How to create the right context for high-performance teams: getting stakeholder alignment right.

How to create the right context for high-performance teams: getting stakeholder alignment right.

5 min.
In order to maintain a high level of performance and collaboration, teams need of course to be properly structured from day one. But most and foremost, continuous attention to the collaboration with the rest of the organization is critical to ensure success and effectiveness of teamwork. Continuous stakeholder alignment and excellent communication flows are critical to reaching project objectives according to teams themselves.

Did you know that 70% of project performance is related to human-factors? Over the past years, observing a very high rate of failure among digital- and business transformation projects, researchers and consulting companies have progressively started looking for the root causes. More or less surprisingly, most of these failures are not due to a lack of technical skills but to soft-factors such as collaboration, communication, and governance for example. This has driven the emergence of new roles within an organization such as “change manager” or “transformation leads” as well as the development of new fields in management theory such as “neuromanagement”, a new discipline that mixes cognitive science and technology to analyze economic and managerial issues. These developments highlight one key element: having a people-centric approach is democratizing within organizations and in the workplace in general with the objective to maximize team performance.

A project team is always evolving into a given context: the organization.

Identifying team-related and organizational-related drivers of performance

With Steerio - a feedback and analytics platform for high-performance teams - we help teams and organizations to monitor how they are doing and if their projects are running well thanks to short health check surveys, feedback, data-science, and collective intelligence. One of the success factors that we help teams to monitor is related to the team dynamic, endogenous aspects of team performance and quality, and the collaboration with the rest of the organization, exogenous aspects. Identifying both aspects help to easily gather team feedback - by answering a simple question about how the team is doing considering a specific topic -, identify strengths and weaknesses and pinpoint topics that need to be discussed within the team. On Steerio, the team dimensions related to these factors are structured as follow:

Team-related performance items - Endogenous factors (example of items on which teams are providing feedback):

Clear accountability

  • The team has the right setup in terms of people, skills, roles, and responsibilities.
  • I understand and can explain the role and responsibilities of each team member.
  • I feel empowered in my work and have a strong sense of ownership regarding my deliverables.

Balanced team

  • I manage to have a good work-life balance working in this team.
  • I feel happy, centered and confident working in this project team.
  • The ways of working in this team are compatible with my personal and professional values and ethics.

Team motivation

  • I see a clear purpose in working on this project.
  • I feel fairly rewarded and get the right level of recognition for my work.
  • I feel stimulated being a part of this team.

Integration and development

  • I feel fully integrated and accepted as a person in the team.
  • There is mutual respect between team members and we nurture a constructive communication style.
  • Working on this project gives me the opportunity to develop myself personally and professionally.

Organization-related performance items - Exogenous factors (example of items on which teams are providing feedback):

Stakeholder alignment

  • All stakeholders are committed to a shared outcome.
  • Team efforts are coordinated with the rest of the organization.
  • We achieve to get buy-in for our teamwork from the rest of the organization.

Effective communication

  • Critical information is available and shared.
  • Constructive feedback loops are in place, positively accepted and acted upon.
  • There is no information overload.

Working standards

  • Team members and stakeholders are responsive and available.
  • Every deliverable respects high-quality standards.
  • There is a shared sense of ownership regarding our project and its results.

Fluidity of interactions

  • I feel there is a good balance between top-down guidelines and bottom-up initiatives on the project and within the team.
  • We strive to collaborate and not to work in silos.
  • Teamwork does not encounter bottlenecks.

Monitoring these different aspects of team performance and working experience thanks to people's feedback helps teams to pinpoint where management efforts need to be focused in order to maximize team effectiveness. Simultaneously, for each team member, having the possibility to provide feedback and having an impact on how the team is working together has a strong effect on employee engagement.

Studying drivers of team performance and work experience across 30 projects: the challenge of coordinating teamwork with the rest of the organization

Based on Steerio data, we analyzed +3000 team feedback (n=3318) that are related to team setup and structure - endogenous factors - and collaboration with the organisation - exogenous factors - (across a sample of 30 randomly selected projects). For each dimension, team members were invited to provide feedback by rating anonymously different statements on a 0 to 10 scale (see above). After having aggregated all teams data, we plotted the repartition of answers on the graph below:

Distribution of team feedbacks related to endogenous (team-related) and exogenous (organization-related) teamwork success factors

Unsurprisingly, data are skewed towards the right with a global average score of 6.6/10 for all the team feedback in the sample. This is why we like to renormalize our Dataset with the NPS method (as presented in a previous Steerio Insight article about debiasing people feedbacks here). What is especially interesting is the different shape of the two repartition curves. Indeed, Team-related aspects are significantly more skewed to the right than organization-related ones (with averages values of respectively 6.9/10 and 6.3/10). Team members provide more positive feedback on how the team is structured and works internally than on how the team is collaborating with the organization from a general point of view.

Takeaway: get the team up to speed and reduce friction with the rest of the organization

After comparing the team NPS of the two dimensions, the diagnostic is clear: teams struggle much more with external factors such as stakeholder alignment and communication than with its structure and motivation (see graph below).

Internal team successfactor vs organizational success factors, what are the feedbacks from the teams?

This analysis provides insightful information on what team and managers have to focus on in order to be effective in reaching their goals; during projects as wells as in more classical setups. It's important to quickly get the team on speed with a clear purpose, guidelines, guardrails, and accountability in order to focus efforts on how the team interacts and collaborate with the rest of the organization to deliver its results. This means securing the buy-in of key decision-makers, maintaining a strong stakeholder alignment, cascading effective working standards and avoiding bottlenecks and silo working through effective communication. These items, highly critical to get high-performance teams working properly, have to be continuously monitored in order to be acted upon quickly.

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