Identify Your Biggest Gaps With The 7 Principles For High Performing Teams [infographic]

I've been applying and refining Seven Principles For High Performing Teams for years. 

Our clients adopt the Seven Principles as a powerful framework for developing teams while getting priority work done.

And I've summed them up in this infographic.

Here I'll share a client story and drill in a little deeper.

Meet Jane (again)

Jane, the intrepid protagonist from our last episode, has a problem. She has a new business in her enterprise. It is pushing through that tricky transition from late-stage product development to commercialization.

Her team, however, can't seem to get out of it's own way.

Critical interdependencies between product development, sales and manufacturing have descended into conflict:

  • Matt, VP for Manufacturing, is viewed as intransigent. Sales wants him to support ambitious targets to satisfy a broader range of customers. He says, 'No! I'll compromise quality!'
  • Betty, VP for Sales, is viewed in turn by Matt as 'a mercenary willing to sell her mother to close a deal' - regardless of his capability to deliver.
  • And both Matt and Betty think Paul, VP for Product Development, is 'a lab coat-wearing propeller-head lost in his models.'

Jane Calls A Meeting For Grownups To Create The Conditions For Success

Jane needs to create the conditions that enable her team to transition the business to commercialization.

To do this, Jane has to move the team to a new place where they wrestle and debate until they find solutions.

She calls a meeting and opens by explaining to the team:

"It's clear to me, and I'm requesting that it become clear to each of you, that the specialization each of you brings to your role sets you apart. But the way our culture is designed, it also sets you at odds."

Think about it: we all want Betty to be hungry for each sale, and we all want Paul to be a creative madman, and we all want Matt to be a stickler for quality and standardization. So we're going to drive each other a little crazy."

But we've made the mistake of experiencing what are natural tensions between roles as conflict!" 

Jane knows Job #1 for the enterprise leader is to architect a system-of-roles that explicitly creates natural tension. Jane knows resolving natural tensions between roles is the mother of innovation.

"We have developed a powerfully innovative product. It's not a unicorn, but we do have a blue ocean in front of us. And just to confirm what you already know, our investors have limited patience."

We understand our desired future state as a business."

And clearly, our current inability to work together effectively is making that future business unlikely."

I think the reason is very simple: we are not engaged in a conversation around our desired future state as a team. We are not engaged in a conversation about our shared journey to high performance."

Look at this picture. Which of these three scenarios best describes us?"

Everyone on the team knew that this is a rhetorical question.

Silence follows.

Jane Leads The Way Forward With The Seven Principles For High Performing Teams

"I'll assume your silence means each of you agrees that our performance is average. And if we are going to be successful, then our performance has to shift. So let's change our world together," she encourages.

Jane explains that there are seven principles for high performing teams. Each of these principles can be thought of as an attribute. And the journey to high performance is to optimize each.

For example, an attribute of all high performing teams is a clear and inspiring purpose. Many teams have difficulty establishing clear role authority, accountability for shared work and strategic focus because they do not have a clear purpose.

Jane shares a second picture. "Here are the Seven Principles," she states.

She proposes that they use these seven principles to collect data and conduct a gap analysis. There are three simple steps:

  • Describe their ideal future state.
  • Assess their current state.
  • Identify the gaps.

She further explains that the biggest gap is their current primary constraint to high performance. When they identify that, they'll know what to focus on first.

To collect data, each member of the team is asked a series of questions. They are asked to describe their ideal future state and their current state.

  1. Purpose: Are we a strong team with a clear and energizing purpose? 
  2. Focus: Are we aligned towards our desired future state? 
  3. Mindset: Does this team inspire leadership and execution?
  4. Roles: Does every key decision have a single owner who drives it to resolution?
  5. Interdependencies: Are we clear where shared work exists? Are we collaborating effectively? 
  6. Strategies: Are all leaders advocating in service of business results? 
  7. Implementation: Are we communicating a compelling path forward, delivering results and creating confidence.

Here is the gap analysis.

An unclear purpose is their current primary constraint to higher team performance. It becomes self-evident to everyone on the team that before they can resolve their conflicts, they first need to agree on the operational purpose of the team.

Now they are on the journey. They identified the current primary constraint. They have a shared framework for discussing with precision the strengths and weaknesses of their business culture.

And they now have a clear sequence of steps to take. They follow the cascade, hitting milestones in the right order:

  • First, they design an operational purpose that explains the develop, sell and deliver capabilities required to deliver value to their target customer.
  • They then align their mindset with formal protocols for feedback, conflict resolution, and contracting.
  • With agreements on how to navigate tension, they are then able to conduct a role gallery, defining roles, handoffs, and final-call authority.
  • This enables them to refine their interdependencies, decision-making protocols and system-of-meetings.
  • With the rules of the road getting clear for how they show up and work together -- their business culture -- they refine their business model with new strategies and supporting implementation metrics. 

The Seven Principles Guide Teams On The Journey To High Performance

I've laid this process followed by Jane and her team as an infographic. It describes both key questions to ask and attributes to look for in guiding teams towards higher performance.

Applying this approach, it becomes possible for leaders and teams to:

  1. Demystify culture, providing both the language and metrics to to build effective ways of working.
  2. Bring precision, enabling you to identify the current constraint - and highest return investment - to higher performance. 
  3. Build confidence, inspiring teams with a clear path forward toward an ideal future. 

You can find the infographic here

Please let me know what you think.