9 proven Strategies for Supercharging Your Team’s Performance

High performance teams (HPTs) is a term that’s used in organizational development to describe teams that are dialed-in and achieve extraordinary achievements. There are no secrets; high performing teams output high quality products. I like to compare a high performance team to a championship winning sports team. They both should posses the capability to take on all challengers and reign supreme.

What are some of the characteristics for high-powered teams? How can companies assemble teams to perform at peak performance? In this article I cover 9 strategies for turbo-charging the performance of your teams.

Crystal Clear Goals

A study published by Management Information Systems Research Center concluded that that “given specific software project goals, managers do make planning and resource allocation choices in such a way that will meet those goals.” [1] Vague goals will most likely lead to poor results.

For example, if John Doe had the goal of becoming a better programmer then that’s a goal that I would lump into the vague category. There are literally hundreds of programming languages available so what exactly is he looking to accomplish? A more specific goal would be to acquire the skillets to get employed as a Java J2EE Application Developer in twelve months.

Talent Management

According to the white paper published by the Project Management Institute (PMI), “organizations in which talent management is aligned to organizational strategy have an average project success rate of 72 percent, versus 58 percent at those organizations with poor alignment, according to PMI’s Pulse of the Profession TM In-Depth Report: Talent Management.” [2]

Championship winning teams tend to have players with playmaking ability. Therefore, it’s critical for companies to have a talent management strategy in place so that they will have a continual pipeline of qualified candidates.

Self-managing teams in moderation

The popular Scrum framework is a proponent of “self-organizing” teams. The Daily Scrum for example is a recurring event in which the developers take turns answering the questions: what you did yesterday, what you will do today, and are there any impediments blocking your advancement? However, autonomy does come with a premium.

According to the Academy of Management, a study was done on MBA teams and concluded that low-monitoring combined with high individual autonomy lead to a decreased in performance. [3] A team of software developers controlling the entire product development process and without any monitoring is called “Cowboy coding.”

Strong leadership

A survey published in Engineering Management Journal conducted a survey that was given to 151 project teams. The survey analyzed the project team leader behaviors, use of team building, and team member characteristics as predictors of project cost and schedule.

The results concluded that leader behaviors were strong predictors to project cost and schedule performance––team building or team member characteristics were not found to be strong predictors. [4] Leadership is a common theme that corporations tout, and a reason for that is that there are many studies to indicate the importance of this intangible feature on project success.

Open communication

An article published in the Harvard Business Review titled “The New Science of Building Great Teams” by A. Pentland showcased a study on 2500 individuals across a variety of projects. The study concluded that the most significant predictor in a team’s success was their communication patterns.

Pentland founded that communication patterns were a more significant predictor than intelligence, personality, and talent combined. The study concluded that successful teams share several defining characteristics.

Everyone on the team talks and listens in roughly an equal measure, members face one another and their gestures are energetic, members connect directly with one another, members carry side conversations within the team, and members periodically: break, go exploring outside the team, and bring information back. [5]

Team Conflict management

A study published in “Group & Organizational management” collected data longitudinally from 53 teams––the results indicated that conflict management has a direct, positive effect on team cohesion and moderates the relationship between relationship conflict and team cohesion as well as that between task conflict and team cohesion. [6]

There are studies that indicate that some conflict in a company is actually not a bad thing. Obviously, a team of colleagues can’t be locking horns periodically as this would be hmm, very dysfunctional. Therefore, a team should become equipped with the methods for managing conflict in order to create a healthy work environment.

Diversity

A paper published in the Academy of Management argued that diversity in the composition of organizational groups affects outcomes such as turnover and performance through its high impact on affective, cognitive, communication, and symbolic processes. [7]

Assembling a team with individuals from varied backgrounds could lead to innovation. People tend to draw from their own experiences, and if the group comes from a heterogeneous background then that’s more variety for the team.

Foster a Positive Work Culture

In the article “Proof That Positive Work Cultures Are More Productive” three arguments against high pressure hierarchical work environments were made.[8]

It stated that the stress with belonging to hierarchies is linked to disease and death, that there’s high disengagement, and that there’s a high chance for lack of loyalty. The article also made a reference to the Gallup poll which stated that employees preferred workplace wellbeing as opposed to material benefits.

Dedicated Practicing

It’s not uncommon to marvel at someone that has obtained an expert level proficiency in something. The Olympics is a good example of that. The world’s best athletes congregate every four years to display their physical prowess. Not all Olympians are born with exceptional talents.

Some had their skills developed and nurtured over a period of time. A study conducted by Dr. KA Ericsson of Florida State University concluded that it takes 10,000 hours of deliberate practice over a decade to become an expert in almost anything. [9]

Another study published in the Harvard Business Review titled “The Making of an Expert” analyzed the performance of individuals in a wide array of fields such as: surgery, acting, writing, computer programming, ballet, music, aviation, firefighting, and many others.

The results were that experts are always made, not born. The article stated, “journey to superior performance is neither for the faint of heart or impatient. It requires struggle, sacrifice, and honest, often painful self-assessment.” [9]

The 10,000 hour ritual was mentioned frequently in Malcolm Gladwell’s book “Outliers.” He stated that the key to obtaining world-class expertise in any skill is to a large extent, a matter of practicing the correct way for a total of around 10,000 hours. [10]

There are many theories about how long it takes to get good at something, and this number will surely vary from individual-to-individual. However, a common consensus is that hard work and dedication is needed. Teams must deliberating practice becoming a high performing, as high performing teams aren’t accidently discovered.


Sources:

[1] The Impact of Goals on Software Project Management: An Experimental Investigation. Terek K. Abdel-Hamid, Kishore Sengupta and Clint Swett. http://www.pmi.org/-/media/pmi/documents/public/pdf/white-papers/building-high-performing-project-talent.pdf.

[2] PMI’s Pulse of the Profession TM In-Depth Report: Talent Management: http://www.pmi.org/-/media/pmi/documents/public/pdf/white-papers/building-high-performing-project-talent.pdf.

[3] Too Much of a Good Thing? Negative Effects of High Trust and Individual Autonomy in Self-Managing Teams. Claus W. Langfred. http://amj.aom.org/content/47/3/385.short.

[4] Leadership, Team Building, and Team Member Characteristics in High Performance Project Teams. Anthony P. Ammeter & Janet M. Dukerich. http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/10429247.2002.11415178.

[5] The New Science of Building Great Teams. Alex “Sandy” Pentland. https://hbr.org/2012/04/the-new-science-of-building-great-teams.

[6] A Longitudinal Study of Team Conflict, Conflict Management, Cohesion, and Team Effectiveness. Amanuel G. Tekleab. http://gom.sagepub.com/content/34/2/170.short.

[7] Searching for Common Threads: Understanding the Multiple Effects of Diversity in Organizational Groups.Frances J. Milliken and Luis L. Martins. http://amr.aom.org/content/21/2/402.short.

[8] Proof That Positive Work Cultures Are More Productive. Emma Seppala, Kim Cameron. https://hbr.org/2015/12/proof-that-positive-work-cultures-are-more-productive.

[9] The Role of Deliberate Practice in the Acquisition of Expert Performance. K. Anders Ericsson, Ralf Th. Krampe, and Clemens Tesch-Romer. http://projects.ict.usc.edu/itw/gel/EricssonDeliberatePracticePR93.pdf.

[10] The Making of an Expert. K. Anders Ericsson, Michael J. Prietula, Edward T. Cokely.
https://hbr.org/2007/07/the-making-of-an-expert.

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