Helping People Work With People

Measuring People’s Teamwork Behavior

Abstract: The Director of a state agency visioned replacing the bureaucratic environment (characteristic of state government) with a self-directed team environment to better serve its consumers. To accomplish this, the agency needed a definition of the teamwork performance standards and a means to measure their implementation of the standards. When undertaking the formidable task to move from a bureaucratic, top-down, direct and controlled environment to a self-directed team environment, a member of the senior leadership team best expressed a major obstacle that challenged the success of this massive cultural change – “We know how to measure the team’s performance as it achieves its strategic plan, but we do not know how to measure the people interaction in this team environment.”

The People Track Determines the Success of the Technical Track

The leadership team of this agency recognized that, like a railroad track, there are two tracks inherent in an organization – a technical track and the people track – and both tracks must be maintained for the success of the agency.

The challenge for the leadership team was two-fold. First – how to define the performance standards stating the expectations of how members of the team were to work together. Second – how to measure the use of these standards.

Defining the desired performance standards is achieved by engaging the team members into writing their TeamWork Value Statement (TWVS), which reads as follows:

In the 21st Century, the agency’s self-directed teams consist of colleagues who have a shared sense of purpose, support each other, openly communicate, and are innovative, trustworthy, respectful and accountable.

Then, they defined the contents of the TeamWork Value Statement:

Self-directed

  • We empower team members to make decisions closer to the customer
  • We use our authority to “go the extra mile” to meet each other’s needs
  • We make decisions through consensus

Shared Sense of Purpose

  • Our common goals are defined
  • We understand our common goals
  • We are held accountable to achieve our common goals
  • We work to meet the agency’s vision, mission, guiding principles and core goals

Support Each Other

  • We understand what we need from each other
  • We proactively meet the needs of others to help each other be successful
  • We recognize each other for a job well done

Openly Communicate

  • We present the facts of the situation
  • We feel free to express our ideas
  • We objectively accept diverse ideas
  • We openly discuss the behaviors to be implemented to improve teamwork

Innovative

  • We encourage the expression of new ideas
  • We willingly try new ideas
  • We practice the philosophy, “mistakes are learning opportunities for competence building”

Trustworthy

  • We are dependable and do what we agree upon
  • We keep confidential information confidential
  • We keep each other informed with necessary information
  • We are consistent so team members know what to expect from each other

Respectful

  • We accept each other as individuals
  • We listen to understand one another’s input
  • We use that input whenever possible
  • We tell each other how their input was used

Accountable

  • We competently complete our job responsibilities
  • We competently complete our responsibilities in support of the teams’ decisions
  • We provide feedback regarding the progress of meeting each other’s needs
  • We accept the feedback offered to improve performance
  • We do what needs to be done to implement the TeamWork Value Statement

Quantifying Team Member’s Behavior

The leadership team agreed with the concept that “top-down change produces bottom-up commitment” and elected to begin implementing their TWVS before cascading the implementation to other teams. The MBC Software methodologies were used to measure the degree members of the leadership team were successfully implementing this statement.

The baseline results indicated the team could be more successful at implementing the behaviors associated with their teamwork value, “supporting each other.” The team collectively needed to better understand what each other needed, to proactively meet those needs and to recognize each other for a job well done.

Working with these results, the team defined and decided to measure the implementation of these behavioral strategies on a weekly basis:

1. We put the teams’ needs over our individual needs
2. We let each other know what is needed to help the team be more successful
3. We ask each other what we can do to help them be more successful
4. We do what needs to be done to help each other in accordance to an agreed upon time schedule
5. We keep each other informed about the status of meeting the identified needs
6. We objectively listen to understand the feedback/information we are receiving
7. We celebrate successes

Frustration is Really Your Best Friend!

The data clearly showed the team was not celebrating successes and the other behaviors either flat lined, indicating no improvement, or declined. The team was struggling to operate as it desired to function. Discussing these data opened the volcanic rush of frustration expressed by many team members. The common denominator of this frustration was that team members were independently engaging in activities that some members thought should have been coordinated by the team. The team appeared to be operating with two sets of rules.

The expressed frustration was channeled to the creation of the following question set in an effort to better understand the dynamics of the team. A multi-rater measurement procedure was used to compare each team member’s self-rating versus how their team members rated him/her.

1. Attends most, if not all, team meetings
2. Uses the team concept – process decisions through the appropriate team
3. Presents the facts of the situation
4. Objectively accepts diverse ideas
5. Practices the behaviors defined in the TWVS

Additionally, team members rated themselves on the following question set:

1. I feel free to express my opinions
2. I feel team members listen to understand my input
3. My input is accepted on a status equal to the other team members
4. I feel free to confront other team members about their inappropriate behaviors

Each team member reviewed his/her data before the team meeting to discuss the results. The data very clearly highlighted those team members not using the team processes, but that team members were not comfortable discussing behaviors deemed inappropriate and adversely impacted the team’s performance.

A facilitator met with each team member to discuss his/her personal data in preparation for a team meeting to discuss the data. Confusion about implementing the specific team process emerged as the predominate topic of this meeting.

To clarify this confusion, the team adopted the following standard operating procedures stemming from their TWVS, which addresses the issues of consensus decision-making, empowerment and having input into decisions.

1. Consensus is required for the leadership team to establish policies for the agency
2. Individual team members are empowered to initiate activities within the scope of their responsibilities and to engage other team members that are affected
3. The leadership team is to be kept informed about the status of the respective initiatives
4. The leadership team intervenes when two or more team members reach an impasse on what action needs to be taken on any given issue

A question set was entered into the MBC Software, and at the time of this writing, team members are now measuring the degree to which the team is applying these procedures. In the end, the frustration associated with the team’s working relationship is helping the team achieve a higher performance level.

In Conclusion

The dynamics of this team improvement emphasizes several features that are critical for improving working relationships:

The Agency’s Director is committed to create a self-directed team environment to replace the slow bureaucratic, top-down, direct and controlled environment characteristic of state government

1. The Agency’s TWVS provided the behavioral guidelines for team members to work together in the team environment
2. Measuring the implementation of the TWVS with MBC Software identified the specific behaviors the team needed to improve
3. Defining and measuring the implementation of the improvement strategies facilitated the maturation and efficiency of the team
4. The MBC Software methodologies served as a communication tool to encourage the team members to discuss team dynamics that they were initially reluctant to address
5. Creating the opportunity to discuss frustrations associated with working as a team allowed the team to define what needed to be done to improve the working relationships within the team
6. Both the TWVS and data were important to hold members accountable to implement the team processes
7. The multi-rater environment helped individual team members better understand their contribution to the team as seen through the eyes of their team members

Are You Ready To . . .

  • Convert your training, coaching and/or mentoring investments into skill application and behavior change?
  • Know for sure that your employees are effectively applying training on the job?
  • Increase accountability that your employees are receiving coaching and feedback to improve in the areas that matter most?
  • Grow your company as your employees grow and change?

If you answered, “Yes” to these questions, then you are ready for an easy-to-use, proven performance support system to measure behavior change and/or skill application attributed to training, coaching and/or mentoring.

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