Archive for the ‘Management’ Category

What makes a Great Team? How to go from Good to Great!

May 7, 2016

 

So Leicester City has won the English Premier League!

If you are not an avid soccer or sports fan, this piece of news will probably leave you cold.

But for all the crazy sports fanatics around the Globe, this is a truly astonishing result.

Here is a team that has absolutely no recognized « A » players in its first team, has one of the smallest budgets in the Premier League, that was almost relegated to the lower league last year, has a manager who had never before won anything and that was given 5000/1 odds to win the League at the start of the championship!

Yet, Leicester managed to beat some of the richest teams in Europe, all staffed with high profile “A” players. A victory indeed for the underdog!

leicester

Leicester City: Soccer Scrum Champions?

So how did the 5000/1 underdogs do it? They undoubtedly had good players at the start of the season but how did they go from Good to Great?

Of course, there are many reasons but one key reason has got to be great teamwork!

 

 

And what are some of the success factors that contributed to achieving this great teamwork?

I guess Jeff Sutherland, the father of “Agile Management” and co-creator of the “Scrum Software Development Framework” would probably have some more very interesting ideas on this subject.

 

This is the question he sets out to answer in

Capture d’écran 2016-05-06 à 11.37.01

Why do some teams achieve greatness when  other teams languish in mediocrity?

Indeed, after some years of working in various senior management positions managing software development projects, Sutherland came to two very simple conclusions:

  • The traditional command and control « Waterfall » method of software development where projects were completed in distinct stages and moved step by step towards ultimate release to consumers and software users just didn’t work. Projects were often late, overran on budget and quite often were even abandoned because they no longer corresponded to the customer’s needs.
  • Worse, from a people point of view, this traditional “Waterfall” approach was a nightmare for those who had to apply it, made life miserable for all and more or less encouraged mediocrity, poor teamwork and failure.

Inspired by the Toyota Total Quality System (TQM) in automotive manufacturing,

Women hand writing element of TQM concept.for business concept and use in manufacturing

Sutherland gradually came to define an alternative way of managing software development projects, which he called “Scrum” and which has become globally recognized as one of the most effective way of developing software projects.

How does Scrum work?

To simplify, rather than trying to implement the inefficient “Waterfall method”, whenever you start a project, you regularly check in with your team members, see if what you’re doing is going in the right direction and if it’s actually what people want. And at the same time check if there are ways to improve how you are doing what you are doing and if there are any ways of doing it better and faster and what obstacles may be getting in your way. Simple really!

This dynamic process follows a few simple steps:

  • Build an initial plan and rough cost estimate good enough to start;Concept of Scrum Development Life cycle and Agile Methodology, Each change go through different phases and Release
  • Gather a small, competent and empowered and cross-functional team to execute;
  • Prioritize the work around the initial tasks that will deliver some value very quickly for the customer and use demos to show to all at the end of each work cycle;
  • Organize the teamwork around short work cycles of 2 to 4 weeks called Sprints;
  • At the end of the Sprint, check what has been done, what remains to be done, what was done well, what can be improved and move on to the next cycle.

 

But what has Scrum and Software Development to do with the success of our 5000/1 Leicester City sporting underdogs?

 

For Scrum to work, it involves not only a whole new way of working but more importantly, a whole new mindset to managing projects and teams.

As Jeff Sutherland says, Scrum is a simple idea but executing it requires thought, introspection, honesty and discipline and Leicester City certainly showed all of these qualities throughout the season.

But when we look closer at some of the Success Factors behind Scrum which help teams go from Good to Great, I would highlight at least 7 key success factors I suspect helped Leicester City transform themselves from Good to Great.

 

1. Great teams have a goal but build the road as they go!

Scrum teaches us that while it is important to have a clear idea of the final objective, great teams build the road as they go and it is better to refine the plan throughout the project rather than do it all up front. You can never plan everything up front. The real world doesn’t work like that. People don’t work like that.

Plan in just enough detail to deliver the next increment in value and estimate the rest of the project in large chunks. This of course means having confidence in the team to work closely together as they go so that the plan is constantly adapted to the changing environment and customer needs.

Key takeaway: Promote an agile organization that doesn’t over obsess with Gantt charts and exhaustive planning and accepts that what seems like a bad decision now is better than a decision delayed taken too late. Progress slowly towards the goal, Sprint after Sprint, match after match!

 

2. Great teams plan and prioritize…just enough!

If Jeff Sutherland reminds us of the trap of trying to plan exhaustively everything that has to be done before acting, he never suggests that we should work in an ad hoc way.

If you want to go fast, you nevertheless need to plan sufficiently to ensure you attack the key challenges that really add value for the customer.

For any software development program, as Jeff Sutherland points out, 80% of the value is delivered by 20% of the functionalities. So Scrum insists on defining that 20% of essential work that needs to be done, prioritizing that work in terms of value for the customer and then attacking those tasks delivering highest value first in the Scrum work cycle called a Sprint, usually of a duration of 2 to 4 weeks.

Sutherland reminds us of some simple quality tools that are very useful for planning and Demingkreisnotably, the Plan, Do, Check, Act (PDCA) cycle created by Prof. W. Edwards Deming and
adopted by Toyota. This simple tool helps to plan and prioritize work from Sprint to Sprint so that you define what you want to do, you do it, you check what you have done, and you correct what you did not do or did wrong.

A simple but effective way of escaping the ad hoc, day-to-day execution of tasks!

Great teams plan simply and prioritize so that they deliver 80% of the results by doing the key 20% tasks first from cycle to cycle.

Key Takeaway: Train all employees in all functions to use continuous improvement tools such as PDCA and Pareto. It will help teams plan, do, check and act on the key 20% of tasks adding 80% of value. Above all, you will drive improvements everywhere.

 

3. Great teams focus on Systems! Hire Eagles and teach them to fly in formation!

All companies want to recruit the best person for any job but as Jeff Sutherland points out, modern business has perhaps become too focused on finding “A” players and star individuals when the real exponential value is generated through building effective systems which allow great teams to flourish.

Scrum teaches us to focus above all on the System and not the person because an efficient system will always deliver exponentially more value. It is really a case of 1+1 = 3n rather than 1+1 =2. As Aristotle said more than 2000 years ago:

whole is more print

And Leicester City surely demonstrated this more than 2000 years later by putting the system first!

Key takeaway: Great teams focus on effective systems. Seek to develop and optimize high performance systems that allow great teams to flourish! Hire Eagles and teach them to fly in formation!

 

4. Great teams promote a no-blame culture!

If improving the system can deliver much more than blaming any one individual, it is important to understand this and promote a no-blame culture that encourages everyone to participate in perfecting the system.

As an example of why this is important, Jeff relates the case of General Motor’s NUMMI automotive plant in Fremont, California that was closed 1982 by GM who considered the workforce the worst in America.

When Toyota wanted to reopen the plant in 1984 with GM in a JV, GM recommended hiring the management but not the workforce!

Toyota did the exact opposite and rehired the workforce but not the management!

Very soon, NUMMI was producing cars with the same precision and as few defects as those made in Japan. As Sutherland says, same people, different system, different management methods, different outcomes!

NUMMI

This is what I like to think happened at Leicester City. They focused on the system just as Toyota did at NUMMI, forgot about the poor results of previous years and set about building a system that would eventually deliver outstanding success.

Key takeaway: rather than blame individuals, always promote a no-blame culture. Team members will be more ready to cooperate, participate proactively and contribute to improving the system. Blame the people and you sap the team spirit and morale, you tackle the wrong problem and you allow a failing system to continue. It’s as simple as that.

 

5. Great Teams build Trust

Trust is the glue that holds great teams together.

Diagram of trust

If you have a goal and you work to that goal and fight to continuously improve so that you can accelerate and deliver more, this means focusing on how to improve the process as you go.

This means team members must take responsibility for their own share of the work and how to improve it and they will only do so if they trust their team. Team members have to be able to give honest and straight feedback to one another that helps every one to improve and this will only happen in a climate of trust. If there is no trust, team members may adopt all sorts of deviant behavior such as hoarding information, ignoring errors, silo mentality, blaming others, all the behaviors that inevitably inhibit greatness.

 

6. Great teams share Purpose, Autonomy & Skills

To achieve team greatness, as Jeff Sutherland points out, all teams must have 3 key characteristics:

  • A higher sense of purpose which unites and motivates them to overcome difficulties and achieve success together
  • A sense of empowerment to take the decisions they need to take at their level to move fast. The more a team has to defer to an external authority to get things done, the less chance they have of success.
  • Finally, each team should have all the skills it needs within the team to deliver the expected results. The more a team has to defer to an external resource to get something done, the less likely it will succeed.

Key takeaway: Instill in the workforce a sense of higher purpose; Build a system that empowers them to act effectively towards that purpose and constantly track and provide the skills needed by that team to become Great.

 

7. Great teams seek to improve continuously!

At the heart of Scrum and the Toyota Total Quality System is a constant quest for continuous improvement.CONTINUOUS IMPROVEMENT Vector Sketch Notes

Scrum encourages teams not only to ask what they have done but how they can improve on what they have done so that in the next work cycle or Sprint, they can go even faster.

Continuously improving the process accelerates the productivity from Sprint to Sprint so teams can work smarter without having to work harder!

 

 

Indeed, at the end of each Sprint, team members perform a ”Sprint Retrospective” where they look at:

  • What was done during the Sprint?
  • What went right?
  • What could have gone better?
  • What can be improved during the next Sprint?

These simple questions can be asked everywhere throughout any organization for any project or task.

This continuous improvement mindset must of course be shared by the whole organization, from top to bottom and not only those on any given project. If senior managers don’t believe this, employees lower down won’t either.

As everyone in the organization must not only “talk the talk” but “walk the talk”, this involves the company culture and values and everyone needs to understand and buy into this continuous improvement culture and values.

All employees can be educated to understand and adopt this mindset in many ways: from on boarding, to the annual objective setting process, to rewards and recognition, to work methods and processes, to internal communications, to training and development, to Succession Planning, even to the internal Annual Survey and the types of questions you ask, how you ask them and how you act on employee feedback.

And every function should have its own continuous improvement goals and agenda.

Key takeaway: Actively seek to promote a continuous improvement culture throughout the organization and train and educate employees at all levels to adopt a continuous improvement mindset that seeks not only to “do” but also to improve “how” to do.

 

To conclude, these 7 key success factors contribute to building Great teams:

  1. Have a goal but build the road as you go
  2. Plan and prioritize…just enough
  3. Focus on effective systems. Hire eagles and teach them to fly in formation!
  4. Build a no blame culture
  5. Promote Trust
  6. Develop Purpose, Autonomy and Skills
  7. Seek to improve continuously

 

Great teams of course do much more than this but you will have to read Scrum: The Art of doing Twice the Work in Half the Time to discover more “Success factors” on how to help teams go from Good to truly Great.

 

And well done to Leicester City who, like real champions, show us how the “Whole is so much greater than the sum of the parts” and that good players can become a Great Team when some Scrum success factors are added into the mix in a disciplined and honest way!

 

What do you think?

 

PS: I’m a Munster fan myself. That’s Rugby Scrum and not Soccer Scrum…but that’s another story!!!

 

Autonomy, Mastery and Purpose: the 3 pillars of higher performance (or why companies need to rethink the classical carrot and stick approach if they want to engage employees)

July 14, 2010

The carrot and stick approach is a tried and trusted classical way of rewarding performance in business organizations. Paying someone more for reaching specific objectives is generally considered as a simple way of driving the behaviours an organization needs to get the results it requires to satisfy customers and share holders. Money is considered to be the key driver of employee motivation and most organizations have some form of carrot and stick policy whereby they reward good performers and ignore poor performers (or worse). This carrot and stick approach is indeed so classical that most organizations take it as self-evident and as “the only way” to recognize performance and motivate employees.

But what if this very simple and fairly universal way of driving performance is not as effective as it is generally thought to be? Not only that, what if the good old “carrot and stick” approach not only doesn’t deliver the good performance it is supposed to but delivers poor performance, the very opposite?

This is what Dan Pink asserts in a very thought-provoking presentation on the subject of Employee motivation and what drives good behaviour.

For Dan Pink, the basic and supposedly “self-evident” notion that you inevitably get the “behaviors you reward” needs to be challenged. He draws upon different studies made by experts at MIT on the link between monetary reward and increased performance which seem to demonstrate that increased monetary reward, rather than driving higer performance, produces poorer performance. Briefly stated, MIT performed a series of tests with students where they rewarded the participants according to their performance in a series of academic and cognitive tests. The best performers were to receive most financial reward, the worst performers would receive nothing. Surprisingly, these tests reveal two startling results:

1) As long as the test involves purely mechanical skills, the higher the reward, the better the performance. In other words, the “carrot and stick” approach seems to work perfectly for mechanical, unimaginative tasks.

2) However, once the task calls for more than rudimentary cognitive skills, surprisingly, a larger financial reward led to poorer performance. The more the task requires conceptual and creative thinking, the less financial reward seems to drive performance.

This does not mean to say that money is not a motivator. However, money, as Maslow and Hertzberg amongst many other thinkers on human motivation have pointed out, helps rather to reduce the impact of  “dissatisfaction” rather than increasing causes of satisfaction.

Paying someone more is simply a way of getting money off the table as an issue and removing it as a distraction. However, paying someone more won’t get you better performance.

So if money in organisational terms doesn’t make the world go round, what does?

Pink points to 3 key factors leading to better performance:

1) Autonomy: back in the 80’s, Peter Drucker already pointed out that you can’t manage people the way they were managed in previous decades. The more educated the worker, the more he/she is driven by a desire to be self-directed. The old “command and control” management mindset cannot work with today’s generation of highly educated, internet focused, highly mobile, generation Y workforce. Today’s workforce needs to feel in command of its destiny and self-direction is key. Management is great if you want compliance but not so great if you want engagement and today, all organizations know that it’s no longer enough to enforce compliance to get good performance.

The key to performance today is employee engagement. Organizations need employees to engage and go the extra mile and you can’t force employees to engage and give discretionary effort. The less self-directed an employee is in his  job, the less motivated he will be and the size of the carrot won’t change this. So for Dan Pink, the first challenge facing all organizations seeking to drive higher performance is to drive autonomy down into the organizations so that employees can direct their own activity aligned to the organizations goals. People will no longer accept being told what to do. They can accept being told what goals need to be reached but they won’t accept being told how to achieve those goals. Empowerment is therefore critical to driving higher performance. Give people more autonomy, empower them to act and you increase the chances of them  delivering more.

Pink gives a very concrete example of how a company can seek to empower its workforce to be more productive through greater creativity and innovation. He mentions an Autralian software company, Atlassian, which seeks to encourage the creativity and innovation of its employees, not through an “innovation bonus” but by allowing their software engineers once every quarter to work on what they want for a whole day. There is only one precondition: the software engineers then have to produce the results to the company in special workshops. Just one way management can get out of the way (if only for a day) and allow emplyees the autonomy to do what they want to do aligned to corporate objectives.

2) Mastery: a second factor driving performance is mastery. The more we feel we master an area of expertise, the more satisfied we are. This is why people take up different hobbies and try to develop expertise in all sorts of exotic areas. We all like to progress and grow and become better at something. More money won’t give us a feeling of mastery if our role is more restricted, more specialised and if we feel we are not growing as individuals and learning more. So individuals will be motivated by tasks which help them acquire more mastery of their area of expertise and money won’t replace satisfaction felt when one has more mastery of a subject.

3) Purpose: finally, more and more organizations realize that we as individuals are not only profit maximizers but “purpose-maximizers”. We all need a purpose gretaer than ouselves to get us up in the morning and get us to engage fully in any activity. Sportsmen will give their all for their country during the world cup and the winners are not always the highest paid. Some people will give up everthing to dedicate their lives to helping the poor and the destitute. Why? Because a fundamental aspect of all employee motivation is transcendance and having a purpose which is greater than ourselves. More and more organizations are coming to realize this. This is why so many organizations spend so much time and effort  formulating mission statements with elaborate declarations of purpose in the hope of engaging emplyees to adhere to a common purpose. As Pink points out, more and more organizations realize thaty if you fail to link your profit motive to a “purpose”, you not only fail to deliver good performance but you drive bad performance and the result is poor products, poor customer service, poor working conditions, higher accident rates, etc. Many examples abound of corporations who lost the link between their profit motive and their purpose motive to dramatic effect (Enron, Maddoff, etc.).

So money can buy you a lot of things but it can’t always buy you higher performance because to get higher performance, you need to build an organization which gives employees more autonomy, allows them to develop their skills and mastery of their chosen areas and allows them to feel that their efforts and commitment feeds into a greater purpose.

So how does your organization seek to empower your employees? How does it seek to develop their “on the job” mastery? How does it link its financial purpose to a greater, more socially responsible purpose? How is your company moving away from the classical “carrot-and-stick approach” to capture the creativity and conceptual talents of your workforce?

Many thanks for your ideas.

Listen to Dan Pink by clicking on the following link:

Drive: the unsurprising truth about what motivates us

To get the extra mile from your employees, be ready to go the extra mile!

July 5, 2009

To survive the downturn, many companies have taken the obvious route: downsize, outsource, cut costs, etc. and despite all these actions are still facing huge challenges to survive. And yet what if they spent more time addressing the most obvious source of higher performance: improving their employee engagement?

A recent global study by Towers Perrin of employee engagement showed that only 20% of employees declared themselves to be fully engaged, i.e. they are willing to go the extra mile to help their company succeed. What does it mean to go the extra mile? Quite simply, stay a little later in the office to finish that report, arrive a little bit earlier to make that call, persist in making that connection with a potential customer despite obstacles, etc.

If only 20% of employees are fully engaged, the Towers Perrin report showed that 40% were merely enrolled, i.e. ready to do their job but not ready to put in discretionary effort and go that extra mile for their employer. A further 30% were disenchanted with their current job i.e. thinking of going elsewhere and a final 10% were totally disengaged.

Obviously, no company can be satisfied with an engagement level of 20% and moving that figure to 30% and above would bring obvious gains. So how should a company go about driving employee engagement?

Engagement depends on how employees connect with their organization at three key levels:

– at a rational level: how well employees understand their roles and responsibilities
– at an emotional level: how much passion they bring to their job
– at a motivational level: how well perform their jobs

Towers Perrin identify 10 key drivers which build connections with employees on these three levels, thereby reinforcing engagement:

1) Senior management demonstrate a sincere interest in employee well-being
2) Employees believe their organization offers them an opportunity to develop their skills and capabilities
3) The organization has a reputation for social responsibility
4) Employees feel they can contribute to decision making
5) The organization demonstrates an ability to solve customer concerns
6) Senior management set high personal standards
7) The organization offers excellent career advancement opportunities
8) Employees benefit from challenging work assignments
9) Employees enjoy god relationships with their managers
10) The organization encourages innovative thinking

What can companies do to work on these drivers of employee engagement.

Towers Perrin identify 5 key areas leaders can work to develop employee engagement:

1) Know your employees. Leaders need to know their employees : who they are, what their background is, what their personal objectives and goals are. Many managers working with the same people over time will often claim they know their employees but they must never take anything for granted and constantly work their relationship with their team members through the different processes (annual appraisal, mid-year review, talent management review, etc.)
2) Grow your employees: Leaders need to develop their employees skills and competencies through training and development, job stretching, enlarged roles and responsiblities, etc. so that employees feel they are able to meet the challenges in a constantly evolving workplace
3) Inspire your employees: employees will only go the extra mile for leaders who inspire them. This means that leaders have to be exemplary, walk the talk and constantly engage with their team members by setting a clear direction, explaining constantly why the chosen direction is the best one and supporting employees to embark the chosen course with confidence.
4) Involve employees: Employees will feel more engaged if they feel they can contribute to the decision making process and their opinion counts. Effective leaders need to empower employees so that they feel they are not merely performing tasks but able to contribute added value by giving their input into decision making.
5) Reward employees: Employees will be more engaged if they perceive the reward and recognition process as a fair and equitable one and that their perception of their performance matches that of their leaders. This means that the reward and recognition process has to be robust and evaluation of performance factual and objective and not based on subjective personalized assessments. This of course means optimizing the reward and recognition process and working with leaders to ensure the inputs into the process are as factual and objective as possible.

To conclude, to get that extra mile from more employees, organizations need to understand that this can only happen if they encourage leaders to go the extra mile and lead as “engaged and engaging leaders”.

Know your people, Grow your people, Inspire your people, Involve your people and Reward your people are the 5 key actions of an “engaging and engaged” leader. Having engaged leaders may not promise you engaged employees but without engaged leaders, you have little chance of getting an engaged work force.

However, you get the behaviours you reward and if organizations don’t reward the leaders who dedicate time and effort to these 5 key areas, we know that leaders won’t invest in developing employee engagement. Which is why it is so important for organizations to put employee engagement at the centre of their human capital strategy and insist that leaders set at least one employee engagement objective in their key objectives. Otherwise, short-term operational goals will take precedence and the vicious circle will continue.

To get the extra mile from your employees, be ready to go the extra mile as an organization!

Visit the Towers Perrin website to learn more.

engagement gap

Management Vade Mecum: 10 simple principles

March 8, 2009

10 SIMPLE MANAGEMENT PRINCIPLES

1. Lead by example : don’t ask others to adopt behaviors you don’t adopt yourself.
2. Set SMART objectives :
• Simple
• Measurable
• Attainable and ambitious
• Realistic
• Time-based
3. Delegate in an appropriate way but check nevertheless
• You delegate responsibility not a task. If you delegate, you remain responsible to the organization.
4. Keep it simple: communicate clearly and simply
5. Know your people : adapt your leadership style to the profiles of your team members. Adopt a suitable style according to the profile
• Adopt a directing style for inexperienced employees
• Adopt a persuading style for employees with some experience
• Adopt a participating for experienced employees
• Adopt a delegating style for experienced employees you want to develop in terms of responsibilities
6. Respect all your team members
7. Reward and recognize equitably based on results
8. Coach, support and develop your team members to reach their objectives
9. Seek to improve yourself and your team continuously
10. Anticipate: manage events or they will manage you

10 PRINCIPES SIMPLES DE MANAGEMENT

1. Donner l’exemple. Ne demandez pas aux autres de ce que vous n’êtes pas prêt à faire vous même
2. Définissez des objectifs SMART
• Simples
• Mesurables
• Atteignables
• Réalistes
• Temporalisés
3. Déléguer d’une manière appropriée mais vérifiez
• On délègue une responsabilité et non une tâche. Si vous déléguez une responsabilité, vous restez néanmoins responsable face à l’organisation.
4. Restez simple
5. Connaissez vos collaborateurs. Adoptez votre style selon le profil de votre collaborateur. Adoptez un style de management approprié :
• Style directif pour les collaborateurs peu expérimentés
• Style persuasif pour les collaborateurs qui ont une certaine expérience
• Style participatif pour les collaborateurs avec une bonne expérience
• Style délégatif pour les collaborateurs ayant une solide expérience et que vous voulez développer sur le plan des responsabilités.
6. Respectez vos collaborateurs
7. Récompensez et reconnaissez vos collaborateurs d’une manière équitable
8. Coachez, supportez et développez vos collaborateurs pour les aider à atteindre leurs objectifs
9. Cherchez constamment à vous améliorer et à améliorer votre équipe
10. Anticipez les événements , sinon vous allez subir.


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