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Why don't teams have performance reviews?

In an organisation, work gets done at 3 levels.

The individual brings their skills and effort.

The team co-ordinates localised activity and resources.

The organisation creates an environment aligning strategy and culture.

In most organisations, individuals get some kind of performance review to help them learn and develop.

And the organisation's overall performance is also closely tracked by shareholders and stakeholders of all types.

But what about teams?

(When I say teams, I'm specifically referring to groups of 5-9 people who work together closely every day).

A team might be organised around serving a specific client, or delivering a specific function.

In my experience, teams don't have performance reviews.

This is because we generally believe a team's performance is just a function of the team's leader skills + the skills of the team members.

But recent research from MITs centre for collective intelligence reveals that a team's ability to solve problems is an emergent property, surprisingly independent of the individual team member's abilities. The team's collective intelligence exists not only in the people, but in the gaps between people, the social dynamics, the meeting of different thinking styles, the complementary strengths. That's why I think teams need performance reviews to help them improve over time.

Team Pit-Stops

The approach I recommend is loosely called a Pit-Stop (hat tip to David Roddick) where the whole team gets 'off the racetrack' for a half day workshop every quarter. In the session, the team answers three questions.

1. Strategy: are we aligned on our strategy and how it fits with the overall organisation direction? Does our strategy need a tweak?

2. Productivity. How are we going delivering key projects? What is holding us back from being more productive?

3. People. How can we build better relationships within the team?

Ideally, the team might even get some data around this, with a survey going out to the team for their views, and twice a year the survey going out to wider stakeholders for their input.

Over time the team takes care of itself, and takes steps to improve its performance. Yes, the team leader takes a lead role in this, but the Pit Stop process puts responsibility on every team member to make it a better team.

Go from mediocrity to momentum

My observation is that without taking time to reflect and plan - and have some kind of performance review - teams tend towards mayhem and mediocrity.

If you can bring in quarterly 'Pit-Stops' then you can build a team which is constructive, productive and strategic. A team that has momentum.

Written by Rob Pyne


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