Structure your team effectively and motivate and empower staff to achieve results.
- Taking a ‘set and forget’ approach to your structure, leading to it not being fit for purpose as priorities shift which can cause an unequal distribution of work
- Not having a clear structure and streams of work, resulting in unclear roles and responsibilities, gaps and overlaps
- Not setting aside time for team building and agreeing ways of working; staff don't get to know each other’s work preferences, skills and experience and don't build rapport, which can limit morale, effectiveness and team cohesion
- Not co-locating staff – this can inhibit communication and lead to some team members feeling disconnected and disengaged.
Tips for success
- Decide on an effective team structure to achieve your objectives – based on workstreams or roles
- Stay flexible and agile – you may need to change your team structure as the nature of work shifts throughout the life of the taskforce
- Ensure accountability for completion of tasks and deliverables within the team and open communication to address barriers when they arise
- Establish ways of working and team norms that foster a positive and safe work environment; this will enhance productivity and create a shared sense of purpose for the team
- Plan your accommodation needs so that all team members can be co-located.
Determine your team structure, but stay flexible
Taskforces commonly have significant objectives to achieve in tight timeframes, often by staff that have never worked together before. Effectively structuring your team to achieve results is therefore central to taskforce success.
Your team structure should be informed by your scope and workplan, ensuring you have sufficient skills coverage across your staff to achieve your objectives. We have provided example taskforce structures to which you can refer – each of these will have benefits and drawbacks that should be taken into consideration.
Image caption: Taskforce team structure guide
Whatever your chosen structure, the fast-paced, transient nature of taskforce work means workstreams may need to change over the course of the taskforce. It's important to respond proactively to these changes and restructure teams as needed to ensure you can continue to meet your objectives while ensuring all staff members are optimally engaged.
Ensure clarity and accountability
Establish regular meetings with your leadership team to discuss progress against objectives and facilitate an open discussion about staff utilisation. Taskforces often operate with flatter structures to facilitate collaborative and agile work, but this can reduce clarity and lines of accountability. Many taskforces established in response to COVID-19 issues found that operating with a flat and fluid structure was beneficial in the early stages when fast thinking and rapid responses were needed, but as time went on, this was replaced by a need for structure to create more clarity and visibility on roles and responsibilities. Regardless of the structure and any changes needed throughout the taskforce, locking in a regular meeting schedule ensures key people are available and creates a familiar rhythm for the team to work towards.
Establish team norms that foster a safe environment
Team norms create a shared understanding about diverse working styles and personalities, team roles and expectations, and routines. They ensure a team can produce high-quality work without alienating different personalities and compromising individual preferences. Team norms create an environment of psychological safety – where individuals are empowered to be creative and take risks without the fear of failing.
Because of time and political pressures, taskforces often get straight into work without taking the time to do team building activities. As a result, team members may not get to know their colleagues and the skills and capabilities they bring to the table, or may not build cohesion and rapport.
Suggested team building session:
- everyone individually completes the work preferences template and discusses with the team
- the team works together to complete the team values and expectations template.
You should also create routines that foster a positive working environment throughout the lifecycle of the taskforce. This could include:
- weekly team meetings
- frequent information sharing, such as reporting back on meetings and stakeholder engagement
- regular morning or afternoon teas, team lunches – especially around team or personal milestones
- ad hoc social activities, like trivia sessions.
Show recognition of hard work
With periods of intense work to get things done, many staff members in taskforces invest a level of time and energy that usually isn't required in their regular role. It's important to recognise where individuals and teams have worked extra hours to do a good job, especially around key milestones that help the taskforce achieve its objectives. Acknowledging good work in a team meeting goes a long way to fostering satisfaction and pride in work.
It's a good idea to keep a record of each staff member's achievements and contribution to the taskforce so this feedback can be shared with their regular supervisor. While thanks and recognition is often provided to the head of the agency that has sent staff, this doesn't always filter down to the employee and their immediate work area.