Although many people who might read this article may be familiar with David Marquette‘s YouTube video entitled “Greatness”, please allow me to suggest that before reading further, you watch it again, or for the first time. His brief video is based on his book, Turn the Ship Around.

On July 17, 2017, INC Magazine published an article documenting the results of an effort led by Julia Rozovsky in which their Google People’s Operations Department set out to answer the following question: “What makes a Google team effective?” INC quoted the following from a NY Times Magazine Article about Ms. Rozovsky and their work:

“As they struggled to figure out what made a team successful, Rozovsky and her colleagues kept coming across research by psychologists and sociologists focused on what are known as “group norms“– the traditions, behavioral standards and unwritten rules that govern how teams function when they gather… Norms can be unspoken or openly acknowledged, but their influence is often profound.
Rozovsky outlined the five key characteristics of enhanced teams[1].

1. Psychological safety: Can we take risks on this team without feeling insecure or embarrassed?

2. Dependability: Can we count on each other to do high quality work on time? [Team members get things done on time and meet expectations.]

3. Structure & clarity: Are goals, roles, and execution plans on our team clear? [High-performing teams have clear goals and have well defined roles within the group.]

4. Meaning of work: Are we working on something that is personally important for each of us? [The work has personal significance for each member.]

5. Impact of work: Do we fundamentally believe that the work we’re doing matters? [The group believes their work is purposeful and positively impacts the greater good.]

Google researchers discovered that psychological safety is the most important dynamic that sets successful teams apart. Who is on a team matters less than how the team members interact, structure their work, and view their contributions. So much for that magical algorithm.
"Psychological safety means you feel four things: 1) Included, 2) Safe to learn, 3) Safe to contribute, 4) Safe to challenge the status quo. All without fear that you will be embarrassed or marginalized, that you will jeopardize your personal standing or reputation, that you will be subject to ridicule or retaliation." - Dr. Timothy R Clark.
Psychological safety is the most important element of any successful team. Psychological safety ranks at the very top of the key characteristics necessary for highly effective high-intensity team engagement. It outranks the others in the sense that any one of the other elements may be missing and the team might still succeed. If psychological safety is missing, the team will very likely not succeed.

It should be noted that some similar studies on team effectiveness include one more characteristic for high-performance teams who achieved their goals - which is a high level of inter-team communication. Borrowing from a paper recently published by the IGLC titled “Capability-Building Competition in Design: Case Study”, the writers state that: “[Flávio] Picchi notes that Fujimoto sees manufacturing activities as an information system and summarizes the production capability of Toyota and other effective Japanese automakers as ’dense and accurate information transmission between flexible (information-redundant) productive resources’. Density is the transmission of accurate information at a regular pace to increase productivity, efficiency, and the elimination [of] waste. Accuracy of information transmission determines quality for Toyota according to Fujimoto.”

I view Teams, especially high performing Teams, as Information Developers and Managers. The “dense and accurate information transmission between flexible productive resources” also perfectly summarizes how information flow and communication needs to move, and be managed, in high performance Team environments.

A few years ago, while browsing on LinkedIn, I came across the following list which, to me, perfectly describes what the creators called the “Norms” and I would like to rename the “New Rules of Engagement”:

1. Stay engaged
2. Speak your truth
3. Experience discomfort (I say not only experience discomfort, but learn to lean into discomfort, it is where we learn at the highest rate.)
4. Expect and accept non-closure
5. Listen for understanding
6. No fixing
7. Take risks

In my mind it is a perfect summary of some of the characteristics that should be guiding principles for elements of the psychological approach required to be a member, and Leader, of any high-performance Team, especially one that operates in a Lean Production/Construction environment.

This post is the first in a series of posts discussing effective leadership for high intensity Lean teams in high performance scenarios. The next post will discuss 9 Lean Leadership Practices To Get The Best Performance Out Of Your Team.

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The founder of Project Leadership and Delivery with over 40 years of experience in Industrial, Commercial, and Residential Construction. Special emphasis in Lean Construction and collaborative project delivery, Teams, best leadership and management practices, change implementation. Approved Instructor for the LCI, certified Instructor – AGC-LCEP; Member – AGC Lean Construction Forum Steering Committee. He remains passionate about building, improving our industry, and thereby, our society. The goal is creating safer industry environments: physically, mentally, emotionally and financially.