Mind the Gap
London Underground wanted a common approach to teamwork and the benefits of everyone talking the same language (both literally and figuratively). At the same time, they recognised the advantages to be gained from the diversity of the teams and didn’t want a ‘sheep dip’ solution where every team was considered the same with identical needs – this approach had to work for everyone: from operational teams running stations or trains to ‘back office’ functions like finance.
They also needed to address a culture of teams ‘buying in’ support as and when they needed it and finally it all had to be self-serving: the approach needed to be ‘co-delivered’ with selected London Underground staff and ultimately completely run internally.
Putting the wheels in motion
We designed a ‘team effectiveness’ approach for London Underground that was piloted in a competitive pitch with other suppliers. Our way won the day and we were selected to roll out the approach over the next 2 years.
Getting a good service on all lines
Working closely with the client, we designed this common approach using a ‘team model’ that could be applied to any team. Critical to its success was allowing the teams to simply and quickly get a 360 degree feedback on their performance not only to focus and inform team development but also to provide a measure of how well the team had improved over a 12 month period. We achieved this by producing an internet based diagnostic tool working in partnership with a specialist web developer.
We also provided very detailed facilitator guides and used these to train a number of internal facilitators. We then rolled out the approach across over 25 teams in an 18 month period.
What we learnt
There are some key learnings from this work:
• The perspective given to teams by getting external feedback on how they are perceived by others was a key element in them coming up with effective development plans.
• Measurement of progress after 12 months increased the likelihood that teams would follow through on their development ambitions.
• Providing a series of development interventions over the period kept momentum and forced the teams to take accountability for their own development progress.
• Having a common team language made forming ad hoc and cross-functional teams much easier and the teams became effective very quickly.
• Using internal facilitators was good for the organisation and provided an unexpected development opportunity for those selected.