I was at our annual Sales Conference last week. We analysed data and we outlined plans. We discussed last year’s experiences and highlighted new opportunities for this year. We talked process and we focused on deliverables. I came home engaged and inspired.
Processes are important but seldom engage or inspire. I used to run a group called Continuous Improvement. I never liked the name. Continuous Improvement is a process. Deliverables are essential and will engage and inspire. We focused our Continuous Improvement efforts on increasing project survival and shortening project cycle times. I loved our impact. These were deliverables.
I learned a great deal from my time in Continuous Improvement. I learned about science and drug discovery. About scientists and drug development. About people and about teams.
My favourite example was team made up of individuals from various functions that came together to work with us on how they could improve their delivery – a key development milestone due before the end of the following year.
Our starting point was to agree with the team how they felt they were performing collectively today. We carried out a simple survey in the room and – as is often the case – the consensus from the team was that they were ‘well placed to deliver on time’ and ‘were performing very well’ as a team. And we had some real data – they were asked in this opening session to rank (on a scale of one – ten) their confidence that they would achieve their project deliverable on time. They gave themselves a score of seven.
These team workshops varied from one to two days. Our focus was only ever on project plan – big picture and every detail – project members – roles and responsibilities, and project team – communications and dynamics. And at the end of every workshop we would finish by asking the team that same question again…their confidence in being able to achieve their project deliverable on time.
This team, like almost every team we worked with, rated their ability to deliver their goals at the end of the workshop as being higher than at the start. They went with a score close to nine. We were delighted but not really surprised. By the end of two days everyone’s knowledge and awareness of each other, and of their roles and contribution to the project, is so much higher. And frequently these workshops can be the first time a team has chance to meet together in person…let alone work in such detail as a group on their project.
But this one team then did something very different. They had a request. They wanted to re-assess their pre-workshop confidence in their ability to achieve their project deliverable on time. As a team they demanded their original score be erased. They wanted to replace that initial score – a shade under seven – with a revised assessment of two!
Their logic was simple. ‘Based on what we now know, we were nowhere near as good a team as we thought we were’. And ‘we were nothing like as ready, or as able, to deliver against our goals as we believed.’
I was so impressed. This team collectively carried out – and owned – this retrospective self-assessment. Moreover, the team explained to themselves, to us and to everyone else how their newly found confidence in implementation and delivery came from the whole team engaging together to review, optimise and own their plan to delivery. And how their time together had given them all a dramatic increase in their knowledge and understanding of each other, and even better, the skills and abilities they each brought to the team.