Team Performance Problems

All teams experience difficulties from time to time and it is your responsibility as a manager to resolve any problems as quickly as possible. Some team problems can be traced to an individual team member who is not performing as expected or who is causing conflict within the team. Understanding what motivates people, as well as why they become disenchanted with their work will enable you to address these types of problem. This Performance Improvement Checklist will help guide you through the steps you need to take to address any under-performance from your team.

However, sometimes the lack of progress, poor productivity, or interpersonal conflict is not the fault of any one team member but is down to the way that the team is organized and managed. Proper goal setting, clear role definition, and having the necessary processes in place to deal with the day-to-day management of the team are all important, as is your ability to anticipate problems and identify the early signs of under-performance.

What is actually meant by an 'under-performing' team? Any full explanation would need to include specific details that relate to the exact situation and environment of the poorly performing team. But in general terms what is meant by under-performance can be summarized in the following sentence:

An individual, team, division, or corporation is said to be 'under-performing' when their actual achievements fall below the level of performance required or a predefined objective is not attained.

For the majority of managers the required level of achievement is defined in your annual appraisal and should tie into your organization's mission. Your level of performance should be regularly monitored so that any aspect of poor performance does not come as a surprise to either you or your manager.

You should be regularly assessing, measuring, and reporting back to your team so that they know how well they are performing. The earlier you can isolate problems the sooner you can look for ways to resolve them.

There has been a lot of academic study into the reasons why teams under-perform and some of this work is directly applicable to the types of team that you will find yourself responsible for. These are: Herzberg's Hygiene Theory, Hackman's work on leading teams, and the Six Silent Barriers of Beer et al. An understanding of this research will help you to understand why it is that teams under-perform and what you can do about it.

In addition, many project teams find themselves operating in a 'Matrix Management Environment,' which can create a specific set of problems that the project manager or team leader needs to be aware of from project inception.

Finally, there are two types of negative behavior (Groupthink and in-group behavior) that can develop when a group of people are working closely together. These can be very destructive because the team appears to be working well together and problems may not be obvious until it is too late to do anything about them.

This eBook describes all of these reasons why teams under-perform and provides practical advice about how to identify and fix performance problems.

Rebuilding an under-performing team can be a huge challenge. Occasionally, problems can be traced to an individual team member who is not performing as expected or who is causing conflict within the team. This issue is probably the easiest to deal with provided that the individual accepts that their behavior is causing a problem and they are open to the idea of additional training or reassignment. This Team Productivity Template provides you with three steps that will help you to identify the issues affecting your team's productivity.

If on the other hand, you find yourself in a situation where there is widespread discontent then you should initially focus your efforts on so-called 'hygiene' factors. These include things like salary, benefits, job security, working conditions, supervision, company policy and organizational procedures.

You will need to ask yourself whether any of these are at odds with your industry norms. If they are then 'quick fix' solutions are unlikely to work, as team members will be feel that they have legitimate grievances that need to be addressed.

Some of these factors may be beyond your authority to improve but if you can make a compelling case to senior management then the underlying problems may not be insurmountable.

There may also be 'silent barriers' that cause teams to under-perform. These barriers cannot be tackled directly because they result from issues that senior management prefers to ignore.

It can be very frustrating when team performance problems originate from cultural factors that you have no control over. Nonetheless, being aware of these issues should help you to understand why a team may be under-performing despite your best efforts.

You may also be interested in:
Herzberg's Hygiene Theory of Motivation | Common Fallacies About Leading Teams | Six Silent Barriers to Performance | Five Key Team Performance Factors | Matrix Management Issues | Qualities of Leadership | GroupThink and in-group Behavior.

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