ASQ - Team and Workplace Excellence Forum


February 1998

Articles

Business And Sports, One-On-One

Measurement On The High Seas

Scientists Develop Formula For Multinational Teamwork

Part-Time Statistics For Full-Time Results

Volunteers Wanted: Must Be Team Player, Success Minded



Columns

Chasing Good Examples
by Peter Block

Individual Change Key To Org. Change
by Cathy Kramer


Features

Brief Cases
Business News Briefs

Views for a Change

Pageturners
Book Review

 

Measurement On The High Seas
Norwegian Off-Shore Rig Floats Innovative Team Measuremtn Programs

In the North Sea, far from the shores of Norway, you may be surprised to discover the twinkling lights of a man-made island housing 3,000 workers. Despite the rough elements and close corners of life on the open water, the Norwegian offices of Phillips Petroleum provide 80 percent of the company's income. Difficult odds or not, the offshore team in the North Sea seems to be getting the job done. The question is, how? "If I said teamwork, I think a couple of people might roll their eyes," says Tim Houghton, an internal consultant at Phillips. "Everyone has heard a lot about teamwork over the past few years. It's not like the concept is new."
What is new, however, is the method that Houghton and his colleagues at the Norwegian Society for Quality (NSQ) have developed to measure the effectiveness of teamwork. So while Houghton credits his company's success in the face of adversity to teamwork, he's quick to point out that the method he and his colleagues have developed goes beyond teamwork to something more. "The trouble with teamwork," Houghton says, "is sometimes you see results, but other times, when expectations are high and great minds come together, the project just fizzles. And what do you do about it? How do you know what went wrong? You don't. Well, at least until now."
The NSQ developed a method to define effective teamwork via self-evaluations. Through self-evaluation, teams measure their own success through three areas: team skills, process proficiency and results. The self-evaluation is integrated into a team's activity depending on how the team functions. For example, a team that works on a localized level, evaluating the processes they are involved in every day, versus a team that exists for a short period of time and then disbands. However distinct the functioning of the team, the role of self-evaluation remains the same: to understand how well the team has performed regarding specific criteria.

Teamwork Benefits
By engaging in teamwork, employees often relearn how to do their jobs and improve upon processes. Also, teamwork provides a localized sense of reward in an often complex workplace. The larger a company becomes, the easier it is to feel disenfranchised; teamwork provides recognition by peers and a sense of accomplishment in the company's progress.
The company benefits from effective teamwork through increased efficiency, better use of employee skills, better decision making and a more involved work force. Combined, these benefits add up to an improved bottom-line, but viewed individually, they don't necessarily translate into hard and fast numbers. That doesn't mean those benefits aren't valuable, insists Houghton, "If we don't figure out how to measure how well a team works together, success will remain sporadic and teams will continue to underachieve. Ultimately, what we risk is management losing its faith in teamwork."

Team Types
In the first step to defining effective teamwork, the NSQ has defined three types of teams: quality improvement groups, project teams and process management teams.
Quality improvement teams are voluntary, permanent and meet regularly to problem solve quality improvement issues within an immediate work environment.
Project teams, also known as task forces and re-engineering teams, are organized for a specific project and disband upon completion of task; these teams solve high level problems in organizations and have intense meeting frequency over a short period of time. Project teams are multi-disciplinary and transcend organizational boundaries.
Process management teams meet on a regular basis and are made up of process owners and key process members; these teams constantly monitor, analyze and make recommendations to improve processes including inputs and added value output.

Self-Evaluation Within Each Team
All three types of teams evaluate themselves in the same way: each member fills out an evaluation form consisting of three categories; team skills, process proficiency and results. The categories are broken down into several specific criteria.
Team skills consists of five criteria, the first of which is an internal team agreement, built on consensus to determine how well the team lives up to their self-defined code of conduct. Other criteria include individual contribution (listening skills, questioning, good interpersonal skills); team efficiency (how efficiently the team conducts its business, even distribution of work load, timely completion of tasks and efficiency of meetings); external contribution ("Effective teams don't work in isolation," says Houghton. "Teams need to be measured also by the degree that their actions are held accountable to consequences on other areas of the organization. Teams have to understand the big picture."); and finally, team learning, which takes into account individual learning, overall improvement and information sharing with other teams.
The second category of team evaluation is called process proficiency. Here the team evaluates their ability to follow a structured process and effectively choose and use the right tools. The team measures their process proficiency through six criteria: structured process (what process was used and how well, i.e. problem solving, quality planning and re-engineering); data analysis (acting on the right facts, judging if data was sufficient to support the team's basis for decision making); tools and techniques (selection of tools and techniques, appropriateness of use, and how well the team used them); verification (a quality check before implementation designed to answer the question 'will it work?'); and an implementation plan. "The biggest stumbling block for teams occurs in the implementation phase," says Houghton. "Conversely, successful teams are empowered to implement the results of teamwork."
An implementation plan is essential because it defines who is responsible for implementing measurements and follow-ups, and it makes sure the concerns of those affected are taken into consideration. Finally, the presentation and final report should be evaluated in the process proficiency section of the team's self-evaluation. The team must ask whether their presentation and final report are comprehensive, concise, well-illustrated and the basis for sound decision making.
The third category for measuring effective teamwork is results, sub-divided into added value to the sponsor's expectations and signal effect, which is the benefit of one team's success to another. "Most engineers look exclusively at results," laughs Houghton. "But big results are not always a consequence of effective teamwork. Ninety percent of teamwork that takes place in an organization will not yield headline grabbing results."

Scoring Self-Evaluations
Each team member reviews the criteria and scores it individually. The team then compares individual scores and determines a score by consensus. The criteria is scored on a point scale from 0 to 5.
There are three factors to which criteria are rated: Evaluation/Characteristic, Existence and Value-Adding Factor. All scores are multiplied by a factor that results in the following weighting by category: team skills are worth 40 percent of the overall grade, process proficiency is another 40 percent, and results 20 percent.
"Obviously, emphasis is on how a team arrives at results, not what results actually arrive," says Houghton. "The focus is therefore on the synergy of people and processes, ideas and performance. Self-evaluation provides management with a tool to gauge teamwork and understand its successes." And measuring teamwork can only help to improve it, he argues, "because it enables teams to learn and improve, and it provides a platform for recognition and reward. In a world where people are hard pressed to find meaning in a complex work environment, teamwork helps us see the forest in spite of the trees."

February '98 News for a Change | Email Editor

 



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