consistency and reciprocal trust.

How do you know when Trust Building challenges are resolved? You will see:
  • Mutual regard
  • Forthrightness
  • Reliability
How do you know when the team is blocked at Trust Building? You will see:
  • Caution
  • Facade
  • Mistrust


Goal Clarification – What are we doing?

build excellent teams

“What are we doing?” is a more specific question than the larger question of purpose asked during Orientation. During this stage of a team’s life, it will need to develop clear understanding of the job that is required, as well as generate agreements about goals and specific deliverables. Sometimes teams have precise charters that specify what they are responsible for accomplishing. More often, they are given a broad mandate and need to make choices about how they will pursue that mandate and translate it into goals.

There is an expression in the Navy that says, “If you are just one degree off, you end up in Madagascar instead of Kenya.” One degree is not a big number, yet the result is vastly off course. How many teams are exactly on the same page about goals? Usually the team roughly knows where to go, yet is fuzzy on the specifics. For example, what is the specific metric being used? When is the deliverable due? How does it align with the bigger purpose?

General, unclear goals are demotivating; clear specific goals are motivating. So how do you set clear goals and metrics? Here are three steps to do so:

  • Ask the team lead and team: What are the meaningful results the team is trying to achieve?
  • Develop clear guidelines on the performance required that will help to deliver meaningful results.
  • Confirm the goals and intended results with others in the organization.
  • Bonus question to ask: What would you have to do differently if you were trying to improve by ten times instead of by ten percent?

Involve your team in adding the detail to these steps. The more they’re involved, the greater their sense of ownership and commitment will be. As a side note, goals shouldn’t be so specific that they don’t allow flexibility to achieve things differently; the context and situation may change over time so be nimble and adaptable.

How do you know when Goal Clarification challenges are resolved? You will see:
  • Explicit assumptions
  • Clear integrated goals
  • Shared vision
How do you know when the team is blocked at Goal Clarification? You will see:
  • Apathy
  • Skepticism
  • Irreverent competition

I hope you’re finding value in the DS model so far. There’s more to come! Next week I’ll cover the remaining steps:

  • STEP 4: Commitment – How will we do it?
  • STEP 5: Implementation – Who does what, when, where?
  • STEP 6: High Performance – WOW!
  • STEP 7: Renewal – Why continue?

Then you’ll have a complete system to use to build amazing teams or diagnose teams that are struggling. Stay tuned!

Have you used a team-building model before? I’d love to hear about your experience with it. Please leave a comment below, send me an email, or find me on Twitter.

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