Team Strength: A Data and Communication-Driven Action Plan for Team Leads
NC State Contributors: Mark Wilson, Stephen Paul, Christine Brugh
LAS Contributors: Michele Kolb, Paul Narula
- WESTWOLF (2017-2019)
- Fundamental 5/Significant 7 (2020)
- Rapid Temperature Check (2021)
- Team Strength Tool Suite
What is Team Strength?
Team Strength is a suite of tools designed to help operational team leads identify where their teams are out of alignment and focus their efforts on areas where misalignment diminishes team performance. Years of prior research using Industrial Organizational Psychology methodologies have led to our premise: If you want to have an impact, a key leverage point is at the team/team lead level. This year we focused on building the Team Strength tool suite to empower team leads with data they can use to inform their decisions and to communicate with leadership up the chain of command.
- •Rigorous, data-driven approach to team alignment
- Team members participate anonymously in around 5 minutes
- As administrators, team leads have control over the process and their data
- Results are available instantly, as soon as data is entered
- Intervention options focus on areas with highest potential impact
- Trend analysis helps interpret effectiveness of interventions and changes to team over time
At its core, Team Strength is an iterative action plan team leads can employ to better understand and guide their teams based on data rather than assumptions. Team leads use the Team Strength tool suite to capture data about their teams, assess that data for insights about where they and their team might be out of alignment on issues related to performance, work activity, mission alignment, customer alignment, feedback, and motivation, and then take action using interventions designed to address misalignments with the greatest impact on the team, thereby increasing team effectiveness. Team Strength also incorporates trend analysis to show change over time as the team repeats the process. This is important because teams aren’t static, their composition and mission aren’t static, so it pays for team leads to reassess at regular intervals or when there is a significant change that affects the team. It is worth noting that no tool can do the job alone. We built Team Strength to provide team leads who are committed to action the tools they need to make data-driven decisions and prioritize their interventions.
How Does Team Strength Work?
It all starts with the Team Strength tool. The Team Strength tool is used to gather data from team members to create a profile of team alignment regarding workflow, work activity, growth need, work strategy, work appreciation, the mission, and the customer. Known in an earlier version as the Rapid Temperature Check, the Team Strength tool consists of a survey tool and a spreadsheet-based analytic tool prototype. Together they are used to collect and analyze data from the team. The tools are designed to be as light-touch as possible, with each tool taking only about five minutes for team members to complete. (Team lead time requirements are longer, particularly when setting up the tools for the first time as team leads familiarize themselves with the process.)
Team Strength Tool Process
- Predict team responses to Team Strength tool
- Collect Team Strength tool data
- Review Team Strength profile
- Present results to team for discussion
- Select and implement action
- Conduct follow up Team Strength tool assessment
Once a team lead has committed to action, the first step is to capture the team lead’s predictions of their team’s responses. Next the team lead loads the template into the survey tool to collect data from the team and socializes the effort among the team. Templates to facilitate this process are provided. Because they are key elements of effective team leadership, communication and feedback are baked into the process. There is no custom platform requiring network support. The tools are designed to be used with software that teams already have, a corporate survey tool and Excel, with clear explanations on each tab of the workbook.
Checklists are provided to walk the team lead through the process for each tool.
The team lead is given everything needed to administer their own rapid data collection survey with their team and then paste their team’s results into the tool.
When the data has been inserted into the workbook, results are presented through a number of visualizations, including a heat map of the results they can share with their team prior to discussion.
Other results Team Strength presents include:
- A comparison of the teams’ responses to the team lead’s predictions
- A plot of the total Team Strength score and a visual representation of the relative contributions of each component:
- A detailed analysis of the average level for each area and the level of disagreement among team members:
- An executive summary:
- A rank order of potential action areas for the team lead to concentrate on improving:
- Trend analysis for the ability to track changes in the teams’ responses over time:
Data-Informed Decisions: Taking Action
Based on the Team Strength Profile results, the team lead first compares their perceptions of their team’s position, captured in advance, with the team’s responses to assess how accurate their predictions were. The team lead presents the results to the team to solicit feedback and comment. Considering the areas indicated as most out of alignment and the team’s input, the team lead selects a potential action area and chooses either to implement the related Team Strength intervention or to develop their own, based on their team and context. Three of the potential action areas have empirical tools to use for interventions: Performance, Work Activity, and Motivation. The other three action areas, customer, mission, and feedback, can be addressed via the Team Strength structured activities provided or the team lead can customize a unique intervention. Team Strength is designed for iterative use and provides trend analysis for up to three profiles. Once the intervention has had a chance to work, the team lead can use the Team Strength tool to evaluate the intervention’s effectiveness and determine if other areas need to be addressed.
Team Strength Underpinnings
“We gained some valuable insights into how our team functions, as well as what our priorities were versus what they should be.” – Testimonial from a team lead
Team Strength is the culmination of an LAS research effort focused on analyst performance, including prior work under Project Westwolf. It was developed based on industrial and organizational psychology methodologies along with input from teams across the enterprise. While initially designed for first line analyst team leads, Team Strength tools and their precursors have been successfully used by other types of teams, and have been expanded to cover a wider range of work roles and multi-functional teams.
“We implemented several improvements to enhance a common understanding of mission, improve communication within and outside the team, and reduce distractions and busy work.” – Testimonial from a team lead
I Want to Try It!
The Team Strength tool is available now. The full prototype tool suite is still under construction, with completion expected by the end of December. Contact Mark Wilson (email@example.com) or Michele Kolb (firstname.lastname@example.org) for more information.