As a manager who strives for a high performing team, one question sparks more debate than any other:
“Where do you see the development of each person in your team?”
The typical discussion which follows can lead hard nosed, objective decision makers to talk wish-washy crap that ends up with no clear decision and nobody in the room really understanding what each other thinks.
Why is it so hard to for a group of people to talk about people?
Groups of people have always struggled with the difficulties of communication. When two people work together most communication is intuitive. Any more people and it starts to break down.
A study conducted by the University of Leicester’s School of Psychology and Department of Economics put science behind this.
The experimenters asked participants to press one of two buttons, rewarding the participants based on their choice as a group. After repetition, groups of two learned to work together to make the system work in their favor more often than not. In groups of three or larger, that wasn’t the case. Professor Andrew Coleman’s comments on the results:
“Married couples or pairs of business partners may be able to rely on this type of intuitive cooperation, to an extent, but larger groups need explicit communication and planning. Mechanisms need to be put in place to facilitate it. Intuitive cooperation is really a case of two’s company, but three’s a crowd.”
I ran into a brick wall when I was asked this question for the first time
I was managing a team of 6 people when my CFO asked the same question of me. “Jase, next week I would like us all to get together and debate where we see each person in your team fitting in with the future of the business. I would like you to briefly run through your thoughts, then we will open up the discussion to the rest of the management team”
Already I could see the unproductive, criss-crossed discussion going astray. Ultimately the person with the sharpest tongue or loudest mouth would sway opinions their way while most people wouldn’t even know what they were debating.
What cut’s through crap better than anything else? – DATA
In order to allow for a healthy debate I thought we all needed to have data. We needed:
a common framework so we were all measuring people in the same way; and
a way of quantifying where we viewed people in line with that framework
This gives the discussion a direction. We can argue about what we see as the defining attributes of success (each person’s definition of the framework) or we could argue about where we believe each person belongs.
Upon thinking about the problem I started imagining something similar to the BCG Matrix. I liked the way it simplified a complex problem and made it easy to communicate.
I borrowed a diagram from the Employee Performance and Talent Management Blog in order to build a basic foundation of something similar for employees.
It became obvious that in order to evaluate a person and put them in the matrix they would need a score in potential (vertical axis) and performance (horizontal axis).
From there I decided to define what I thought the words Potential and Performance meant. Rather than defining the words, I decided to define what a given score in one of the two areas meant.
An example of defining the word potential:
Having both a potential and performance score meant you could place a dot on the matrix. (Although for me knowing the score and having the matrix as a visual was enough)
The average of the Potential score and Performance score would also give an overall score. This overall score provides suggested action as to what should be done. The overall score indicates:
After agreeing where people belong in the areas of potential and performance, this overall score allows debate to be made around what actions should be taken.
You can view the spreadsheet I came up with along with “fake” evaluations filled out here.
Next time you want to have a focussed discussion with somebody else about people, whether it be employees or outsourced workers, have a go at using this framework.
I guarantee if you use it you will come away from the conversation feeling like you can make a decision and take action. There is nothing worse when it comes to people-related decisions in any area of your life, than letting them drag out.
Grab your copy of the Team Development and Planning Workbook.