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Force Multipliers for High Performing Teams

By John “Hatch” Borneman

In today’s rapidly changing business environment “good” teamwork is not good enough. To truly achieve extraordinary results your team needs to turn the on the afterburner and employ some force multipliers. In this article, we want to show you four critical force multipliers can take your high performance team and make it “flawless”.

Force Multiplier 1: Conduct More Effective Meetings: “We have too many meetings!” is the battle cry of the knowledgeable worker. Intuitively many managers have sought to reduce the number of meetings in order to improve the efficiency, but in many cases this will not fix the problem. The problem in most companies is not too many meetings - it’s that their meetings are irrelevant. In many cases the reason for the meeting is unclear, or there are no rules of conduct for the meeting — leading to confusion and frustration for the people involved. We’ve witnessed many well-intentioned teams, meeting for all the right reasons, only to be derailed by a lack of basic structure or discipline. Here are some practical tips that will dramatically improve the effectiveness of your meetings.

  • Determine when your team must meet in order to allow subordinate groups or individuals the time they will need to plan and brief prior to executing actions that achieve desired outcomes.

  • Determine the desired effect of your meeting. What are three things you want to see as a result of having a meeting?

  • Create a standing agenda that is flexible enough to accommodate your group but keeps them focused on the elements they deem critical to successful decision-making and execution. Group members should submit input to the agenda on a pre-established schedule that allows for the agenda to be finalized and sent to participants in advance of the meeting.

  • Meeting participants must do any required pre-work.

  • Establish Rules Of Engagement (ROE) and enforce them. Here are some examples of meeting ROE:

    1) Only one person speaks at a time.

    2) No sidebar conversations.

    3) Allow participants to finish their thought before responding.

  • No email / cell / Blackberry interruptions.

  • Consider carefully the impact of your decisions and how to best communicate decisions to subordinate organizations.

  • Complete a Commitment Sheet at the end of the meeting and email it to the participants after the meeting. This consists of the minutes from the meeting, decisions made and assignment of accountability for action. Most teams struggle with decision-making in meetings. Filling out a Commitment Sheet can dramatically improve how a team addresses issues and makes decisions. It also ensures accountability and records all of the issues brought to the table in a simple format. A good Commitment Sheet should include the decisions discussed, what actions we will take, further research we will make, deferred decisions and contingency plans discussed. See the example below:

Force Multiplier 2: Build a Relevant Team Scorecard: A relevant scorecard is essential to a high performance team, but numbers for their own sake won’t make your meeting effective. Too many teams measure the wrong things — which can kill a team’s performance. The saying goes..."ask the wrong questions, get the wrong answers”. It’s best to focus on a few sets of metrics that are the most relevant to supporting the team in their decision-making and execution responsibilities. Ad hoc reports can supplement these numbers when your team wants deeper analysis on a particular issue. Remember to keep the appropriate level of detail. Too little detail and the numbers are worthless. Too much detail and people don’t read or understand them. Let the team validate the format of your scorecard. Recognize that your initial scorecard will NOT be perfect and will need constant testing and revision until it seems right. Finally, make sure that what you choose to measure supports the broader operational goals.

Force Multiplier 3: Commit to a Set of “Living” Standards: Most companies have standard operating procedures (SOPs) — on the shelf in some cubical. Most SOPs are outdated the day they are written. This is a tragedy. Your SOPs can be the glue that enables standardized execution, but they have to be a central part of your team’s execution process. They have to be frequently updated, and they have to be referenced and upheld again and again by leaders of the team. In a flawlessly executing team, standards allow you to handle routine operations flawlessly and with greater speed. Standards are critical to gaining Lessons Learned from Debriefing. They can help you understand whether failure to adhere to the standards caused the failure or, conversely, whether your team’s success resulted from NOT following the standards. In this case you would need to adjust your SOPs to the next best practice. When you Debrief a situation and identify a Lesson Learned, many of these can be added to your SOPs so this knowledge is not lost tomorrow, next week or next month.

Force Multiplier 4: Establish Disciplined Communication Rules: Undisciplined communication can sap the effectiveness of any group. We’re not talking about the interpersonal chat that goes on in an organization. We are talking about how team members send and receive information to one another that supports the execution — the voice mails, emails, ad hoc meetings and memos. Teams with good Battle Rhythm take these daily communications seriously enough to create detailed standards for them. Here are a few examples:

  • Communication should be face to face first, voice second, and email / text message last.

  • Never leave a voice mail longer than 15 seconds.

  • Always include a routing code in the subject of your emails so that it can be automatically handled by each team member’s Outlook software.

  • Never reply more than once to an email. Start a new email so the recipient does not have to read a long string of messages to figure out what you are talking about.

  • Never handle a conflict with an email — only in person, or over the phone if meeting in person is not possible.

There are plenty of “good” teams out there, but it takes far more discipline and commitment than most leaders want to give to become “flawless”. If you have what it takes to lead the process, the payoffs can be fantastic.

Read other articles and learn more about John ‘Hatch’ Borneman.

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