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Posts tagged ‘Team Performance’

Cracking the Code for Standout Performance (part II)

image by shadaringtonAs Agile team coaches or organizational coaches, we aim to increase the teams’ performance in an attempt to deliver better results. We improve quality, help the team work more efficiently, and have fun while delivering increased business value. Interestingly, many of the observations presented in Great Business Teams: Cracking the Code for Standout Performance (this is the second part of the book review) are in line with the Agile values and principles. Here are some of the keys points to remember:

THE LEADERS

The leaders have an important role in developing high performance teams. Their actions and behaviors will be closely observed and people will modify their own behaviors based on those of their leaders. Guttman highlights some of the leader imperatives to achieve high performance.

Develop and drive the horizontal vision

An horizontal organization means moving to an organizaton in which everyone operates according to a clearly defined set of decision-making protocols, where people understand what they are accountable for and then own the results.

For an organization to raise its level of performance every team, on every level, must be a great team. That is to say, it must be aligned in five key areas:

  1. business strategy
  2. business deliverables coming from the strategy
  3. roles and responsibilities at individual and business unit or functional levels
  4. protocols, or ground rules, for decision making and conflict resolution (see a recent post on this topic)
  5. business/interpersonal relationships and interdependencies

Create the right mindset

  • Being candid from “wary, closed with hidden agendas” to “candid, open, relaxed, easy to speak your mind” – from “no tolerance for confrontation, conflicts suppressed” to “tensions surfaced, confronted, and resolved”
  • Accentuating accountability: putting equal emphasis on cross functional, peer-to-peer accountability, as well as peer-to-leader acountability.

Provide the right skills

Such as influencing, active listening, assertion, giving and receiving feedback, conflict management, decision making and leadership.

Keep the game and guard the rules

Everyone is clear about and committed to the business strategy and the operational goals that flow from it; undertsands his or her roles and responsibilities, and adheres to agreed-upon protocols, or ground rules for decisions making and for interpersonal behavior, especially those relating to conflict management.

Here’s how great teams make decisions:

  • Identify the decisions that need to be made
  • Identify decision subteams
  • Assign accountability
  • Set objectives and timelines
  • Select the decision making mode
  • Identify information sources
  • Determine the shelf life of the decision

Raise the bar

Keep challenging the status quo, revisit the targets and get the team involved in the process.

Be player centered

Leadership is in large part about power – about how it is exercised, shared, delegated, and used. High performance leaders seek to leverage power, not monopolize – to put it to use to drive up their team’s or organization’s performance. Putting the power in the hands of the teams members provides the right conditions to deliver maximum payoffs.

THE PLAYERS

The road to a great team begins with two nuclear elements of team reality: the leader and the team members. Consequently, team members must show four very obvious characteristics.

Think like a director

Keep their eye on overarching goals and the need to stay on top of their competition.

Put team first, function second

They are team members first and functional representatives second.

Embrace accountability

Slowly move from an individual accountability for their own results toward accountability toward the success of the entire organization.

Become comfortable with discomfort

People need to be or become comfortable with the changes required of them and their leader.

Building an outstanding team requires time and energy and is achievable once people agree to work together and pull in the same direction.

Great news the project is over! Now let’s dismantle the team

Image by pgcCongratulations, you have finally delivered the project! The team you have carefully assembled over many months can now be dismantled and people can go back to their normal job. That’s the natural sequence in the project management world – project is kicked-off, team is assembled, team develops solution, team encounters delays, team tests solution, team moves solution into production, team hands-off solution to maintenance team, project team is dismantled, and life goes back to normal.

I wonder if the Green Bay Packers will do the same now that they have won SuperBowl XLV or maybe the San Fransisco Giants may want to start their 2011 season with new players after winning the 2010 World Series. At least the F.C. Internazionale Milano should want to give it a fresh start after winning the Serie A championship, wouldn’t you think?

Nobody would consider breaking up a highly performing sport team but when it comes to software development, it is common for organizations and departments to split up team members and start new with their next project.

From a purely practical perspective, breaking up a performing team makes no sense considering the time invested in:

  • carefully selecting and recruiting the right people with the right skill sets and the right attitude,
  • hiring external consultants with specific skills to complement the existing team,
  • getting the team to work together despite the team members’ personalities, work methods and obvious looming conflicts,
  • training people on the organizational culture and business activities,
  • establishing a leadership style that will work well with the team’s expectations,
  • eliminating the bad hires,
  • building relationships with the team members and between the project team members themselves,
  • etc.

Team members need time to become highly performing. Why not keep those team members together after the completion of their project and assign them together to the next project – even if the skill sets doesn’t seem to be perfect at first glance?

The Carrot Principle – Using Recognition to Increase Team Performance

Increasing teams and departmental performance – isn’t this why most organizations adopt the Agile principles?

Although there might be other reasons, many of the organizations we work with aim to increase their teams’ performance. I recently read The Carrot Principle – How the Best Managers Use Recognition to Engage Their People, Retain Talent, and Accelerate Performance – to see how recognition may help increase teams’ performance.

While many organizations still believe an above average salary is enough to keep people motivated, salary alone is not a good motivator. As Daniel Pink described, above an acceptable base salary, salary no longer is a good motivator. As such, managers often look for alternate ways to keep their team motivated.

The fact is that money is not as powerful a reward as many people think. While pay and bonuses must be competitive to attract and retain talented employees, small amounts of cash – anything short of $1,000 – will never make the best rewards because they are so easily forgotten – The Carrot Principle.

Recognition is deemed an important source of motivation and is usually used to maintain a low employee turnover rate and, increase employees’ performance and business results. Many organizations who adopt Agile practices recognize that it is increasingly difficult to attract top talents and in order to remain competitive, they should focus on increasing the performance of their existing work force.

Engaged employees demonstrate: innovation and creativity, take personal responsibility to make things happen, desire to contribute to the success of the company and team, have an emotional bond to the organization and its mission and vision.

U.S. Department of Labor statistics show the number one reason people leave organization is that they “don’t feel appreciated” – The Carrot Principle.

The book relies on surveys done by HealthStream Research and supported by data from Towers and Perrin. Below are some of the conclusions derived from the data:

  • Companies that effectively recognize excellence enjoy an ROE (return on equity) three times higher than the return experienced by firms that do not;
  • Companies that effectively recognize excellence enjoy an ROA (return on assets) three times higher than the return experienced by firms that do not;
  • Companies in the highest quartile of recognition of excellence report an operating margin of 6.6 percent, while those in the lowest quartile report 1 percent.

The authors point out that to be impactfull recognition should be combined with what they call the basic four areas of leadership:

  1. Goal Setting: defining the purpose of a task and tying it to a desirable end result
  2. Communication: discussing issues and sharing useful information with employees, welcoming open discussions
  3. Trust: keeping his word and owning up to his mistakes, maintaining a high ethic and positively contributing to the reputation of the organization
  4. Accountability: ensuring people deliver on their commitments.

Recognition can take many forms but whatever it is, the best reward is always personal and tailored to employees interests and lifestyle, given by a manager who cares enought to find out what motivates each individual - The Carrot Principle.

Finally, the book presents four levels of recognition:

  • Day-to-Day recognition: low-cost but high touch recognition such as Thank You notes to encourage small steps leading toward success
  • Above-and-Beyond recognition: provide a structured way to reward significant achievments that support the company’s core values
    • Bronze: to recognize on-time above and beyond related to core values
    • SIlver: reward on-going above and beyond behaviors for consistently demonstrating company’s values
    • Gold: behaviors that produce bottom-line results
  • Career recognition: recognize people on the anniversary of their hire
  • Celebration and events: celebrate successful completion of key projects or new product launches.

Cracking the Code for Standout Performance – Applying the approach to Agile Teams

I just finished reading Great Business Teams: Cracking the Code for Standout Performance.

In Great Business Teams, renowned business consultant Howard M. Guttman takes you inside some of the world’s most successful corporations—Johnson & Johnson, Novartis, Mars Incorporated, and L’Oréal, to name a few—to discover how a powerful new high-performance horizontal model has changed the way leaders lead, team members function, challenges are met, and decisions are made. He also reveals how and why the organizations that have implemented this innovative team structure have become great companies, able to ride the crosscurrents during lean times and truly soar when opportunities arise.

As Agile team coaches or organizational coaches, we aim to increase the teams’ performance in an attempt to deliver better results. We improve quality, help the team work more efficiently, and have fun while delivering increased business value. Interestingly, many of the observations presented in Great Business Teams: Cracking the Code for Standout Performance are in line with the Agile values and principles. Here are some of the keys points to remember:

1. Great Business Teams are Led by High-Performance Leaders who:

  • Create a “burning platform” for fundamental change;
  • Are visionaries and architects;
  • Know they cannot do it alone;
  • Build authentic relationships;
  • Model the behaviors they expect from their team;
  • Redefine the fundamentals of leadership.

Isn’t this what we would expect of the Product Owner in Scrum?

Interestingly, the author positions the process by wish the leader achieves these objectives by asking tough questions such as:

  • What is the business strategy and how committed are we to achieving it?
  • What key operational goals flow from the strategy and how do we make sure these goals drive day-to-day decision making?
  • Are we clear on roles and accountabilities?
  • What protocols or ground rules will we play by as a team?
  • Will our business relationships and interdependencies be built on candor and transparency?

Hence, the support of an external coach is useful and can help the leader ask powerful questions.

2. Members of Great Business Teams are Us-Directed Leaders

Members of great business teams think of themselves as accountable not only for their own performance but for that of their colleagues. Similar to the concept of self-organized teams, great business teams typically take accountability to achieve their objectives.

On high-performing teams, accountability goes well beyond the individuals recognition that he or she is part of the problem. It even goes beyond holding peers on a team accountable for performance. “Us” accountability includes holding the team leader accountable as well.

3. Great Business Teams Play by Protocols

Once a leader with the right skills is in place and supported by a self-organized team, the group needs to agree on the rules they will play by. Obviously, the more structured its way of working together, the less likelihood of misunderstanding, conflict or costly delays and bottlenecks the team will encounter.

One important set of protocols related to decision making.

Straight-up rules such as “no triangulations or enlistment of third party”, “resolve it or let it go”, “don’t accuse in absentia”, and “no hand from the grave or second guessing decisions” can eliminate much of the unresolved conflict that paralyzes teams and keeps them from moving to a higher level of performance.

4. Great Business Continually Raise The Performance Bar

No matter how much it achieves, great business teams are never satisfied, they implement self-monitoring, self-evaluation, continuous improvement, and raise the bar. The continuous improvement process helps a highly performing team to keep improving its performance and deliver impressive results.

5. Great Business Teams Have A Supportive Performance Management System

Having the right individuals in the right roles and establishing clear rules of engagement are not sufficient. The performance monitoring systems have to be inline with the expected behaviors.

  • Team and individual goals have to be crystal clear;
  • The necessary technical and interpersonal skills have to be provided;
  • Performance has to be monitored;
  • And feedback has to be timely an well thought out.

The book wasn’t written for an Agile audience but after reading it, it seems to me that applying the Agile principles would come close to cracking the code for standout performance.

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