We are constantly looking for ways to improve team performance so it would be inaccurate and unfair to suggest that you hadn’t already tried. But the ongoing fact remains is that they need to continue to lift. The question is how do you come up with different ways to lift performance AND develop a culture of continuous improvement. I.e. how do you make this sustainable instead of periods of effort that deliver a period of success until they are overcome with work or ‘the next big thing’ comes along.
I work a lot with people on ‘Crunch Time: how to deliver to deadline without killing yourself in the process’ and it’s interesting the different ways people interpret the topic. The difference is which word(s) people choose to emphasise in the topic heading, and it can range from ‘time management’ to ‘it’s Crunch Time’ to ‘I’m sick of killing myself at work’. Regardless of which way you choose to interpret it, two of the common challenges they face are time and people. So naturally when I came across the article ‘What to do if your team is too busy to take on new work’ in the Harvard Business Review, I had to read it.
It’s a great article - practical and straight to the point, just how we like it because we’re crunched for time. After briefly engaging us in the common situation faced during budget-setting period, ‘I need more resources’ and ‘Sorry, you need to do less with more’, the author suggests leaders understand where their teams are spending their time and proposes 3 solutions. Here is a snapshot:
Eliminate work: often teams continue performing tasks and processes well beyond their use-by date because leaders have overlooked the fact that they need to be explicit in telling them to stop that particular piece of work. In short, get rid of the low-value internal stuff.
Reduce work: outdated processes designed for old products or systems often hang around for way longer than they need to be, resulting in cumbersome and redundant steps and approval processes. Review these, and simplify where possible.
Improve productivity: identify groups of tasks that can be automated or otherwise systematised - this gives you great bang for buck and can shave a huge amount of time.
The author touches on it gently, but I think the underlying issue or concept that needs addressing is that of ‘value’. How do you instill a value driven culture into your team? Because yes, if the leader goes through the above steps prescribed in the article they will find time that they could more effectively deploy elsewhere.
But...imagine if you could scale that?
If you have a value driven culture - one in which every single person in your team (not just the leader) - is focused on value, imagine how you might dramatically (not incrementally) improve the processes and the quality of work in the process. Imagine if they all asked the following question: what is the value derived from this activity, task or deadline? Imagine if they challenged default performance and ways of working. It would very quickly pay back in time.
You see, time is never the issue. It’s always the people.
PS - don’t forget you can listen to this instead! Click here.
About Alena: Alena works with leaders and their teams to connect technical and leadership skills so they can deliver to deadline without killing their people. She is a mentor, trainer, facilitator and coach. Contact her today on firstname.lastname@example.org