January 27, 2016
“True genius resides in the capacity for evaluation of uncertain, hazardous, and conflicting information.” - Winston Churchill
Where are we? Where should we be?
Evaluation is more than just a phase of planning methodology. It is critical to ensuring on-going team success.
The headlong rush by a team to deliver on targets or goals may entail lots of enthusiasm, passion and commitment. However, this energy, determination and action of team members—while suggesting great focus and progress—may well be serving to undermine team performance and relationships.
This “team mindlessness” is most likely a result of a lack of evaluation of:
- what is being done,
- why it is being done and
- how it is being done
...each becoming a casualty of simply ‘doing’.
How can we know where we are?
All team members should have the information and knowledge necessary to understand and accurately explain where the team currently is in terms of its plan. This necessitates understanding the overall team goals, the roles and responsibilities of the team members and the step-by-step sequence of tasks and activities that have been designed to ensure the effective achievement of the goals. The more effectively the team adopts relevant planning practices, the easier evaluation can be accomplished.
Focussing on action can deflect the team from reflection. This is ultimately to the detriment of the team’s overall goal. Teams therefore need to include evaluation sessions in their planning and be able to ask (and answer) questions such as:
- When do we take stock of where we are?
- Where should we be?
- What information do we need to help us accurately gauge progress and risks?
These practices are adopted unconsciously by some teams or team leaders to become an integral part of team review meetings or one-to-one conversations. They become a conscious dimension of working together.
Why are we doing this?
Evaluation is not just about reporting progress against the plan. Team evaluation can become overly focussed on the task and issues relating to the activity so it is also important to question why the team is doing something—which in turn leads to the questions:
- Are there better ways to achieve our goals?
- What have we learned so far?
- How are we working together as a team?
- How can we be better?
Teams can have superb plans but unless they allow time to question what they are doing or how they are collaborating as a team, then evaluation is incomplete.
Evaluate regularly. Evaluate your evaluation.
Teams need to have critical evaluation sessions on a regular basis. The regularity and frequency of such sessions will vary from team to team, but they should become part of the team’s plan. Teams with a relatively consistent membership over a long period of time in particular should take time out to evaluate and reconsider their raison d'être and question if any team activities have become fossilised and redundant but are still being adhered to e.g. the Monday morning meeting.
The purpose of the team does not have to have changed nor do all customary practices become obsolete with time. The goal is to consistently question what the team is doing and how it is doing it. In discussing and evaluating the answers it may realised—and verified—that all is well and no changes are needed for the present.
Team effectiveness evaluation
Team members should also reflect on and discuss how they are functioning together as a team and ask questions such as:
- Are there any issues negatively impacting on the team’s effectiveness?
- Have roles changed or do they need to change?
- Are there skills missing that need to be developed?
Issues impacting team members must be dealt with sooner rather than later. Otherwise they will fester and potentially prove harmful to relationships and goal achievement.
Excellent planning practices will significantly help teams in evaluating how they are progressing towards their goals. They will help teams become vibrant and proactive in the long-term delivery of goals as they question what they do and how they can do it even better.