Teamwork and Collaboration
Monitoring Team Performance
In many teams the identification of the goal and agreement on specific roles is enough for several individuals to “run off” by themselves to execute their responsibilities, with little or no reference to anyone else until the end of a particular project or major task. Although this self-dependency can be a useful asset, more often than not the overall team result may suffer, particularly when the individual quickly achieves all of his or her tasks and points at other team members for their slackness. In a team-building situation the group should ideally hold regular meetings to avoid this problem and make sure that progress towards the goal is even and planned. After all, a team-based project should be as much about building the team as it is about achieving the assigned objective.
Team review meetings always need a little planning to be effective. Whether they are held daily, weekly or fortnightly a simple agenda can be followed and a time limit set. For example:
Weekly Team Meeting, Friday 9.00am – 9.30am
- Review of last week’s individual actions and tasks (data review)
- Implications of any task/project slippage or problems (discussion)
- Team progress issues in the last week (discussion)
- Review and allocation of next week’s actions and tasks (discussion and recording)
- Any other business (discussion)
- Summary and close (with confirmation of actions and expected timing)
This kind of agenda provides plenty of scope for individual input but also imposes a structure on the group such that discussion is focused.
Regular review meetings will typically quickly reveal the team’s problems, either in working together or in slipping against its target or ultimate goal. In such circumstances, the group should clearly adopt a mature attitude and seek to make the necessary adjustments immediately.
The main adjustments that any team will need to make will usually be around re-allocation of people or the re-allocation of other resources. This re-allocation will typically occur for two reasons.
- Firstly, the skill fit between people and task(s), or between the task and the individual(s) capacity to handle it in the expected time frame may have been misjudged.
- Secondly, team members chosen to work together may fail to achieve the targets set.
Whether this reflects personal differences of view or a shortfall in the collective skills or resources, re-allocation will be needed if the team wants to progress and achieve its goal.
The process of carrying out people or resource re-allocation generally needs to be done collectively with the whole team. This is because every individual change is likely to affect the whole group and may have a knock on or “domino” effect. By working together this domino effect can be managed.
Of course, team progress or review meetings are of little value if team members are not prepared to be totally open about real performance and the failures and successes along the way. Open communication and feedback is a key platform upon which team success is built.
The team may decide that feedback meetings are best handled separately from the regular “milestone” (or weekly review) meetings of the group. This allows the team to give feedback without other agenda items or time constraints getting in the way.
The team may also choose to structure feedback to maximize the benefit to the group. For example, every individual may be asked to contribute both a positive and negative statement about team progress or performance at the same time. This helps prevent the group deteriorating into purely negative or problem-oriented discussion at the expense of the team’s success. Nonetheless, the team should not curtail negative feedback. Failure to perform is an opportunity to improve, not a chance to chastise the individual. In general, all feedback needs to be discussed constructively – in other words, teams deal best with issues when they “play the ball and not the person”.