Committed Teams by Mario Moussa, Boyer and Newberry tells us how to build a committed team and that means having a team that is passionate about the cause. They recommend a three step method to make yours a high performing team.

1. Establish commitments
2. Build productive relationships
3. Close the say-do gap

This may not be something you did not know. It is the conscious set of rules that need to be set that determines the team culture. Culture is the water in which the fish swim, but the fish rarely pause to think about the quality of water. Once the water starts to go toxic, the fish will die.

Forming the culture also needs people to agree upfront about how to handle deviations. If the organization takes pride in providing timely service to its customers, that one single rule has to flow through in all the internal processes as well. That means, meetings must start and end as per the agreed time. When someone commits to delivering some work, they must respect the deadlines agreed upon. The teams must agree upon how to address scenarios when members reach late for meetings. Will the meeting start on time regardless of quorum? Do people believe that repeated “follow-up is an indication of the importance of the matter” or is having to follow-up a matter of shame? Do the leaders role model the behavior they expect others to follow?

The book takes five kinds of teams

1. Virtual teams
2. Start-ups
3. Innovation Projects
4. Leadership Groups
5. Committees

Chances are that you will find one of these five team scenarios as relevant to your scenario. I liked the section on Virtual Teams. Most of us have to resort to tele-conferences and Skype calls to accomplish team tasks. Research suggests that for virtual teams to be effective they need to also learn how to bond, get to know each other and celebrate each other virtually. Establish a digital protocol as part of the team commitment charter. Be explicit about any cultural differences that may affect style, tone, frequency and meaning of communication. How do people decide the timing of the team meetings? Is that based on the convenience of the people in the head office or the senior leaders or does it take time zones and respect everyone’s scenario. Instead of telling everyone to send in the report by “end of day on Friday”, it is better to explicitly state, the time and the time zone in case team members are traveling across countries.

Startups often focus entirely on the task and doing it at breakneck speed. They often fail because they neglect to set explicit norms around culture. Most of them limit the HR function to someone in charge of hiring and payroll. Most startups do not have CHROs. So the most important pillar for team success is left to chance. Hiring and cultivating resilient people is a role that the founders must consciously address and make time for.

The three steps outlined the first half of the book seemed to be a letdown initially. But as you look at the details under each step, the value of the model comes through. If you are in a startup or want to start one, I will absolutely recommend that you read this book because most startups fail because they have not addressed the human factor with competent specialists. To begin with the Founder must read this book to understand how complex it is to create the right culture.