The TTA framework: 3 elements of high performance in teams

Have you ever wondered about the question who you want to have on your team and why? And how do you make sure a team operates at its best once it’s formed?

While there are many ways to explore these questions I have developed one framework for my own teamwork that I look at constantly in my toolbox when I work with teams.

It’s called the TTA framework, and the letters stand for the three elements you want a team member to have: Think, Talk & Act.

The power is where the three circles meet. Unfortunately, that sounds easier than it is.

In reality, we come across some extremes where just one or combinations of two of the elements are present. Let’s explore these extremes:

“Think” only

 Thinking is of course nice, it might deliver you some breakthrough ideas and great concepts. But often people just keep their thinking to themselves, they stay in their office and we don’t know about the great ideas. Nobody notices. Nothing happens. Not good.

“Talk” only

Everybody knows this type of individual. Talk, talk, talk and you think the whole time: “When will this end?”

Sometime ago I overheard a conversation where somebody said: “It’s really easy to get to the premier league in soccer in any country. You just have to have to buy a regional team and then trade the right players.” Yes, right. Do you recognize this type of person from your organizations and meetings?

“Act” only

This is what I would call the “headless chicken” syndrome. An individual that is running around like a headless chicken, doing something, and nobody knows what it is they are doing (no talk). And it doesn’t make a lot of sense, either (no think). The combination “Talk & Act, no think” is similar and makes the confusion here even worse because of the disturbance in the organization.

Obviously, the above extremes are not too common in business life as they are not so successful strategies. It’s also relatively easy to avoid.

What we see much more often, and what is more difficult to put in practice in my experience, are the following two combinations where just one element of the TTA framework is missing:

“Think & Talk” only, no “Act”

People with this tendency are even worse then the “just” talk. Why? Because the talk makes a lot of sense! It’s well thought-through and you feel inspired after the talk. (“First we implement this, then we will update the synergy strategy,…”) Everybody thinks WOW!

But then NOTHING HAPPENS. And this can be so frustrating.

Humans love good talking and a good speech. And because of the Halo effect we ASSUME that good talkers and thinkers also follow through on their words. But often they don’t. I admit it: this is a combination that I have been guilty of as from time to time, because it is so nice and easy to have grand creative conversations. But we constantly need to push ourselves to also DO something.

“Think & Act” only, no talk

This one is special as it seems to be a good combination at first glance: These are folks who really think things through and who are real, actual doers. They make stuff happen. They surprise you. They come to you and say: “See what we created over the past 3 days”. And it’s brilliant.

There might just be one problem: Somebody else might also have done the same work in the meantime; or there might be information that e.g. the team leader has that would have steered this work. And even if all was super it always leaves one with a feeling of uneasiness as this type of interaction is a bit of a “loose cannon” style that is difficult to deal with.

The conclusion: Think; Talk; Act! (in that order)

Here a little checklist you can use for yourself and your teams:

Think: Have I thought everything through?

  • Do I work on root causes or symptoms? If it is a problem, have I come up at least with three options, to avoid narrow framing?
  • Do I write down ten ideas daily to broaden my thinking?
  • Am I easily distracted by the extreme instead of the relevant? Can I separate sharks from coconuts in my thinking?

Talk: Is everything crystal-clear to everybody?

  • Is everybody aware of the background of the topic? Remember, others cannot read your mind.
  • Can I summarize my proposal on one page? Can I give the helicopter overview? Plenty of possibilities if you want to get better here, watch this TEDx talk as a start.
  • Never make too many assumptions when dealing with people. As the saying goes, if you assume, you make an ASS out of U and ME.

Act: Always remember, ACT stands for Action Changes Things!

  • As Alan Weiss says: “Done is better than perfect.” Get some work out there.
  • Always appoint one person (not a group) for action and hold this one person accountable.
  • Apply the 1% rule. Act and then try to get better 1% per day. Implement small, sustainable changes.

People who have all three are the people I want to have on my team. If thinking, talking and action are present then magic can happen in teams. And the framework constantly reminds me to never forget one of them when I am on somebody else’s team.

Lars Sudmann is an expert on high-performance leadership in global corporations. He works with multinational organizations as well as leading universities as change consultant, keynote speaker as well as workshop facilitator. You can also follow Lars here and here on Twitter. 

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Do you want to read further on this topic? Here is a link to my top 10 book recommendations on leadership and management

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