Building a 212 Degree Team

Water. By itself, it’s inorganic, tasteless, odorless and colorless (most of the time anyway). It has no calories. There are no nutrients. However, all forms of life need it to survive. Water on its own is important.

But, do you know what happens at 212 degrees Fahrenheit? It boils. And when it boils, it creates steam. That steam can be turned into energy, which then can be turned into power. That power in turn can move objects forward that can pick up speed and go faster. Water at 211 degrees is hot, but 212 can turn into energy that is near unstoppable. One extra degree makes all the difference.

Steam locomotives were an icon in the industrial revolution

This is a lesson my son was learning as we worked on his science experiment. As we watched the thermometer gently rise to the 200 degree mark, we waited to see the bubbles and corresponding steam that would turn a wheel. Once we got to the boiling point and steam started to rise, the wheel began to turn. After one minute, there was so much energy from the steam, the wheel lost its equilibrium and spun off its holder and onto the floor. It was pretty cool!

What can 212 degrees teach us about teams? Well, maybe you have a team that’s barely moving, or going along slowly. There’s not much energy or momentum. Whereas others are constantly having results and delivering value to the organization. It’s amazing to see how fast they can move, their interactions with each other, and the praise they receive from various levels of leadership. You swear they’ll eventually lose their equilibrium and crash, but they don’t. How do they keep going?

The following are some of my recommendations for creating a 212 degree team. Though you’ll read many of these and think “Yeah, I already know this is important.” But, if you work each with great fervor, your team can create an energy that helps propel them, their project, and the company, forward.

Communication at all levels, especially the leadership team and project manager, is exceptional. It’s simple, yet descriptive and concise. Clear communication keeps the team on the same page and working towards a common goal.

Having a strong sponsor that clearly represents the voice of the customer, articulates requirements and makes sound decisions.

Everyone on the team understands their and other team members roles. No one asks “What is my role?” If they do, that is a miss on the part of the project leader.

The team understands “WHY” the project is important and has a view of how this one project ties into a bigger picture for the organization. This “WHY” is continually kept front and center, and reinforced throughout the project.

There is psychological safety on the team. Members feel safe bringing up topics and issues without judgement. The rest of the team, having listened, offers to help.

The team embraces diversity. Whether it be ethnic background or team members with a wide range of experiences (or both), the diversity of the team is an asset to be celebrated.

Team members take ownership of their tasks. They ensure timely and quality output, and ask questions if something is not clear. They don’t make excuses.

Appreciation and gratitude recognizes an individual’s contribution to the team, and the team’s contribution to the organization.

All teams have self-established “rules.” Be explicit about yours early in the project. For example, no long emails. Keep them short and bulleted. Another is if there is an issue, factually state it with 2-3 options to resolve and your recommendation. Or, my favorite, after 3 email exchanges about a specific topic, email #4 is a summary of what was discussed face-to-face or over the phone.

The project leader is available, consistent, accountable, and responsive to team member’s requests. If a team member has an issue and comes to the project leader for help, it is now a priority for the project leader to help get it resolved. The project leader also gives credit to the team for their hard work, and doesn’t cast blame when things inevitably go wrong.

The team works together to solve issues quickly. Issues are bound to arise, but the collective wisdom of the group resolves them.

Stakeholders are engaged, supportive and properly managed by the project manager.

What is your idea of a 212 degree team? How can you move the thermometer from warm, to hot, to 212 degrees, creating an unstoppable energy and power?

Does Adding Salt to Water Make It Boil Sooner? | Mental Floss

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