Friday, December 18

Revitalizing Teams: Five Steps To Success

Steve Tobak, a marketing and strategy consultant based in Silicon Valley, published a five-step process for turning around demoralized, underperforming groups.

His timing is right. The holidays provide a great opportunity for a psychological reset, with the first two weeks of the new year being the best time to establish a new direction, assuming executives doesn't derail the team by looking back at 2009.

Tobak's 5-Step Process For Turning Around Groups.

• Understand how it got that way.
• Pick your leaders, and add new hires.
• Rebuild reputation with executives.
• Set challenges with realistic goals.
• Demonstrate value to the company.

Enhancing The 5-Step Process For Revitalizing Groups.

Tobak estimates that his process will take a year or two, which seems to be far, far too long for modern companies and organizations. Most of the world, nowadays, needs measurable results in 180 days and demonstrated traction inside of 90. It's achievable, with some modifications to the process.

• Situation Analysis. Tobak is right that you have to have some understanding of how you got there. The strongest part of his post includes five of the most common reasons.

• Establish A Strategy. Before picking any leaders, set a new purpose for the group. What is it that the group is about and how does that fit within the company? It's especially important to set the strategy before picking leaders because individual positions within the renewed group might be different depending on that strategy.

• Establish The Tactics. Determine the baseline for work that needs to be done (and prioritize it) within the strategy. This will help you pinpoint where you can maximize individual team members in ways you may have never considered before. Then, and only then, if there are any holes, consider new hires with specific skill sets to fill them (but only after the next step).

• Set Challenges With Goals. Except, rather than simply setting them, it's more worthwhile to host a team meeting after priming key individuals within the group. Although you can have a frame work, it's important to let the team set those goals — not the mandatories, but rather what would constitute overachievement.* By the way, I suggest doing this step prior to adding new hires so the original team can own it.

• Demonstrate Accountability. I don't really believe you can "rebuild" a group's reputation. Reputation is an outcome. You "rebuild" the group's ability to achieve goals and reputation will follow. You can set the stage internally, with regular team meetings to report on individual progress. (You might want to meet with specific people before the group reporting, ensuring they have met mandatories and/or are ready to explain "why" they have not with feasible 30-day solutions.

*I flagged this point because in working with nonprofit organizations, political campaign teams, and even small- to medium-sized companies, I've found setting two bars can make a big difference. The first bar is a mandatory goal; the second bar is an overachievement goal.

The reason is simple. Having a second reachable overachievement goal ensures the group won't stop producing after meeting any minimums. In every group where I've established two bars, 90 percent tend to shoot for the higher goal, and the remaining 10 percent meet mandatories but don't feel pressured or demoralized for only reaching the first bar.

For example, oversimplified, if someone in charge of programs has a mandatory goal of hosting two programs in 180 days, the overachievement goal might be to host three, with the third being the one that they have the most flexibility to produce. Special projects like that, which are really an extension of goals, are often seen as an incentive as much as a goal.

Again, Tobak does have a strong start with his 5-step process. My enhancements will help make it move faster.

Other than that, there is only one more thing I might adapt. Any time I have the opportunity, I discourage companies from creating environments where different departments have to vie for limited resources. It's counter productive and demonstrates a lack of leadership.

Sure, I appreciate that many companies are run in this fashion. But that is the point, isn't it? It tends to show, much like it probably showed in the group before you decided to turn it around.


Eric on 12/19/09, 2:51 PM said...

Great post, Rich. I think we are on the same page with this one! I especially like the idea of "setting the stage internally". Reaching for goals without establishing a solid foundation is a mistake I see frequently.



Rich on 12/21/09, 7:50 AM said...


I'm sure we are on the same page in several areas. Thanks so much for offering affirmation on the longstanding idea that communication (and attitude) often works best from the inside out.

All my best,


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