Business Review – Was 2014 All It Could Have Been?

Business Rearview MirrorWith 2014 winding down, the busy-ness of the holidays varies by your role and work style in business.  The typical employees (except in retail) are busy planning the holidays and looking forward to vacations.  They are probably seeing slower responses from emails and counting days until their time-off start.    Business leaders are undoubtedly taking a different view.  Managers are likely doing the same year end activities that employees are doing, but at the same time asking some tough questions:

  • Was this year’s performance good enough?
  • What can be done next year to make it better?

Are these enough?

Healthy companies frequently review two different aspects of their business in very distinct ways.  At one end of the spectrum is the individual performance in the form of the dreaded annual review (although personal experience indicates too few companies do this – or fail to do it properly).  This prudent practice is often done inconsistently or too infrequently (or poorly).  It gives the individual player on your team feedback to how their performance is for with the responsibilities of their job.

At the other end of the extreme, companies are examining overall health of the business reviews.  Looking at sales projects and sales actuals, revenues and budget items and such.  This is the bottom line for the health of the company and some of the key indicators measured in dollars and units of productivity.

This is part of an annual ritual built into our psyche.  Regardless of fiscal year cycles are frequently aligning with the solar calendar we seem to all fall into the January review cycle and it is not a bad habit to stay in.

Lost between the micro view (individual performance) and macro view (corporate finance), are the real early indicators of organizational health that is team performance.  Not performance of the people but performance and interactions of the groups they form.  How are your people performing in groups (departments, divisions) and how are the groups performing with other groups (IT and marketing, sales and accounting, warehouse and back office)?

Why it matters

Teams can consist of a dozen superstar performers, but the effectiveness could get lost in the interaction between those people.  Performing as an individual is terrific, but performing in such a way that shares information, credit, builds collaboration and helps others perform at a higher level multiplies.  Do your star players look like stars because they are playing at the expense of others?  In other words, do you have the best employees everyone hates working with?

Just as a performance within a team is necessary, performance between groups can be equally critical.  A brilliant sales team isolated from the rest of the company can sell like champions but be promising things the delivery team cannot deliver.  By not connecting with production, their stellar production translates as a horrible customer relations.  A talented technology team can be terrific but if they are deaf to operation’s concerns, they could be delivering the next best widget that nobody will use.  Accounting teams are the fuel pumps of the business engine and the champions that make sure expenses get reimbursed in a timely fashion, but often seen as the bad guys chasing people for expense reports.

As a whole, the entire orchestra of your organization can play in perfect harmony, but if they are playing the wrong song, all of the excellence is lost.  A well-executed concerto to an audience expecting a heavy rock tribute band will likely be considered a failure but the paying audience.  They must still follow the same program and the conductor.

How I can tell

The first issue is to understand how your organization if performing at these middle layers in teams.  Add to the questions you ask some of these:

Do team members working together as a team?  As part of the individual performance review, each employee’s interaction with the group should be considered.  While they should be addressed individually, they should also be collectively measured.  In other words, not only discussing with Bob and Susan how the team is doing, but asking the team to focus together on their interactions.  This places on the group’s agenda topics that can be addressed and foster understanding and trust needed to grow.

Do teams within the company working together?  Many CEOs complain about the silos in an organization and are often stymied when they try to address it.  Each business unit’s effectiveness can be adversely affected by a broken trust or lost communication with another unit.  Measuring confidence and communication between each group can pinpoint bottlenecks in productivity or places where the ball is dropped in customer service.  Even if the work is getting done (measuring productivity) distrust and animosity can create a drag on performance that can lay hidden until it breaks – usually at a time of stress or growth.

Was there enough of the right type of communication?  Communication is important but is the current communication the best type for the business’ need?  Are there too many or too few meetings or meetings with the wrong people?  Are people replacing conversation with email or do emails consist of lengthy missives or brief chatter?  Communication needs vary by task, but the corporate culture can foster the appropriate level and by doing so will help in the other areas of team performance.

Then what?

The first set of questions gives you the total of business performance. These new considerations can lead to insight as to the numbers or explain why each day is a struggle just to get products out the door.  Knowing where the trouble spots are can help you identify the communication help and training needed to develop better performance.  The key here is to remember leadership can foster high performance in all of these areas – and this leadership can be learned.

Consider adding these questions to your year-end review and gain clearer understanding of how a team can raise the bar.  You likely already have a gut feeling of the trouble areas but concrete measures carefully taken confirm or clarify the picture and the exercise in itself can lead to better performance.

Let RPS show you how we can help you identify critical issues and improve your team’s performance.  End the year in a way that secures their commitment to bring fresh ideas and firm resolve to perform better.  There is no charge for our initial consultation, and we would love to come hear how your company did and share ways you may be able to make your good teams even better.