Group experience is a feature that exists in all organisations and at all levels of the organisational structure.
For example, in every organisation there is a Management team or top team that guides the organisation, there are functional teams such as design, sales, operations, communication teams, etc, and there are cross-functional teams that cross business functions, creating a matrix structure.
There are stable teams and teams that have a defined life cycle, with a birth, a consolidation, a development and an end stage. Often these teams are in charge of managing a project and so they follow the life cycle of the project. Examples include the launch of a new drug in pharmaceutical companies, the design and construction of a petrochemical plant, or a communication event. Most of the time these projects use resources and skills from other functions that are assigned to project teams.
The formation of a project team is a particularly important moment in its lifecycle and has a huge impact on the success of the team, its operational functioning and on the network of relationships established between the team members. It is in this phase that the team identity is formed.
What do we mean by identity?
If we talk about personal identity, identity refers to who we are, and highlights our uniqueness and specificity. It is what differentiates each of us from every other human being, allowing us to recognise oursleves as unique and different from every other person. Another example is Corporate Identity, which concerns how recognisable and unique a company is for its stakeholders within a particular market. In the same way, a team identity is what makes that team unique.
So how is Team Identity formed?
The process involves several steps.
1) The first step concerns the exploration and definition of the purpose of the group, to answer the question “Why does the team exist?”. It is the unifying and shared dimension that expresses the reason for being of an entity that is gradually constituting.
2) The second step is understanding the team’s success. It explores the question “How do we represent success? What does success look like?”. We need to mentally plan for what we will have achieved at the end of the project. The team, along with the team leader or a facilitator, visualises the team’s success. The technique is based on the use of imagination, a psychological function which is little used in the business environment. It is not a matter of fantasy or daydreaming, but of imagining with clear and vivid images the team members’ achievement and results. These imagined images are brought to life by our minds and help to focus us on delivering results.
3) The third step is choosing and sharing the values and principles that inspire the life and work of the group participants.
In subsequent steps you enter a more organisational phase that defines the role of the team. Often projects are made up of multiple teams that play different roles. Each team takes actions that help to reach the goal, together with other groups. The team must define its role, responsibilities and objectives, with reference to the common purpose.
A further step is to describe the challenges that the team thinks it will face in the following months. By doing this and dividing the project life cycle into different phase, the team can plan for different scenarios and the related critical issues that may arise. It is a way to approach and prepare for complexity, tackle any emerging difficulties, and look for possible corrective actions.
Last but not least are the widespread leadership skills that should be highlighted and shared, as well as expected competences and behaviours depending on the project and the business context. A skills development plan is also desirable, so the team can answer the question: “What do we need to do to develop as a team?”.