For IT teams achieving high performance, it can often mean a two or three or even ten-fold improvement in performance versus the results of a mediocre team. As an IT leader you should strive to mature your team to work in a high performance manner. Here are the principles of a high performance team:
- Do it right the first time – The only way to achieve high performance is through high quality work. The only way to get to sustained high quality is to do things right the first time. You must plan, engineer, inspect, implement, and verify with intellect and diligence to ensure your work is the best it can be. Critical tasks that cannot be attended to with diligence should be escalated to the team and management, and then addressed to enable high quality in the longer term.
- Be stewards of your processes – Become a knowledgeable professional fully aware of the state, value, and potential of the activities for which you or your team are responsible. Understand best practice in the industry. Demonstrate a level of initiative and willingness to exercise improvement. Leaders must ensure the team knows they are empowered to fix and improve their processes.
- Leverage metrics and score cards – Use a results-oriented, metrics based approach to assess progress, identify issues and define initiatives. The best leaders use facts and business case logic to decide directions and make adjustments. Leverage a continuous improvement approach based on operational metrics for your key processes along with objective root cause analysis. This allows teams to quickly modify their tactics, take appropriate actions, and then continuously improve their results. Supplement tactical actions with a drive for longer term solutions that lift performance to much greater degree.
- Hold yourselves accountable and responsible – As a team, you should work to prioritise the important activities and initiatives that align to your strategic aspirations. Publish these goals and their measures, and then hold appropriate parties responsible for delivery. The team is empowered and the team must also be held accountable. Set stretch but doable goals and then reward based on results. Leaders should hold themselves to personal account and take ownership for the things they have committed to delivering. Similarly, vendors and support partners should be held to the same high bar as the team.
For the leader or manager of a high performance team, you must exemplify these principles in what you do personally. You must describe a compelling vision, ensure appropriate goals, and define clear roles and responsibilities for the team. Then avoid micro-management and instead look to coach, guide and support your team. Further, you must show the courage, drive, and initiative within a relentless focus on achieving outstanding results. Courage and initiative can sometimes be difficult in large organizations, but you must remember the core principles and goals and understand that in the long run, those who have the courage to press for what is right will have the organization join them.
At the same time, you must show your care and compassion for your colleagues and team members. We are all human – thoughtfulness, humor and camaraderie make the load lighter and help everyone work harder for the joint goals.
For the team member, when there is change within your team or organization it can be daunting. But you should be confident in your ability to master change and contribute. Get engaged – learn and understand the things that you and your team are being asked to do. Always keep an eye to how you can improve quality in your work and your team’s results. Ensure you are not just spending time on the tasks at hand but also on the planning, process improvement and metrics that can yield better productivity and results. Try to ensure your team knows how you stack up against industry practice. Keep your own skills fresh and leverage training and other opportunities to increase your capabilities.
Also, identify major issues or impediments and discuss them with your team or manager. Seek opportunities to partner with your teammates, manager, adjoining process owners or other resources to resolve problems. Do not allow these impediments to continue to thwart the team’s progress or results – you are not order-takers but instead stewards of your function that can work constructively to overcome the problems and achieve effective solutions.
We these guiding principles, you can build and sustain high performing teams.
Best, Jim Ditmore