Monday, October 18, 2010

Harnessing the Power of Self-Directed Teams (continued)

Installment 3: Goals and Performance Metrics

Successful self-directed teams flow down performance objectives from enterprise goals to individual responsibilities. For example, a company that makes hardware enclosures establishes a goal to reduce expenses by at least five percent. Division X, a manufacturing unit of the same company, implements the enterprise goal by establishing a division objective of lowering the cost of all raw materials by five percent. The Division X Procurement Team takes on and challenges the division goal by setting a reduction goal of eight percent. A procurement specialist on the team reaches the team goal by re-negotiating with the division’s largest supplier of sheet metal, its primary raw material, to lower the contractual cost for high-volume purchases to just under eight percent.

If I say metrics, and you are part of a beginning self-directed team, however, your eyes might be rolling. Overburdened employees balk at adding tasks, even if the activity ultimately helps to reduce workload or improve financial health. Depending on functions, teams keep metrics on a wide variety of processes, for example, degree of customer satisfaction, rework rate, cycle time, volume, and cost. Metrics need not be elaborate. Simple counting (such as the number of parts with defective welds―for a team of assemblers) or tallying (such as defect-free proofreading―for a tech pubs team) usually suffices. Spreadsheet software, such as Excel, is easy to use and creates charts for showing data and demonstrating progress.

Clear responsibility for researching, developing, and maintaining metrics is a characteristic of successful self-directed teams. Publicizing progress via metrics is important, too, to encourage teams when self-direction gets challenging. Some organizations post weekly or monthly metrics in a central gathering place or well-traveled walkway, such as a break room or entry to the cafeteria. Displayed metrics help to acknowledge team accomplishments and to spark ideas in other teams. The best metrics are dynamic, continually evolving. Teams regularly review and revise their metrics to maintain usefulness and compatibility with the goals of the organization’s larger units. Metrics are like mirrors; team members do not always like what they see. However, a clear reflection can stimulate action.

Featured Blogger Dr. Adrienne Escoe is President and Senior Consultant at Escoe Bliss Professional Resources whose varied background ranges from classroom teacher at all levels, including kindergarten through graduate school, to corporate multi-department manager, R&D laboratory senior editor, widely published author.

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