Research suggests that the presence of genuine collaborative relationships among members of a team is a key ingredient to the team's success in achieving its vision, mission, and goals. When specific conditions are successfully met, teams are most likely to be "highly effective." Research demonstrates that the most effective teams have eight common characteristics:
- a clear and elevating goal;
- a results-driven structure;
- competent team members;
- a unified commitment;
- a collaborative climate;
- standards of excellence;
- external support and recognition; and
- a principled leadership.
Too often groups do not take the time to assess their working relationships or consider how best to foster them to increase their likelihood of success.
Working Together: A Profile of Collaboration is a survey developed by David D. Chrislip and Carl E. Larson following extensive research on highly effective teams. The survey provides teams with a "baseline" regarding their level of collaboration. Its purpose is not to "rate" the team, but to identify the areas in which team members agree the team is strong and those areas where there is room for improvement.
To utilize the Working Together survey to begin a conversation among team members—a conversation that can be continued in future meetings as necessary—that will surface areas of strength and those in need of improvement with regard to the level of collaboration within the team and that will result in agreements on how you can best position your team to be as effective as possible.
All policy team members should be involved in taking and debriefing the results of the Working Together survey.
Conducting the Survey
- Distribute the survey to policy team members and ask them to complete it individually. The survey may be completed on paper during a policy team meeting or prior to a meeting using an online survey method such as Survey Monkey.
- The survey instrument can be downloaded here1.
- If the survey is administered during a policy team meeting, the results can be tallied immediately so that the team can discuss them. Alternatively, if the survey is distributed ahead of time, the results should be tallied and then reviewed at the meeting.
- For each question, consider including the following: total number of responses (N), minimum score, maximum score, mean, range, and the number of team members who indicated that they could not answer the question because the team was "too new" and therefore the question did not apply.
Scoring and Interpreting the Survey
N is the number of respondents who answered the question.
The minimum and maximum reflects the lowest and highest answers for the question and are used to calculate the range of scores.
The mean is the average of all the respondents' scores.
Lower mean scores (closer to 1) reflect a greater percentage of "mostly true" or "true" answers.
Higher mean scores (closer to 4) reflect a greater percentage of "mostly false" or "false" answers.
The range is calculated by subtracting the minimum score from the maximum score. The range reflects the variance in respondents' answers. The higher the range the lower the level of agreement between respondents; the lower the range the higher the level of agreement between respondents.
The column Too New to Answer reflects the number of respondents who felt they could not answer the question because the team had only recently begun working together.
Processing the Survey
Share a copy of the teams' Working Together survey results with the entire policy team.
Ask team members to discuss the results of the survey and identify the areas where the greatest strength is noted. A lower mean score (closer to 1) reflects a greater percentage of "True" or "Mostly True" answers (i.e., strengths).
Note these on a flip chart and use this as an opportunity to affirm the team regarding its strengths. Remind them that strengths should be drawn upon to address areas in need of improvement.
Next, ask team members to identify the areas where there seems to be the greatest opportunity for improvement. A higher mean score (closer to 4) reflects a greater percentage of "False" or "Mostly False" answers (i.e., areas in need of improvement).
Note these on the flip chart and take some time to process with the team areas in need of improvement. Do they reflect the fact that the team is new to working together? Do they reflect difficulties that have occurred in the past? Is it advisable to devote some future team time to identifying ways to specifically strengthen the team in these areas?
Challenges in collaboration that need to be addressed should be noted so that they are considered for inclusion in the team's action plan.2
Re-administer the survey at future intervals (every six months is recommended for new teams) to determine changes in members' perceptions of the team's level of collaboration and to identify future action items.
An online version of the tool can be found at http://starterkit.ebdmoneless.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/01/EBDM-Policy-Team-Collaboration-Survey.pdf
See 1l: Developing an Action Plan for your Policy Team