Being part of a great team at work feels fantastic. Everyone is ‘in the zone’, there is strong camaraderie, and everyone supports and encourages each other.

If, however, there is plenty of room for improvement in how your own team functions, then you may be surprised to learn that using quality improvement tools can make a big difference in building engaged and effective teams.

The first step isn’t a quality tool as such – it’s simply good management practice – and that is to show your people their ideas and efforts are valued and appreciated! When people feel like what they are doing is worthwhile and seen as such, then they are more likely to participate, share and collaborate.  Feeling like valued team members rather than expendable cogs in the organisational wheel will help build people’s trust in decision making processes and strengthen their engagement with any resulting action items.

Involving the team members in setting targets, and constantly evaluating the progress against those is fundamental to collaboration. Quality improvement tools can be used to good effect in this process, thus helping to embed a strong improvement culture within the organisation.  Importantly, using the tools discussed below will encourage all team members to participate and be heard.

Some useful quality improvement tools

There are many quality improvement tools but we will focus on some simple ones that will help give you a good start in building your team’s capability, engagement and cohesion.

Brainstorming: This is great for teambuilding because it is easy to ensure every team members’ voice – even the timid ones – are heard in a decision making or information gathering process. Use this quality improvement tool to build excitement and get ideas flowing by giving people the chance to bounce ideas off each other.

Be sure to create an environment where all ideas are welcomed, supported and given credence, and where individuals don’t feel they will be rejected or put down.

Affinity diagrams: This model groups ideas and data (e.g. ideas generated during brainstorming) under common themes or headlines. It simplifies vast amounts of information to make it more manageable.  Use affinity diagrams to help everybody understand the underlying core concepts behind the ideas they have been discussing. Different people can see ideas differently, with these diverse views enabling the team members to think more widely than they would as individuals.

Weighted voting: Put all ideas or criteria on sticky notes then remove any double-ups. Give team members a vote or two each. Once all votes are in, remove any with only one vote, then go through the process again until the number of ideas has been refined to a manageable level.

Pareto analysis: This creative way of looking at causes of problems helps stimulate thinking and organise thoughts to identify the top portion of causes that need to be addressed to resolve the majority of problems. Pareto charts enables everyone to know what needs to be achieved, the reasons why that needs to happen, and how it can be accomplished.

Cause and effect diagrams: These are for great team building because they are a highly visual way of enabling people to see all causes for issues simultaneously.  This can help the team identify further root causes, and quickly identify if any root causes are found multiple times in the same or different causal trees.

Use quality improvement tools to build functional leadership

Don’t just leave it to managers to run the quality tools sessions; instead build everyone’s capability to do this. Equipping and enabling everyone to have a go in the driving seat will show they are valued and increase their motivation to invest in the performance improvement efforts.

Excitement from the full team’s involvement in decision analysis and seeing it deliver changes will build momentum for using quality improvement tools and increase team engagement.  Sustain enthusiasm by calling out wins and achievements, so senior managers recognise and appreciate everyone’s efforts and people can see that progress is being made.

Using the tools also encourages teams to approach change with a positive outlook. Rather than seeing the change as something that is being done to them, everyone gets to be part of deciding on the approaches for dealing with the issues confronting the team.

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