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Not pushing the team too hard – a fine balance that can be easy to miss – Part 2 ..

The previous post (Pushing the team, maybe too hard) detailed some of the problems that a team that was under-performing started experiencing when it decided that it would not longer under-perform and started to move up the performance chain, but in the end, the focus on productivity started taking a toll on the team members. There were a number of factors that were not considered when it started becoming a bit more clear that the team was getting fatigued.
One of the biggest factors that we had to re-consider was the notion that we would not say no to a request or a project without doing a lot of deliberation, and if there was a chance, then we would be aggressive and push for doing the project. This worked beautifully for a while, since earlier we would be conservative, and when we would do a resource and risk assessment, if there was a chance of some risk (around 20-30%), we would say no to the project. This was giving the group the title as a No saying group. So, we worked hard at this aspect. Over a period of time, when a project was proposed and we were evaluating the project, we would do a calculation of the risk, but we would also do a strong focus on seeing whether the risks could be mitigated. So, when there were risks, senior members of the team which was doing the evaluation would be encouraged to take a look at the risks, and see whether there were steps that could be taken to manage these risks, and even if this required extra effort, it would be worthwhile to take the extra effort and get these things done. In addition, an incentive was given to the team, in terms of promises of higher rewards for higher productivity, and with differentiation between team members based on the effort that they would undertake (and this was a big deal in terms of encouraging people – if many team members felt that extra effort was being recognized, you had several of them putting in an hour or two of extra effort on a daily basis in order to show that they were capable of doing more effort).
Well, all this had the desired effort. This factor about being more aggressive had an important effect on the reputation of the team, and we were being known as the team that could get work done that seemed more difficult for the other teams. But, at the same time, there was a risk in terms of what we were doing. Since we were taking more chances on the risk front, we were pushing the envelope, and this did hit us in a couple of occasions where we ended up taking last minute risks with the project, and in one case, had to get people from other groups, else the project was a goner. These cases did cause some amount of re-thinking, but not a drastic change in policy, and we continued on. So, what were some of the pointers to the fact that we were heading towards a case where we were trying to chew more than we could do ? Well, for one, we had people from other teams and from senior management asking the team management whether we knew our limits / constraints, and was our risk calculations on the right side of sanity ? These queries were coming up more recently, and these also started a re-think on the level of aggressiveness we were following.

Continued in the next part …

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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