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6 Reasons Why Your Team Management Isn’t Working

6 Reasons Why Your Team Management Isn’t Working

Diverse Perspectives Leading to Delays

While diverse perspective in a team can be a great advantage that drives innovation and ensures dozens of ideas and solutions, the lack of proper management can cause this diversity to decide on choices for quite a long time and lead to projects holding up. For example, a team was working in a tech startup hoping to meet a milestone by launching a product in six months. In the team, there were members of diverse specializations, such as engineers, marketing specialists, and UX specialists, and all of them had a perspective on the new thing that they were going to release. The engineers highlighted the technical details and wanted the product to be technically perfect, the marketers offered a solution that had been gaining popularity recently, and the UX team had a view on how the product should engage the user. However, without having a proper algorithm, how to arrive at a decision, the company spent too much time at meetings and could not arrive at a solution for weeks . As there were no managers who can resolve disputes, the discussions always ended in a tie.

Therefore, the company had to develop a framework to structure decision-making: it had to clarify whose opinion would be the final one, provided clear criteria for choice, and developed tools for efficient voting . With the new approach, the team decreased the time spent at decision making, which took almost three weeks and now can be done for a day. In a nutshell, while diverse perspective in a team can be a blessing, the lack of proper management can be a curse.

Two of the biggest misalignment issues I have experienced as a project manager are task mismatch and lack of aligned goals. Both of these examples highlight cases in which poor delegation and communication led to inefficiency and demotivation. In the first one, a graphic designer was asked to do data analysis, a task that was outside of their expertise. In the second case, a data analyst was instructed to come up with creative content. Not only did both employees have a hard time with these tasks, but they weren’t motivated to complete them quickly. After I realized the issue with task mismatch, I adjusted the delegation approach to one based on everyone’s strengths and career aims. This way, every project team member was satisfied with their role, and production rates soared.

In the second example, lack of aligned goals between different teams also severely impacted team cohesion. In the environmental NGO I worked with, offshore and terrestrial marine projects were equally funded and supported. I had not realized that the organization was in the process of gradually shifting its priority focus from the marine to the terrestrial to have a more significant impact. As such, our team efforts were scattered, and not enough resources went into the new focus area. The management team led a series of workshops to inform everyone about the updated goals. These workshops were also used to illustrate how offshore and onshore marine team efforts could help make these goals happen. Surveys conducted post-workshops revealed a 40% increase in team understanding and alignment, which strongly correlated with a spike in project efficiency and success rates.

The last misalignment issue new teams may face is the absence of sufficient tools and resources. A tech company’s developers frequently made errors and repeated one another’s work as their management tools and systems did not synchronize well.

Consensus Obsession

When teams get obsessed with achieving unanimous agreement, decision-making practices become paralyzing. Mid-sized marketing firm is a prime example, as the leadership team would attempt to arrive at consensus with regard to every decision, be it related to the company’s campaign strategy or the allocation of the advertising budget. Meetings would run for hours, as members of the team would argue seemingly insignificant points. However, by favoring the agreement, the team would dilute strong, innovative ideas with weaker ones or reject them upon conducting a thorough discussion. It was calculated that campaign success would decrease by 20% due to the decisions favoring consensus rather than bold strategic moves.

The solution that was found was introducing a degree of responsibility and eliminating the agreement from the decision-making process, relying on the majority rule. The creative director would be allowed to finalize disputes regarding creative aspects, while the decision about the budget would be left to the CFO. The need for reducing the time spent on meetings effectively with a resulting increase in campaign excitement was reported.

Another, perhaps equally devastating consequences of consensus obsession is the overreliance on group decision-making where it is not necessary, which may also have severe effects on individual team members. For instance, in a startup that’s working on a new tech product, engineers and product managers may require approval from their group even for minor changes to an app’s features or fixing a bug. Product development is slowed down, while the people are frustrated with the application of their knowledge and expertise. The solution for the startup was establishing a small group responsibility for decision-making when it comes to normal, routine development tasks. As the system was introduced, the time required to implement a new feature halved.

Another root of the problem may be the fear of conflict, as individuals may be afraid of upsetting people by disagreeing. This was the case in a nonprofit organization, where the executive team would not make bold decisions that may be controversial. It was required for the executive team to conduct training about the constructiveness of disagreement five years ago to improve and be more adaptable to the current organizational funding changing and engage in more challenging, yet effective operational strategies.

Diluted Decision-Making

Diluted decision-making or when decisions are unclear and have no impact because they have been filtered through too many people or have been made as a consequence of trying to make everybody happy. An example taken from the experience of a large consumer electronics company is the case of product development where too many teams had the opportunity to participate in the decision-making on each product feature. Multiple committees including design, marketing, and even legal participated in the appraisal of each feature. This process was bureaucratic but slow and almost never gave an innovative or even clear way of looking at each product feature. It routinely took too long to launch a product to the market, and by that time, most of the features were already outdated. The company realized that its time to market was 40% greater than its competition. The problem was resolved in the following way – smaller teams that are cross-functional received more authority to act and decide alone under established clear frameworks where more people should participate and when it is not necessary . The positive result was that product development took 25% of time less than with the previous process and features were more relevant and twenty-first-century-oriented.

Another example of diluted decision-making seems to be too much compromising and the attempt to reach agreement through trade-offs. At a provider of healthcare where new protocols for patient care were introduced had such a problem. These protocols were perfect everywhere but in practice because each department started making corrections that changed them in a not very efficient way but protected the interest of every department. This diluted the role of these protocols rather than strengthened it, and eventually, they looked like a bad version of the previous recipe. Patient care did not improve at all. The problem was resolved through the decision-making process that made optimizations through the need of the patient and not the department . The new protocols were accepted in a timely way.

Diluted decision-making can be also provoked by inexperienced and not effective leaders who are not very good at making important decisions. The problem I have encountered with such a leader is the lack of firm directions in the work of a digital marketing agency. The work on projects was unordered, and customers were very unhappy as projects did not meet their expectations. The problem was resolved through proper project organization that included the creation of a decision-making hierarchy, and firm timelines for decision making.

The Yes-Men Syndrome

Yes-Men Syndome tends to paralyze organizations, creating the atmosphere where disagreement is impossible and rewarding people who follow certain patterns of behavior. This issue affected one financial organization where leaders created their in-groups by hiring people who always agreed with them. However, these people were more concerned about their job continued to follow the certain rules and never challenged existing strategies. For example, their team leader decided to implement the new software and asked the team implement it as soon as possible without previous testing. The team members never attempted to point out different unresolved issues to the leaders. However, right after the implementation of this software systems started failing, and soon after user complaints and dissatisfaction rates changed to 30%.

Revamping Feedback

In order to increase the quality of the feedback the company decided to implement the anonymous feedback resources and to create Cerberus forums where employees could express their feelings and thoughts about the situation. Furthermore, the leaders were trained to this how different opinions could be beneficial for faster achievement of objectives and implementation of innovative approaches.

Groupthink Culture

Yes-Men Syndrome usually implies that Groupthink culture could be created that increased the level of irrationality and to nonsense level of decisions. In the advertising agency system all teams had no desire to challenge different ideas and argue with each other. As a result, the ideas of the senior employees were supported and implemented despite of their shininess. For example, this decision led to the creation of flavorless marketing campaigns and the strategy of the company that could not resonate with the interests and thoughts of the target audience. It was mirrored by the decreased level of productivity and customer satisfaction, and the number of retained clients. In this situation managers decided to change the rules of the game and introduced the principle of idea meritocracy. There were weekly make a point sessions that helped in analyzing each idea in order to focus on the substance of the issue instead of arguable question of who is right. This approach helped to acquire 20% of the profit share after creation and promotion of a new drink.

Inefficacy in Innovation

Inefficacy in innovation often results from too rigid team structures and processes which curtail creativity and resist experimentation. At the multinational electronics company, its research and development team was bound by too strict project guidelines and milestone requirements. Thus, innovation was completely stifled by the common concern to meet the requirements already defined rather than to pursue new ideas. The project on advanced battery technology was stopped as the first phase completed without yielding any success. However, what could not be said a success for the company later was successfully developed by the competitor and constituted 15% of its market share . The company restructured the innovation management approach eliminating phased milestones and making projects more flexible to account for the exploratory phase and the unexpected outcomes. It rejuvenated the creativity of the R&D team members and in 18 months, two new product lines were launched.

Bottlenecks in Decision-Making

Another significant reason leading to inefficacy in innovation relates to the decision-making process. At the software development firm, every new product feature or a slight adjustment required approval of not only the CEO, but of the Vice Presidents of Product Development and Technology, too. As a result, getting their approval already took more time than developing the feature or introducing the adjustment in the existing product line. Significant holes in the product launch schedule appeared which were only augmented by the missed windows by innovative technologies. Hence, decisions were delegated to project leads so that they could decide on the specific features or an adjustment to the existing products. Thus, the number of decision-making layers was halved and the development cycle time reduced by 30%. Thus, the company’s product innovation increased and its ability to cater to the clients’ feedback improved.

Lack of Resource Allocation

Innovation is significantly compromised when insufficient resources are allocated to it. At the clean energy start-up, funding was highly centralized and, although some amount of money was spent on the exploratory projects, the majority of resources was allocated for safe, incremental improvements of the existing technologies. The breakthrough in the particular technological solution is a rare occasion, but it is still necessary for balancing the risk and the degree of innovation. The company changed the pattern of annual budgeting and introduced the innovation fund which accounts for 20% of R&D spending. The considerable breakthrough occurred in the efficiency of solar panels increasing the company’s competitive edge in the renewable energy sector .

Misalignment of Team and Management Goals

There are multiple issues associated with goal misalignment. The first one is that a lack of goal alignment frequently leads to frustration and inefficient processes. This phenomenon was evident in a large retail corporation, in which the sales team was strictly incentivized according to the amount of product sold, yet management’s strategic goal was to achieve higher profitability by selling high-margin products. Consequently, the sales team had incentive structures in place that encouraged them to push low-margin products to customers. As a result, the sales figures skyrocketed, whereas the corporation’s profitability stayed the same. The analyses indicated that if the sales team started selling the high-margin products instead, the corporation’s profits could be increased by up to 25%. Consequently, the retail corporation was grossly inefficacious due to goal misalignment, and a proper solution was implemented. In response, the corporation’s bonus systems and performance appraisal documents were adjusted according to profit margins, prompting a 30% systematic profit increase within the first year.

Another common issue that leads to goal misalignment in organizations is departmental discrepancies in objectives. For instance, in a technology company, the engineering team’s goal was to develop bleeding-edge technology, and the marketing department was interested only in quickly-iterated product launches to keep up with competitors. This resulted in the systematic product launch delays associated with the engineering team’s focus on specific engineering projects and cutting-edge research. To mitigate the negative ramifications of this problem, the organization’s management established integrated project teams that included employees from both departments. These teams were tasked with developing the roadmaps that were balanced and incorporated both the blue-sky exploration of technologies and market-driven timelines. As a result, product launches were expedited, delays reduced by 40%, and customer satisfaction was increased due to increases in product alignment with consumer needs.

The main issue that serves as the cause of goal misalignment within organizations is neglect of strategic communication on upper management’s part: lower-level employees were not aware of the bank’s intentions to switch its competitive strategy from utilizing traditional products to digital ones. To address this issue, the bank developed a variety of internal communications tools that included weekly emails from the CEO, digital displays, and interactive paper communications.

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