ASTD-NRC Presentation: Developing Effective Teams Using Competency-based Approaches

ASTD-NRCI just got back from Ft. Collins, CO where I attended the monthly ASTD-NRC presentation,  “Developing Effective Teams Using Competency-based Approaches” given by Richard Barnhart. Here is the announcement for the presentation:

With rare exception in today’s world, employees are expected to work in collaboration with others to meet organizational objectives. Experience has shown high functioning teams can achieve incredible results. Yet, for many people teamwork has this mystical element – it somehow happens by magic. This workshop will explore how working together in teams can be behaviorally defined, measured and trained. Doing so allows trainers to set desired outcomes and measure the success of training initiatives. At the end of this workshop, participants will be able to:

  • Explain how competency methodology can be used in training high functioning teams
  • Use a behaviorally-anchored rating scale to assess an individual’s proficiency at working in a team
  • Assess training programs to determine if they can objectively measure increased proficiency (skill gain) as a result of training

In his presentation, he spoke about improving teams through a competency-based approach. He focused on three major points:

  1. Identifying the behaviors that make up a well working team.
  2. Developing a rating system to measure team behavior.
  3. Training strategies to change team behavior.

This was a very enjoyable presentation, and walked away with a number of great ideas.

Identifying desired team behaviors

Barnhart first explained how he had come to develop this strategy for competency-based team training. He stressed that to improve a team, you must focus on behaviors. Behaviors are what you can actually see or hear. When identifying behaviors to focus on, identify positive behaviors that you want to emphasize, behaviors that occur on a frequent basis, or behaviors that you wish to eradicate.

Behaviors can be identified through typical needs analysis methods such as observation, interviews, reference materials, and training materials. Once the behaviors have been identified, it is then a matter of rating the behaviors and  grouping the behaviors so a training plan can be established.

Developing a rating system

Once behaviors are identified, it is important that team members review and rate the behaviors. Barnhart provided two different strategies for having team members rate each behavior. Because the behaviors initially identified could be positive or negative, team members rate each behavior as not desirable to highly desirable for a well-functioning team. By identifying behaviors, the team has buy-in to the final product. The team can help determine if changes in behavior are occurring. This ends up being a self-moderating process.

Strategies for changing team behavior

The last section of Barnhart’s presentation focused on implementing a training program based on behaviors identified. It is important that the team is directly involved from the outset. If the team does not believe that the behaviors are worth pursuing, they will not make the change. Barnhart also stressed having the entire team learn the new behaviors at the same time, and incorporating debriefings into their meetings for regular course corrections.

For a short presentation, I walked away with ideas for developing and implementing a training program based on competencies. Also, lunch was great! Come join us at a future ASTD-NRC event.