Team capability – figuring out what you’ve got

The next stage is to test out what skills and capabilities you have on the team. You may already be beginning to build an idea, based on watching them perform daily tasks. You may also have been told (usually by your boss, or the stakeholders who have an interest in the performance of your team) how they are performing and how they could improve.

By the one-month mark, you will be starting to put task plans together, and have an understanding of both the overt goals and unspoken expectations that have been set for you. Now is the time to conduct a team audit.

Carrying out a team audit

In broad terms, your team audit needs to cover the following areas:

  • What the team is currently doing vs what they need to be doing
  • The skills and experience the team has vs the skills and experience needed to address your objectives
  • The current organisation of the team, vs the ideal arrangement needed
  • The available resource, vs the ideal amount of resource needed

In addition, you need to work out:

  • Who your most obvious deputy is, and whether they will need additional support and training in order to step up confidently in your absence
  • Which people show by their work rate and attitude that they will probably progress in their roles and are worth investing in
  • Which people show by their work rate and attitude that they are not pulling their weight and are unlikely to progress further in their roles. These folk need closer management to ensure they don’t drag down team effort and may eventually need to be the subject of a performance management process.

Depending on your management style, you may choose to assess by talking to your people to find out, for instance:

  • Their training history and work experience
  • Their commercial awareness and ability to think strategically
  • How they view their objectives and go about meeting them
  • How customer-connected they are.

You may want to add to this more scientific data, such as formal qualifications, evidenced experience and appraisal markings. You may also want to set some tasks and assignments. From this, you may make an overall assessment of their value on the team.

Taking external views

Another way of viewing your team is as a stakeholder would view it. You need to understand how your team fits with other teams in the organisation and how it performs to support and interact with those teams.

As you talk to the managers of the teams which interact with yours, take in their views not only on process and overall team performance but on the performance and attitude of individuals.

Self-assessment – working out what kind of a manager you want to be

Teams function best when they can trade off each other’s strengths and cover each other’s weaknesses. Use some form of communication style inventory to help you figure out how each person likes to be communicated with, and what approach they respond best to. If you have not taken a personality inventory yourself, this might be useful in order to work out your own communication strengths. It could be that you need to subtly adapt a management style that has worked well for you in the past in order to become the kind of manager this organisation and this team requires.

Restructuring your team

Once you have a clear idea of what task you face and how you intend to meet your challenges, you can begin to map out what kind of team you will need. Your audit will inform the resources that you have available, so the next task is to organise the available resources into the optimum shape, and identify any gaps that cannot be filled with existing resource.

Teams need clear tasks and direction, so the content and purpose of each role must be plain. Linkages between team roles need to be mapped, and there should be neither overlaps nor gaps between them, although roles may specify team working in order to get things done. Measures should be unambiguous, and set both for individuals and the overall team.

No team is an island so a map needs to be drawn of how your team interacts with other teams, and where the dependencies lie.

There is no single right way to change and reorganise a team; you need to choose a method based on your relationship with your team and your managerial style:

  • Creating the team structure, applying the people to the roles on a best-fit basis according to your audit and simply announcing it
  • Announcing the team structure and roles, and inviting people to apply for the roles
  • Calling a team meeting and discussing through various options, reserving the final decision
  • Holding a workshop through which the team leads the development of the team structure and roles based on a clear presentation from you of the challenges it must meet.

Once again, a lot will depend on the nature of the organisation. Some organisations have a culture which encourages employees to have a very active say in the work that they do and the way that they do it: in others, this is not part of the culture, and you may find that asking employees to say what they think provokes extreme discomfort – they would much rather you just told them how it’s going to be.

Setting objectives

Once the overall strategy and roles are clear to the team, objectives can be set. As well as being SMART, make sure these are drawn up with a clear line-of-sight to the organisation’s strategy, mission and vision statements, and that they align with your own and your boss’s objectives along the way. If at all possible make your own and the boss’s objectives visible to your team (removing personal objectives if necessary) so that they can see exactly what contribution they are making and where it fits in the scheme of things.

Work through objectives with each individual, making clear changes in emphasis from their last set of objectives. Set a date for mid-year adjustment and review. This is because new objectives on new projects in new teams can only be tested for consistency and fairness by trying them out. Identify and make specific plans to foster and grow talent.

Removing dead wood

Don’t be too quick to take out the dead wood. Take time to assess whether that person is bringing qualities to the team that are just not important to someone with your management style, but may be very important to the team. Watch how the rest of the team interacts with that person, and be aware that some covering may be taking place. Give the person specific tasks and deadlines, and test out your suspicions thoroughly before taking any action. Explore any potential personal reasons for non-performance.

If, after two months or so you can clearly see a body of evidence that this person is not adding anything to the team, discuss the matter with your own manager and HR before starting a performance management process with the individual.

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