Author Jason Switzer’s son and his lacrosse team
You have been assigned to a turnaround team. You know your roles and your responsibilities. You begin the effort to execute a successful turnaround. But what is your focus? Where do you want to go? What are your performance indicators? These are important questions.
At AP-Canada, our definition of a high performance team is, “A group of people with specific roles and complementary talents and skills, who are aligned with and committed to a common purpose.” The key to this statement is, “aligned with and committed to a common purpose.” Aligning a team’s goals and objectives is paramount to achieving success as a team. For over 40 years, I have coached and played a wide range of sports including hockey, lacrosse, baseball, track, badminton, and volleyball. I have been involved with numerous work teams as a both a team member and a team leader. One thing I’ve learned is that whether you are stepping onto the playing field or into the workplace, having a shared focus on established, aligned goals is key to achieving success.
Once you’ve settled on the membership of your team, and roles and responsibilities have been communicated, the next step is for the team to establish challenging, competitive, and achievable goals and objectives in order to create a path forward to successful turnaround outcomes. Whether you’re striving to win a league championship or to meet your schedule and budget targets, every single member of your team needs to know these goals in order to drive their efforts. If even one team member does not completely understand or buy into their role or responsibility, the team’s success in meeting their goals is in jeopardy. But if the team understands and takes ownership of their responsibilities, they can focus their energy on execution and the work it takes to accomplish the established goals.
Let’s return to the definition of a high performance team, this time looking at the first half of the definition, “A group of people with specific roles and complementary talents and skills.” Each member of a turnaround team is selected for a specific reason. Their individual skills and expertise are needed to help achieve a successful turnaround. Every member of the team is crucial; even if all but one member of the team is invested in success, that team will fail. The strength of a team comes from the belief that every team member is striving for the same goals. If winning a league championship is a team’s ultimate goal and one player on that team decides that his objective is to score as many times as possible, at a detriment to his defensive responsibilities, then he is sacrificing the team’s goal for his own, and jeopardizing the team’s success in the process.
AP-Canada data indicates that 65 percent of turnarounds are missing critical departments on their steering teams. This same data tells us that one of the key ingredients in ensuring that goals are met is strategically selecting team members to cover all roles, responsibilities, and areas of expertise. This is a crucial step, as a comprehensive team is needed to properly identify and successfully complete goals and objectives. If I build a hockey team with all offensive players, but no defense or goalie, then that team will fail. Even if all members of the team are aligned on the same goals, those goals will be hard to accomplish if there are significant gaps in knowledge and skill built into the team’s structure.
AP-Canada data also shows that 75 percent of turnarounds fail to meet all of their performance goals, and that 40 percent of all turnarounds are considered train wrecks that grossly exceed one or more of their success criteria. But once again, the data provides an alternative to failure, showing that the better a turnaround team is aligned—and this includes the alignment around goals and objectives—the better they perform and meet or exceed their performance goals, especially those established for cost and schedule.