Don’t Have a Clear Team Purpose? Here’s Why You Need One.

Why team purpose matters

A sense of team purpose for many teams is quite clear.

Many organisations are trying to do more with less. In this climate, it’s important to make sure you clarify the role of your team in the organisation.

Team Purpose is Useful to Decide Whether You Should Commit

With the frantic pace of many workplaces, it’s common for unexpected work to come up.

Have you ever been in a situation where you wonder whether your team should commit to completing a task? It’s tricky as you try to balance being helpful with the potential to be overloaded with work that’s not necessarily yours.

Understandably, many environments reward and encourage helpful behaviour. Being helpful is great, but only if it doesn’t stop your team from performing their own work.

Team members who spend a lot of time helping others are generally well regarded, but may not actually be productive in their own roles. Overly helpful team members may actually be damaging team performance by being consumed with tasks that they aren’t responsible for.

Read more about this topic here: Team members too helpful? Watch out for these 5 problems.

This is where a sense of team purpose is useful. When you have a defined purpose for your team, you can more easily decide whether you are in (committed) or out (choosing not to take on the work).

If you can agree with your stakeholders that “The purpose of my team is <something>” it provides a helpful guideline to your team and others in your company.

Without Team Purpose, You’ll Be Caught in the Middle

Team Purpose - Stuck in the MiddleWithout a team purpose, it’s more likely team members will be caught “in the middle”. This means they are performing work, without taking on the formal responsibility for it.

In other words, your haven’t formally committed your team, but you are still doing the work.

This becomes a problem when your team gets busy. You will drop all the helpful things you are doing in favour of the real work.

Now people start pointing fingers. Now you need to defend your team so you don’t look incompetent.

You are stuck in a situation where people think it’s your responsibility to do the work. You think you’re just helping out. You’re neither in or out.

Why Your Commitment Really Matters

What’s the big deal? Surely we can just help out here and there.

Yes, you can. But it’s a slippery slope and your team purpose will help stop the slide.

Team purpose plays a useful role:

  • Team purpose gives your stakeholders a clear definition of the role of your team. This, in turn, drives your workload. It’s clearer to everybody what your team can take on, and what they can’t.
  • Team purpose gives you a means to push back on work that your team isn’t responsible for.
  • Team purpose tells your team what their priorities are. This reduces the chance that they will be too helpful to others.
  • Having a team purpose helps you remain accountable. When you commit your team, you’ll put more effort into completing the work, because you will take responsibility for the outcome.

Once you decide to commit your team, you need to communicate the responsibilities to others.

Team Purpose is Critical to Achieve Team Objectives

Kate is leading a project to improve efficiency of her department. She has a team of people working for her.

Part of this work involves understanding the processes that the project will change. During the project, Tim approaches Kate.

“Given that you’re already doing the process work, do you think you can help understand the processes in our department too?”

Kate’s team has some spare capacity, so she agrees to help out. Before long, the extra work spirals out of control and overloads Kate’s team.

The real problem in this situation is that the extra work has compromised Kate’s primary goal (the project). In this case, she may be in trouble because her manager only cares about her project, not the other work she was doing.

Team purpose is useful to aid decision making in situations like these. Kate needs to decide whether she should commit her team to the work.

A clearly defined team purpose (in this case, the project) would have helped to push back on Tim’s request. Or, at the very least, set some parameters around it so that she could pull back if the workload was too great.

The lesson here is not that you should never be helpful. It’s that your stakeholders need to know where your team’s work starts and ends.

A clear team purpose will go a long way in helping you do that.

Does your team have a clear purpose, and do you find a team purpose or vision useful? Leave a comment below!

Alternatively, if you'd like to know more or need some help on this topic, simply send me a private message through my contact page:

By |2018-10-07T12:04:17+00:00August 1st, 2017|Team environment|

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