How to Troubleshoot Team Failure

Teamwork is an important aspect of workplaces, projects, sports, volunteer activities and more. Teams can be a great resource of both ideas and energetic work outcomes. However, they can also fail and at such times, it is important to try to uncover what might have gone wrong so that you or other organizers can avoid the pitfalls next time. Here are some suggestions.


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    Consider whether adequate time was provided to the team. If insufficient time was given to complete a project or other effort where everyone had to pull together, the looming deadline may have caused many team members to crumble, give up or presume that someone else would manage it since they couldn't do so personally. Always ensure that there is sufficient time and be sure to review this at regular intervals during the life of the project or other purpose of the teamwork.
    • Time is also an enemy of the team structure itself. If you don't allow sufficient time to build the right team and to weed out those members who aren't clicking adequately, then the team probably won't cohere and will not succeed.
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    Look at the goals and objectives the team worked under. If these were inadequate or unclear, there is a major reason why the team didn't perform well. It is vital to explain everything at its most basic and to allow for question and answer sessions through the life of the team's work. Never assume that team members have understood what is expected of them or what the outcome needs to be. Keep checking on understandings and if refinements are made during the life of the project, double check on understandings.
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    Ask the team members if they felt that the work they undertook was worthwhile. A common reason for failure as a team is that the team gets the notion that what it's doing is not worth it, is reinventing what already exists or isn't going to get used whatever they do. Any sense of pointlessness in the work being performed will destroy team spirit very quickly.
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    Look to the team leader. Was this person trusted, respected and listened to by the team? While team members don't need to like the leader, they do need to be motivated by this person and the leader needs to be someone who inspires confidence and a willingness to follow instructions given. The team leader is an important aspect of team success and failure to be accepted by team members is often fatal to the team's effectiveness.
    • Another aspect is to ask if the team leader was competent in performing the role of leading the team. Even if they were liked, they may have simply not understood what was expected of them in the way of leading, guiding and motivating the team.
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    Consider what feedback was given. All people perform better when given regular, decent feedback about what they're doing. A team is no different and it is important to praise both the team as a whole and individual members. Letting others in the organization that this team is valuable is important for boosting morale; without doing so, the team may feel it hasn't been adequately recognized or appreciated and this can sow the seeds of dissent.
    • This doesn't mean just positive feedback. It means both positive and negative feedback, namely any feedback at all! How do people know they need to make changes or that they're on track without feedback? Be sure the team is being told regularly how it is perceived as doing.
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    Consider whether the team was given credit for the work it did. Related to praise, if the credit due to the team's efforts was assumed by someone else or by the organization as a whole rather than being attributed to the team and its individual members, the morale can dip for future endeavors and the team will lose its motivation. There will be a sense of "why bother since someone else gets all the glory?" if the credit isn't attributed properly.
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    Look at team members individually. Sometimes team members sabotage one another for reasons of their own, or internal bickering, competitiveness or territoriality can take over and spoil what could have been a cohesive team. Try to spot such "rotten eggs" within a good bunch as early as possible and move them elsewhere so that the team can get on with its work without being undermined.
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    Consider the resources. Was the team given adequate resources to complete the work needed? Were the resources given on time and in the right amounts needed? If the team had to work by the smell of an oily rag and found it difficult to make ends meet, it will be evident in failed results.

Things You'll Need

  • Time to assess the team and surrounding issues

Article Info

Categories: Leadership and Mentoring | Workplace Conflicts Coping and Issues