By Joe Mayer
If you listen to and read business reviews, you know that every successful business credits its uccess to motivated and creative teams. Reading these, you may think that businesses just have
to increase the number of teams and all performance indicators will improve drastically.
If we analyze team performance, however, we
find that fewer than 10 percent of teams can truly
be considered “high performance,” and a whopping
40 percent are dysfunctional, destroying motivation and engagement. The remaining 50 percent
perform marginally, never producing more than
High-performing teams are critical, especially
if you want to reap the benefits of programs like
lean manufacturing, Six Sigma, and other forms of
continuous improvement. Therefore, it is crucial to
understand the current level of teamwork in your
company. How can you really measure this without
relying on subjective statements like “We work well
as a team”?
The best way is to look at the areas in which
high-performing teams excel. Such teams have a
healthy culture in which it’s safe to be vulnerable,
to open up and to contribute, and to build on ideas
and suggestions from others. These people encour-
age each other to create new possibilities and cre-
ative solutions that push the envelope. They hold
each other accountable for outcomes and behav-
iors during and outside meetings. They align their
thinking around the decisions already made, and
focus on results.
Most try to assess their teams by looking at lagging indicators, such as reaching milestones on
time or financial measures attached to the overall
goal for the team. By the time these measures are
available, though, teams have worked for a considerable time, and it’s too late to change the outcome
of their work.
Would it not be beneficial to diagnose a team’s
potential and performance in real time To that
end, these four strategies may help give you unbiased, immediate feedback.
1. Measure Interaction
Teams thrive when their members are courteous
to each other, take time to fully understand where
team members are coming from, and expand on
ideas from other team members to create new
strategies previously thought impossible. You can
measure those interactions by recording how many
positive or encouraging comments versus negative
or degrading comments are made during meetings.
Because negative emotions are much more powerful than positive ones, high-performing teams
consistently show ratios between 3-to-1 and 7-to-1
(positive to negative). Anything above 8-to-1 signals artificial harmony and avoidance of tackling
tough issues, while ratios below 1-to-1 are signs of
failing and dysfunctional teams.
2. Address Conflict
For many, conflict is scary and needs to be avoided
at all cost. This is true when we are talking about
negative or combative conflict in which team members are personally attacked, or if some members
have a win-at-all-costs, my-way-or-the-highway
attitude. But avoiding conflict entirely means you
may not be tackling the challenges that really need
to be addressed. High-performing teams thoroughly discuss these critical challenges and exchange
their experiences and ideas openly to find the best
possible solution. In most cases, this is a solution
no one thought of at the beginning of the meeting.
Record how many team members actively participate in the idea-generation and selection process.
High-performing teams strive for an equal participation of all team members, while dysfunctional
teams have just one or two people who dominate
3. Align Decisions
Critical decisions should be made only after all
team members have contributed to, aligned with,
and bought into the developed idea. Everyone
should be deeply knowledgeable about the important details and able to defend the decision based
Dysfunctional or “OK” teams agree to decisions
made by the most vocal person and show no commitment to follow through with the steps outlined
4. Create Accountability
Members of high-performing teams hold each
other to the same behavioral and performance
standards and enforce these standards without
the team leader’s help. Do team members show up
on time, and are they well-prepared for the team
meetings? Are disruptions, such as side conversations, checking e-mails, and playing with electronic
gadgets, kept to a minimum?
When team members don’t enforce standards
and rely on the leader to enforce rules, they’re really saying that they do not care enough for each
other, don’t understand that it is their responsibility to speak up, or fail to get engaged and put in the
Now the Hard Part
After assessing your teams’ performance level, the
hard part starts: determining and fixing the underlying causes for the challenges you discovered.
Depending on the area selected to start the im-
4 ways to measure
How a team functions can make or break a business