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Team process for startups

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Team process for startups

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Many startups fail not because of the idea, or its execution, but because of team issues. This talk draws on several resources including Linda Hill's article, "A note on team process" (HBR), and looks at the 6 ingredients that make an effective team. It provides a common language to talk about things like conflict and uneven participation and offers practical tips to build a highly effective team that works well together.

Many startups fail not because of the idea, or its execution, but because of team issues. This talk draws on several resources including Linda Hill's article, "A note on team process" (HBR), and looks at the 6 ingredients that make an effective team. It provides a common language to talk about things like conflict and uneven participation and offers practical tips to build a highly effective team that works well together.

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Team process for startups

  1. 1. © 2015 ConceptSpring Elaine Chen 2015 Team Process for Startups
  2. 2. “A group of people working together does not automatically equal a team.” – Linda Hill, Harvard Business School
  3. 3. 6 Ingredients that makes an effective team 1. Clear roles and responsibilities 2. Clear working approach 3. Effective decision making process 4. Equitable participation from all members 5. Managing influence 6. Working through conflict
  4. 4. 1. Clear roles and responsibilities Hustler Hacker Hipster => Who’s Who on the team? Balancing the team by role Balancing the team by orientation
  5. 5. A True Founder’s Dilemma Story • There was once an MIT startup team with two passionate co-founders. • The team was crushing it, but the energy was going downhill. • Turns out they had a Founder’s Agreement from a year ago with a 50-50 equity split – and no clarity on who is the CEO. • They found it extremely awkward to have the difficult conversation. • Eventually, they got over the reluctance and talked about it frankly. They worked on this situation with a facilitator they both trusted. Eventually, they resolved the situation and were able to decide who was going to be the CEO. • The sun came out that day and it was great weather from that point onward. 5
  6. 6. There can be only one CEO. • Decide how you will handle leadership. Appointed? Elected? Rotating? • Decide who does what from the get-go • Each person can write their own “job spec” and share it • You can always evolve it over time (even to the point of switching CEOs) – but you need a starting point 6
  7. 7. 2. Clear working approach • Logistics: Who will work when for what hours? How will each person prepare for their own participation? • Project plan: How will you break up the company’s deliverables into smaller chunks with smaller deliverables? • Who does what when: How will you divide and conquer the actual tasks? • “Budget versus Actuals”: How will you measure and manage progress? 7
  8. 8. 3. Effective decision making process 8 An example of how not to handle things: Read “Henry Tam and the MGI Case” (HBR)
  9. 9. 9 Dysfunctional team process => Dead company
  10. 10. Be purposeful about decision making 10 Identify and understand the problem Ideate solutions Iterate and refine Implement chosen solution Start with defining the problem – not with creating the solution
  11. 11. 3. Equitable participation 11
  12. 12. Questions to pose • Who participates a lot? Why? To what effect? • Who doesn’t participate? Why not? To what effect? • Did anyone suddenly withdraw from participation? Why? • How do you treat the silent people? • Are the interactions excluding people? 12 => Someone needs to run / facilitate each working session
  13. 13. Sidebar on meeting hygiene • Purpose of meeting should be made clear before the meeting • At the start of the meeting, clearly state goals / success criteria for this meeting • Someone should run the meeting and facilitate discussion / keep time – This person is responsible for managing participation • At the end of the meeting, summarize takeaways and clarify next steps / action items with clear persons in charge 13
  14. 14. 4. Managing Influence 14
  15. 15. Questions to pose • Who has influence? Why? • Who is ignored? Why? • Is the influence shifting? Why? • Is there a division within the team? Why? • Who interrupts whom and is this tolerated? Why? • How does your team treat minority views? 15 => Someone needs to run / facilitate each working session
  16. 16. 5. Working through conflict 16
  17. 17. Task conflict is good! • People who agree all the time: – May be struck with hero-worship of 1 person – May be cowed by the personality of 1 person – May have succumbed to group-think – May be too lazy to care 17 A diversity of viewpoints leads to a more complete understanding of the problem and a more well rounded solution
  18. 18. Failing to manage interpersonal conflict is not good! • Interpersonal conflict shows up under stress • How to fail: – Evasive tactics: Run away from difficult conversations – Passive Aggressive tactics: Pretend to go along and secretly sabotage – Outright aggression: Verbally abuse each other with no constructive intent 18
  19. 19. Questions to pose • Are you agreeing all the time? Not at all? • What do you do if people disagree? • How do you arrive at an agreement? (Majority vote? Consensus? No opposition interpreted as agreement?) • Are people listening to each other, or pushing their views all the time? • How do people feel about their participation? • Are people too nice? Too competitive? 19 => Someone needs to watch for red flags and tweak the dynamics as needed
  20. 20. Some ideas to help manage conflict • Define the rules of engagement. What behaviors are OK and what’s not OK? • Agree to disagree – then move on • Have a mechanism to discuss issues privately • Ground discussions on data, not opinions • Consider multiple alternatives • Be fair – empower members to contribute equally 20
  21. 21. Troubleshooting • “We are chasing our tail in every meeting and nothing gets done” • “We are jumping from conclusion to conclusion without thought” • “I have a Hermione in the team” • “I am the Hermione in the team” • … 21
  22. 22. Resources • Note on team process by Linda Hill and Maria Farkas - Harvard Business Review https://hbr.org/product/note-on-team- process/402032-PDF-ENG • Henry Tam and the MGI Team – Harvard Business Review https://hbr.org/product/henry-tam-and-the- mgi-team/404068-PDF-ENG • Effective Meetings: A Checklist for Success https://hbr.org/product/effective-meeting-a- checklist-for-success/C0103A-PDF-ENG
  23. 23. @chenelaine blog.conceptspring.com Thank you

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