Monitoring team performance

Collaboration is an evolution-made miracle, at the pinnacle of which stands communication. Considering the diversity in many global teams working together in the business world, it’s astonishing that things actually get done. This complexity is why it’s so important to decide on what, how, when and even whom to measure when trying to assess team performance.

Monitoring team performance is a paradoxical practice as the process of monitoring itself can have either detrimental or positive effects on performance. On a scale between micromanagement and laissez-fair management, different teams may respond differently to the managerial monitoring and evaluating style, and as result of it, either flourish or fail. No one-size-fits-all here.

Are you monitoring or stalking?

The first rule to monitoring team performance is – to try and sense the degree to which the team and individuals within it can withstand scrutiny, without becoming over-stressed, paranoid and feel spied upon and mistrusted. To do this, try to focus on measuring activities will that help optimize team performance. Than try to figure out how long is the time frame that you can live with a decline in these activities and when such a decline indicates a behavioral pattern as opposed to an anomaly. This will of course vary, not only with the team’s personal and inter-personal characteristics, but also with the type of work done – call center personnel on a B2C company is likely to have different KPI’s and flexibilities than a marketing team in a B2B company.

But this is the easy part: monitoring the most distinctly quantifiable determinants, i.e. number of products manufactured, total sales on a specific month or quarter, meeting deadlines etc. means you are only monitoring end results. They are all related to final products of the teamwork, or of individuals working within that team. The tricky part is looking at the process, finding obstacles to improve performance, and pinpointing the unnecessary turns and curves that the process took.

When thinking of monitoring, also consider informing teams that they are monitored, but do so fairly and transparently. It is proven that team challenges drive better motivation (link) but you need to do so cautiously to avoid backlash.

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Measuring process determinants

Let’s turn than to the more elusive phenomena that occur within a group. These can be defined as behavioral or psychological factors, and have more to do with the road taken towards completion of goals than the actual goals themselves. Amongst others, they include the degree to which the team member facilitated the work of people around him. Is he someone team members can turn to when they need to consult, brainstorm etc.? Can this worker be a negative influence on co-workers in times of turmoil and change?

This kind of information does not easily present itself to an inquiring manager. There are however a few methods to get hints about what’s going on amid your team. It would be advisable to use a couple of them and make sure they reinforce the same conclusions regarding the same people or issues, because you are entering a less quantifiable realm:

  1. Real Time Monitoring set a procedure through which you get information on KPI’s in real time instead of at the end of a period. Setbacks in performance can indicate problems, which might enable you to expose deeper issues within the team or its members. If the KPIs you are measuring are self-reported, Don’t wait for annual or quarterly reviews by which time the data might already be stale and unactionable. Enable your employees to self-report progress all the time (e.g. via a daily, easy to complete task on an online tracking system). This way you can try to correct whatever went wrong along the way.
  2. Have workarounds – not only in quantum physics, but also in psychology, the spectator can change the system he’s observing. Therefore, observing work processes as a manager is only advisable if you can blend in and disappear. Since this is normally not the case – opt for second opinions on your workers and team’s performance from different stakeholders: clients, suppliers, co-workers in other teams etc. Try to make sure you get hard information and not stuff that’s hard to validate. Last, don’t jump to conclusions based on your observations, let employees provide feedback on monitored performance.
  3. Mashup finally, try to take in as much data as possible (hard-fact-KPI’s and other kinds), let it trickle in and don’t jump to conclusions. Always let the employee know what’s going on when you feel you’re ready to evaluate whether he’s on track on his personal assignments, and whether he’s working harmoniously with his team towards achieving their common goals.
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