Creating highly proficient teams is a challenge for most leaders who recognize that unless synchronicity among work groups is systematically established in the organization, performance and results suffer.
I’ve looked at teamwork from a number of angles in past blog articles and suggested a number of ways to improve the effectiveness of people working in solidarity towards a single purpose.
These are a few sound bites:
Strategy — ensure everyone understands the strategic game plan of the organization for without shared understanding of where the organization wants to go, harmonious activity with needed results simply don’t happen.
Line of sight — establish a direct line of sight between the strategy and every function in the organization; if every person doesn’t act in accordance with the specific outcomes expected of them dysfunction results as divergent outcomes throughout the organization are produced.
Translation — leadership must take on a translator role to break the organization’s objectives down for everyone; if individuals are left to figure out what the strategic intent means to them, more erratic behaviour occurs and inconsistent performance results.
Cross-functional measures — since systems and processes across the organization among departments typically produce results (as opposed to a ‘vertical’ process operating in a single function producing the final good or service the customer receives), metrics must be introduced that measure the effectiveness of cross functional activities.
Handoff improvement — internal customer-supplier relationships must be improved to eliminate inefficient and mistake-ridden handoffs, because eventually these fumbles damage ‘real’ external customer dissatisfaction with waning market performance.
If you can make internal handoffs seamless on ‘the inside’, amazing service is delivered on ‘the outside’.
I would like to pivot off the last point because I believe there are substantial improvements to teamwork that stem from the fact that inside an organization, people—internal suppliers—deliver results for other people—internal customers and if somehow those connections could be made more seamless and effective, overall teamwork and performance would follow suit.
Organizations rarely set up a system to measure ‘internal quality’; the value of what internal suppliers deliver to their internal customers.
For example, sales expects marketing to develop a training program for a new product but marketing is not held accountable for the result they deliver.
- Was the training program delivered when it was promised?
- Did it cover all the elements that sales expected?
- Did it provide a unique value proposition that sales could use in competitive selling encounters?
- Did it include selling aids the salesperson can use in front of the customer?
The few organizations that do systematically measure internal customer-supplier transactions, rely on internally generated statistics; data on such topics as:
- delivery times.
- % defects.
- amount of rework required to remediate defects.
This type of internal quality measurement system is a good first step but it needs to go further if the desired outcome is high performing teams that consistently deliver expected results.
The measurement system needs to be expanded to include perception measures, how the internal customer ‘feels’ about the service provided by the internal supplier.
- How does sales feel about the quality of the training program marketing delivered to them?
- Did it meet their expectations?
- Did it fall below what they expected?
- Did it go beyond what they expected?
These are subjective qualitative measures, but they are so important in helping improve team performance because if someone feels the service they were delivered is below what they expected, it’s their reality.
In a way, it really doesn’t matter if the internal stats say that there were a mere 2% defects (and it’s somehow ok to screw up 2% of the time) if the internal customer feels the service they were delivered doesn’t measure up to what they expected.
Perception is the reality. It really doesn’t matter what the data says.
Internal Report Card
The simple way of getting perception measurement going is to introduce the ‘Internal Report Card’, where an internal customer gives their internal supplier a report card rating on the service they provided.
Here’s how to do it.
1. The internal supplier asks each of their internal customers what handful of service elements—no more than 6—are critically important to them.
2. The internal service elements are discussed and mutually agreed upon between customer and supplier.
The sales Report Card on marketing, for example, could have these internal service elements:
- New products are introduced in a timely manner to keep sales competitive.
- Product prices are acceptable to our customers.
- Marketing staff are responsive to our concerns. They connect with us regularly and act on the help we need from them.
- Product training programs are valuable and help us stand out among our competitors.
- Advertising and customer communications programs give us the ‘air cover’ support we need in the marketplace to give us a competitive advantage.
- We have sufficient input to product sales forecasts produced by marketing.
3. Every month or at some other agreed-upon interval, marketing asks sales to complete the report card using the classic ‘A’ for amazing service; ‘B’ for good service; ‘C’ for average service and ‘D’ for below average service.
In the report card, sufficient room should be provided for comments on why a particular rating has been given. This is extremely important as it points the service supplier in the right direction to improve.
4. Sales posts their report card results for the marketing team and develops an improvement plan to deal with problem areas. This normally follows a ‘whining and snivelling’ period for marketers to go to their cave and get over the results those unreasonable sales people gave them!
5. Marketing meets with sales to discuss their improvement plan and gets their sign-off that their intended action plan will address the shortfalls sales identified and will continue to build on the marketing strengths that were identified.
6. Sales share the results with their teams and openly support the efforts taken by marketing to improve teamwork.
Reverse Internal Report Card
So what does sales do if marketing doesn’t initiate the report card process? Let’s face it, marketing may not want or care to know how sales feels about the service they provide to them.
This is where the Reverse Report Card comes into play. If marketing won’t ask for input, sales can give it to them regardless.
Consider it an unsolicited sales report on how well marketing supports the sales effort.
If your internal supplier doesn’t care to initiate the report card process with you, do it to them.
This is achieved by sales architecting their own report card and sending it to their marketing colleagues. And hopefully (after the shock wears off) it will encourage marketing to take the initiative to begin the formal process by asking for details behind the Report Card, what the results mean and what they need to do differently to improve sales’ perception of marketing support.
The simplest ideas are often the most effective. As kids our Moms encouraged us to reach for A’s as a measure of our learning competence; let’s now use this tool to build height effective teams in our organizations.
If you’re interested in establishing a Report Card process among your teams, connect with me. I would be pleased to help in any way I can.
Related: Why Being Different Is Key to Career and Business Success