There are four conditions for creating an effective team process:
- Employees need to be responsible for results,
- Team members must have access to real-time performance data,
- Team members must have decision authority over the key variables that influence performance outcomes, and
- There must be a tight coupling between results, compensation and recognition.
Developing an effective self-managed team requires a process through which the above are continually reviewed, discussed and acted on by the whole team. There are numerous ways to do so, ranging from simple feedback loops to Agile development methods. The history of these processes is robust dating back to the early 20th century, including systemic force-field analysis (Lewin, 1943), the integration of social and technical systems (Trist and Emery, 1951), the reinvention of manufacturing systems (Deming, 1950 and Juran, 1951), the integration of the individual and the organization (Argyris, 1964), the Capability Maturity Model (Humphreys, 1989; SEI 1993), the Agile Manifesto (2001), and the more recent Lean startup (Reis, 2008, 2011). This history has produced some remarkable success in developing systems that are self-regulating, efficient and highly productive. Think about any military special-forces team in which the mission is usually life-dependent, where team members are cross-trained, and all aspects of the team’s performance is monitored and assessed by the team. High performance is the only acceptable outcome in these systems—as it is for the companies listed in our last post.
Today’s team must operate with values that will allow it to compete and achieve its greatest potential. People, products and processes need to be aligned so that the team’s throughput is the most efficient it can be. And, given the amount of data that is available in most systems, we must continually measure the right things and help teams give and receive feedback to all its members, no matter how difficult.