Tag Archives: decision-making

Five Common Team Performance Problems

Gerald A. Hutchinson Jr, PhD & Jeff Penley, MS

In our work with management-, functional-, cross-functional-, and project-teams, we have noticed five common functional problems that sabotage a team’s performance:

  1. Inadequate critical-thinking about cause and consequence. Many teams get into a groupthink pattern and do not sufficiently challenge one another to think rigorously or with an eye on innovative solutions. This pattern robs the organization of the potential to make positive change.  Marginal improvements, band-aid solutions, or re-work will waste time and money and create future problems.  Remember the old saying– “There is never enough time to do it right, but there is always time to do it again…until there isn’t?”  You can avoid that blunder!
  1. Slowness in Decision-Making. It is not just that decisions are slow…timing itself is not always the issue if the OUTCOME of the decision is worth the wait.  The problem is that decisions take an unnecessarily slow amount of time, and must pass through gatekeepers that do not share urgency or adequate engagement to pass approval.  Speeding decisions along gives opportunity to tackle other challenges.
  1. Mission Creep. Mission creep can mean the goal of the project expands. It can also mean that clarity of what the team is attempting to do is lost or confused, and consequently a project shifts to objectives that are not essential.  The team wastes time (and credibility) because the objective was never clearly stated, and execution to the goal was undisciplined.
  1. Clunky Collaboration. Poor collaboration (aka poor teamwork) often occurs within the team due to ineffective leadership. Another cause of team misalignment is due to insufficient buy-in.  Or, collaboration problems can occur when external team partner’s agendas are not fully understood or aligned with the team goals.  Getting talent to click is a responsibility of the team leader, and must be intentional. It cannot be left to chance or assumed.  NOTE:  There are clear behavioral science methods about how to overcome “clunky collaboration” (aka “dysfunctions”), and we know how to structure behavior to overcome these challenges.
  1. Insufficient Accountability. Getting to “Done!” and moving on to the next problem can often occur due to a lack of keeping people accountable. When accountability for deliverables is not maintained, productivity slips and project completion is delayed, incurring opportunity costs.

These problems (and many others) can be overcome with an agile team-management guidance-system.  We call ours Excellerate™ to mash together Better+Faster.  If you’d like to find out more about how we integrate solutions to these challenges into our system, contact us:  Gerald Hutchinson or Jeff Penley.

Gerald Hutchinson PhD has over 25 years of experience working with hundreds of teams and leaders.  Excellerate™ has been developed on this knowledge-base of what makes good teams work and what conditions make for poor teamwork.

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Leave Room for the Gray Box*

It is foolish to try to analyze everything. Few human minds are able to hold all relevant potentialities in four dimensions.

So you’ve got to leave room for the “gray box,” the part of your mind that can unconsciously process all this information and sometimes gently, sometimes loudly, proclaim the right course of action.

I am not discounting the value of thoughtful consideration. In fact, if anything, perhaps more value should be placed upon really getting in and doing an effective job in systems thinking, teasing out the chain of causality and probability to make a “reasoned decision.”

No doubt, the more experience one has, the more enlightened the Grey box is likely to be. That is why older people often have more wisdom. Yet wisdom is not solely the priviledge of our elders. Many times, the flexible, dynamic intelligence of youth, able to quickly intuit connections and place variable-weighted value on the relevant data, can see trends and possibilities that the elder mind might reject.

It is the work of the young to try to see beyond the near-term niftiness of a decision to second- and third-order effects (using the Grey Box), as it is the work of elders to use their Grey box to include more tenuous-yet-relevant data-points to grasp expansive potentialities.

In the end, this is not a recommendation to make “gut decisions.”  Rather, it is a suggestion that once the analysis is undertaken, more work must be done.  You must go to the grey box and allow its immense powers to work.  This may require quiet time and “emptying the mind” meditation, a complete disconnect from the topic (say, by engaging in an activity that completely captures the attention, like snowboarding, tennis, or a bike ride), or, if you have developed the ability, listening to your body when you entertain the possible decisions.

The quality of your performance depends on letting the power of your mind not be hindered by the size of your data set, nor your “future model.”

*NOTE:  In reverse-engineering electronics, when engineers could not discern the real operational activity of a function, they would label the unknown operation a “black box.”  This phrase would serve just as well for us; however, the phrase has been co-opted by the airline industry, since the flight data recorders have been eponymously termed “black boxes.”  Data recorders record all relevant data points, but they are backward-looking at what has happened.  The capability that I refer to is much broader and is able to export past experiences and data into envisioning future possibilities and probabilities.  Thus we call this integrative function a “grey box.”  This conveys the “grey matter” qualities of the brain, while also conveying that there is a place in Mind that is able to blend past, present, and future with immense (and somehow mysterious) power.