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Not pushing the team too hard – a fine balance that can be easy to miss – Part 1

The topic for this post came up from a recent discussion that we started having. The managers of the team were astounded when, at yet another weekend, when members of the team were called for work (since yet another milestone was approaching), almost 90% of the team came up with excuses individually, and finally, the managers were shocked and decided to not call the team for the weekend. This particular episode led to some soul-searching about what is the right thing to do, and what this mean for the future, since the team is in a group which believes that hard driving is something that is part of the job.
So, there was a discussion that was animated about the reasons, and whether this is part of a trend. This was also true because overall, one could see that the number of leaves that people were taking had also increased (people never seemed to be able to fully use up their leaves, would go in for cashing in of the remainder of the leaves, and now suddenly, we had more cases of people having to be docked part of their salary since their leave balance was getting to be very high).
Following were some of the points of the discussion, and what we ended up concluding (and if employees / managers of other companies are reading, and are in a familiar position, do let me know through comments, since we are looking at modulating some of these points and seeing whether there is something we are missing).
There was an immediate conclusion that probably we were pushing very hard. Around two years back, we had got some feedback from top management that analysis had shown that our group had a productivity level that was in the lower half of the company, and this was hurting revenue (and also hurting margins, which is a big issue). Based on this, there had been some changes in middle management, with more aggressive managers drawn in, who proceeded to light up a fire. We actually called several meetings of team members to show them data, show them the analysis about costs and revenue, and compared this with other groups and across the industry, always with the unsaid announcement that such lower productivity levels cannot go on, and the company might be forced to go in for harder steps.
We started monitoring data around productivity much more closely, and there was a realization that we needed to see multiple quarters where the productivity levels of the group went on increasing. Hence, managers were pushed to keep on pushing their employees, and for some time, people kept on working with this trend, since the information about the previous low levels of productivity remained in their mind. The attempt was to use this information to push the group into a higher performing group within the company, a group that would star appearing in company reports as a group to emulate, the one that would win awards within the company for its performance.
And, this worked. People were pushed for their performance, people were pushed to do better, were pushed to spend more time on getting things done. Maybe, the rush to make these changes went without a check limit, since the team started feeling strained, and you could see people getting more listless, less enthusiastic when somebody suggested that there was an immediate deadline around the corner that had to be met.

Will continue this in Part 2 ..

Outswim the Sharks: How to Quadruple Your Team’s Productivity with Kindness How to Unleash the Collaborative Genius of Teams for Increased Engagement, Productivity, and Results Visual Meetings: How Graphics, Sticky Notes and Idea Mapping Can Transform Group Productivity

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