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The Week in Pieces #12 - The End Of The High Performing Team

Hello again.
Two weeks ago today, there was some unusual activity in our team chat. A system user on our main platform had reported that they were unable to perform an action that was essential to their work. Our team discussed and investigated and, over the next couple of hours, we diagnosed a critical issue that was blocking five essential business processes. On a problem scale of 1-10, this would be a “Oh god I don’t have time to give this a rating on an imaginary scale right now, five key processes have failed”. As bad as it gets.
That said, and as we’ve discussed before, I’m fortunate to be part of an good team. Workarounds were implemented so there was no impact on service to the customer. Potential solutions were discussed and rated. Everyone who may be affected was communicated with clearly and calmly. Knowledge was shared, guidance was sought and a solution was implemented. The key processes were tested and found to be working. The problem had been addressed and the crisis had passed within 24 hours.
As a team, we’ve always been extremely good at problem solving, but not always as adept at problem prevention. This was at the front of my mind when I was facilitating a review of the incident. I wanted to make sure that we were able to unearth underlying problems, avoid individuals blaming others or themselves, and generate actions we could take away to improve our systems, processes and the team itself.
The session went well. The team was reflective, honest and constructive. Within an hour we had come up with eleven actions that could prevent the problem recurring. I reflected on the session across the rest of the week. I’d had a conversation where the team was described as ‘high performing’ but I felt uncomfortable with that definition. Performance seems like exactly that, a show or a display. It doesn’t seem like enough of an aspiration for an evolving group. After some thought, I felt much more comfortable with the idea of a high capability team.
Whats the difference? High performing teams meet and exceed expectations. They’re consistent and reliable. They get the job done. But high capability teams do all that and more. They not only have the competence to solve problems, but the emotional intelligence to examine them without blame and the adaptability to make the changes to improve. High performing teams have ability, high capability teams have ability, empathy and adaptability.
High performing teams solve problems. High capability teams prevent problems.
A few tangentially connected links for you as well: How Japanese businesses avoid the pitfalls of short-termism; The increasing value of adaptability; Mental models utilised to prevent problems; How we might retain information for longer.

Why Japanese Businesses Are So Good at Surviving Crises - HBS Working Knowledge
Screw Emotional Intelligence–Here’s The Key To The Future Of Work
Second-Order Thinking: What Smart People Use to Outperform - Farnam Street
The forgetting curve: the science of how fast we forget - Ness Labs
That’s it! Thanks for opening the mail or clicking the link, stay well and I’ll see you here next week.
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Piers Campbell

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