“No one can whistle a symphony. It takes a whole orchestra to play it.” –H.E. Luccock
In the wake of orchestrating more collaborative management strategies in IT, that quote plays (quite literally) into today’s workforce. You need a team. A good one. And while every business is different, the fundamentals are the same. You need good people, a good process, a good product, and an element of accountability and stewardship as part of your company culture.
It’s not rocket science. But you can implement steps that elevate your IT team to mind-blowing, quota-blasting performance levels. It develops through standardization and repeatable tasks. So as you build your dream IT team, here are four questions you need to ask:
1. What are your goals?
Evaluate where you currently stand as a team and compare it to where you hope to be. And be specific about what you hope to achieve. “Effective goal setting requires clarity about what the goal involves, knowledge on what type of effort will be required, and specific reasons why it is important to you,” says Alyssa Gregory. “It also includes a plan for how you will accomplish each step, and perhaps most importantly, a commitment to seeing the goal through to completion.”
Analyze your reporting structure and look for gaps in efficiency or communication. How are you internally logging and tracking issues? Look at your toolset and identify gaps or redundancies. Then start tracking your progress.
2. Is your IT team’s performance measurable?
Your IT team won’t understand expectations if they can’t see how their performance measures up compared to team goals. Break down your goals into specific areas and make sure you have identified a measurement or KPI to track each one. Then put the performance goals in the hands of your direct reports so that they have some accountability for how they will achieve their goals. Finally, schedule one-on-one time to discuss individual performance, concerns, and review measurements.
3. Who are your top performers?
Despite the “all-for-one” mentality, an IT team’s overall strength is defined by individual efforts. “On average, 15 percent of a company’s workforce — roughly one in seven employees — are A players, or ‘stars,’” says Michael Mankins of Harvard Business Review. “Stars are concentrated where they can make the biggest difference.” It’s natural for a company to cluster their first-string players to focus on a valuable project or an important client. But why not capitalize on those skills and build an expansion team?
As a business leader, can you identify traits in your top-performing team members that can be replicated through training? If so, be sure to, first, thank your employee for being awesome and compensate where possible. Then, ask them if they would be willing to offer team training on a specific topic that can improve the IT team’s performance. The key to delivering top-rate work is to develop top-rate players.
4. Is your IT team part of the game plan?
Collaboration is king—in technology and team performance. Involve your team members in formulating ideas and sincerely value their input. A study out of Stanford University found that participants who were instructed to work collaboratively stayed focused on their task 64 percent longer than people working alone. This also contributed to higher engagement levels, lower fatigue levels, and a higher success rate on assigned tasks.
What roadblocks do they see from their perspective? What are the solutions? The root of team success is—say it with me—motivation. And the vehicle that revs up people’s efforts is acknowledgment. It’s no secret that people want to feel valued. They want to know they are doing a great job. Getting company SWAG is a nice touch, but it doesn’t replace a personal “thank you” from the boss.
Your team needs to know these goals are attainable, and it’s your job to ensure they are. Many times, managers make team members responsible for things that they have no control over. If they are responsible for a metric but some disparate team controls the output of that measurement, you will quickly demotivate and lose credibility.
Improving IT team performance can be an overwhelming task. But when you start with the basics—defining goals, laying out a measurable game plan, collaborating on strategy, and encouraging peer-to-peer training—you will develop an IT team worth cheering about.