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How to improve team efficiency in three easy steps

OK, let's consider three steps for improving team efficiency:

1. Become a team. It may seem to some that this step is assumed in the question, but they couldn't be more wrong. In fact, that's a problem with too many managers these days. They start thinking about team efficiency, assuming the whole time that they already have a team to make more effective. In fact, what they have is a group of bored, disgruntled employees who are only a team by arbitrary physical approximation and nothing else. Therefore, the first step in improving team efficiency is to make a team of your team. How might a manager go about doing this? First of all, a manager should encourage friendly interaction and activities between and with team members. A manager should allow friendships to form. Now, the manager always wants these friendships to be made under professional conditions (so long as the team's at work); but a manager should never be too eager to shut people up, bully them if they're a minute late from their coffee break, and so forth. The manager needs to do what he or she can to create a relaxed, informal atmosphere in the office, while at the same time maintaining a sense of purpose and professional drive. He or she should frequently hold informal meetings where the team eats together and discusses ideas for improving their situation. Take these steps frequently, and you

2. Set team goals. Now that you have a team, you can improve team efficiency by setting team goals. Team goals are one of the chief ways of improving team efficiency. The key here, as always, is on that word team. When you set team goals, the whole team should set them. Everybody should have a voice; everybody should contribute. Another key is to set realistic goals. There's nothing so degrading to team spirit and efficiency as setting a bunch of goals that are too high to begin with, and inevitably not meeting them. So: get your team together; buy a pizza and root beer; and have a discussion. What are some realistic team goals to reach for? How can you keep track of progress day by day or week by week in order to know how close or far the team is from reaching those goals? What kind of reward should you plan for yourselves if you reach those team goals? These questions, asked to a team and answered by a team; these questions, printed up on the wall with a system for following up on their progress regularly; these questions, asked by the manager and by his or her team in a spirit of comradeship and professional affection, will improve team efficiency like nothing else in your experience.

3. Know the concerns of your team. The only way you can know the concerns of your team is to ask you team for their concerns. And don't just ask them as a team-ask them individually. Is the printer running out of ink too fast? Are the computers too slow? Is your company's overtime plan too stingy and strict? These are the sorts of concerns that you, as a manager, should be aware of all the time. And, again, the only way you'll be aware of them is through a constant sort of dialogue with your team. The second part to this tip, of course, is that you follow up on the concerns vouchsafed to you and attempt to alleviate them. Following these three steps will improve team efficiency and spirit.

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