Assessing Teamwork: Testing 1, 2, 3
Is teamwork thriving at your company? How well do your teams carry out their goals? How do you assess their performance? These may be the next million dollar questions—literally. Failed teams can be costly and take your interests down a rabbit hole. There are countless examples of teams that have failed. After all, to error is human. But a team is supposed to counteract that reality. Even so, the aviation industry has seen fatal crashes, manufacturing has witnessed failed products, and medical teams have lost lives. Unfortunately, failure happens but may be avoided depending on the team and circumstances. Evaluating teamwork is critical to be sure a team is on track and is important to their success. But it can also pose one of the biggest challenges relating to teamwork.
One size does not fit all.
Lucky for you, teams want to be successful. But teams come in all shapes and sizes. They are made up of different people. They may do things differently and they have different goals. The specific measures to gauge success can vary from one team to the next, from one business to the next, and from one industry to the next. The nature of the team’s work and their objectives combined with the work environment, team resources, and composition of team members and their respective roles, can make assessment tricky.
That said, there are some common considerations that affect most, if not all teams. How well the team interacts and communicates, for example, is crucial. But not all worthy measurements are that obvious. There could be serious implications underfoot that could destroy a team’s effectiveness. Are team members resolving conflicts? Does everyone contribute equally or at their role’s fullest capacity? Some experts have pointed to four key challenges faced by teams that could have an affect on their results: communication, information exchange, supporting behavior, and team leadership/initiative. If your teams are doing this well, you should see favorable outcomes, whether it be in sales, production, design, or other established goals.
You could be the deal breaker.
But management should be careful not to stifle a team’s productivity and success by cutting out the team’s participation in their evaluation. Failing to include the team itself in establishing how the team should be measured does little to encourage and empower them. Dictating what measurements should be utilized without including them can prove to be counterproductive.
So, let the team be a part of their evaluation process. Once the team clearly understands their objectives and how each team member will play a role in achieving set goals, they should be able to determine how best to assess their performance as a group. A good team is able to determine if they took the best route to get to their successful destination. How difficult was it to get from point A to point B and what were the obstacles?
Find what works best.
Not another test! If you remember your school days, you’ll likely remember the pop quizzes, multiple choice and essay questions, and the other various ways that you were tested on your progress. The best assessment should reflect an effective way of determining if goals are being met.
Here are a few considerations to help you and the team track progress:
Milestones – Team assessments shouldn’t wait until a project is near completion. Progress should be measured over time. Otherwise, you may find it too late to effectively manage an issue. Underlying problems that go unnoticed could spell disaster. Guide the team in establishing milestones that will help mark progress and to determine if timelines need adjustment. You might also consider providing training in this area to build team confidence and ensure success.
Team Surveys – While milestones will help check on project progress, the team will benefit from knowing the overall effectiveness of teamwork and individual contributions. Doing so will help in making necessary adjustments in processes, team members, roles, leadership, etc. Surveys can be administered at equal intervals during the year, alongside individual performance reviews, or at established milestones. Questions should cover trust, cohesiveness, conflict resolution, communication, interaction, inclusion, and other team-related topics. Self-assessments should be part of the survey and cover questions like role relevancy, contribution towards goals, inclusion, and individual challenges. You may consider checking into third party services that can help in this area.
Interviews – Understanding the team’s dynamics and getting a pulse on how team members feel about progress can become clearer with confidential interviews with individuals on the team. Fostering an open and honest discussion designed to learn ways to support the team should be the main purpose of the meeting.
Things look different in hindsight.
It’s funny how things appear so much clearer in hindsight. If only the team would have moved in a different direction, utilized a different process, or explored a new option. Using effective methods of teamwork evaluation to help the team see the larger picture may require them to step back, take a deep breath, and honestly appraise their progress. It’s like standing on a rooftop to see where the road leads and what obstacles stopped them in their tracks. And with measurement, comes the need for resolution by fixing problems, adjusting processes, and possibly throwing out previous work. The sooner the need for these adjustments becomes apparent to you and the team, the more chances for success.