“You don’t drive a car based on a periodic evaluation of changes in speed and direction i.e. by opening your eyes every 5-minutes to see if you crashed or broke a speed limit; instead, you constantly monitor the road ahead and make appropriate micro changes in the speed and direction of the car to safely get you from A to B.”
The debate about how leaders create a team climate and the impact of team climate on productivity is academically accepted and empirically evidenced. Furthermore, the use of objective data to identify opportunities for team improvement is largely regarded as the norm, especially in large corporations. What is not appreciated as clearly amongst the HR and L&D community is the need to continuously monitor teams for signs of increasing or decreasing climate, in order to fine tune rather than make bold, late and often clumsy corrections. In this piece of thought leadership, I will contrast two common forms of data gathering and use the example of production lines to illustrate the importance of routine data collection and fine tuning.
Data gathering takes many forms but tends to fall into two broad categories: monitoring and evaluating. Monitoring is the continuous assessment based on a systematic collection of data on specific indicators. Evaluation, on the other hand, is the systematic assessment of an activity (an on-going or completed project, programme or policy), its design, implementation and results.
Every modern production line, regardless of industry, is a complex system balancing inputs and processes to meet a required level of output. Production lines have a clear understanding of what the internal system (and often external to the organisation e.g. across its supply chain) looks like; monitor continuously with objective data; pick up lead indicators of issues early; treat as risks to production; and tune (by mitigating risks) the system to optimise output. Anyone involved in production line management will recognise this description and would be surprised if other systems, even if they don’t produce a significant volume of outputs, don’t adopt a similar set of principles.
So, what for HR and L&D professionals? What can we learn from productions lines? Using the notion of climate as one of many metrics pertinent to maximising the productivity of teams of people, my assertion is that good practice should comprise the following features, in the order shown:
- Baseline performance across all teams in an organisation
- Establish a process to constantly monitor climate, even in the absence of improvement interventions. Perhaps stagger PCS measures across teams to avoid questionnaire fatigue
- Try to identify small trends that might indicate an organisational (systemic) change in climate. Treat these trends as risks to investigate deeper and mitigate before they become issues
- Use the data to identify good leaders (those who consistently create and positive climate) and good practice
- Evidence high-impact and high-value interventions by measuring changes in climate pre and post intervention
- Use climate data for operational and strategic decision-making as you would do work-in-progress, stock levels, failure rates, production times on a production line
Remember, PCS isn’t just an evaluation tool, it’s a team performance monitoring system. To find out more about how to employ PCS at an organisational level, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Opinion piece by Chris Milliner, Director, Performance Climate System