You can tell a lot about the potential success of a team or organization just by listening to the type of conversations they have. Before we talk about the conversations, let’s take a brief look at what it means to be a high performing team.

A colleague of mine once said that a high performing team is one where each member of the team knows what the other is thinking. Another way of putting it is that they are moving as one unit. I would argue that this is a big piece but does not define high performance. A high-performance team can be on the same page but if they aren’t creating product or services better, faster or cheaper than the competition, I would not consider them high performance.

That said, I have never seen a high-performance team that was not on the same page when it came to the way they would work. When given a problem, a high-performance team does not say, “I wonder how we should approach this as an organization?”, unless the problem is something which is going to change the way the organization works.

When a high-performance team is given a problem, the gears start turning about how to solve the problem and the discussion starts to flow about things like the market, the product, the customer and the technical challenges. Teams and organizations that have yet to reach this high-performance state tend to have far more discussions about how they will work. I have seen everything from conversations and arguments about processes, who will be on the team, the operations framework they will use and even how they will record schedules.

Operations and process certainly need to be worked out and the conversations never go away entirely but when an organization is a well-oiled machine, the pieces are in place and a standard has been adopted. The standard is something that everybody believes in because it allows them a maximum amount of freedom to do their job and helps to solve their problems instead of injecting new ones. Changes to the standards can be made easily because the organization has clear ownership and minimal barriers change which is a large part of how they were able to get to a good state in the first place.

I have never been one for an overly prescriptive process. The results of an overbearing process or overly elaborate operations structure can destroy morale and productivity. But, having too little process or structure can be equally damaging. By finding the right balance and creating an effective operations model, you are freeing your team up to have the right conversations about the technical, product and market challenges which will lead your organization to higher levels of internal and external satisfaction.

Let’s change the word together!
~ Jeremy Webb

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