Why some teams fail to achieve their potential

There is an old adage which says, you can’t change what you don’t measure.

It’s true of many things and perhaps the most common thing people grapple with is the battle of the bulge.

Chances are most of us would ‘like to lose a few pounds’ and in many ways it’s a simple thing to do…measure calories in versus calories out. Move more, eat less.

However, how many of us can’t be bothered to do that consistently enough over time? It’s too easy to fall into bad habits…a biscuit here, a chocolate bar there. You get the picture and before you know it you are a stone heavier and buying bigger clothes and feeling pretty fed up.

Sure things are easier with calories on food packaging and ‘fitbits’ but the chances are it takes a significant event like a wedding, looming holiday or the worst, a deeply hurtful remark to motivate you to measure what you want to change. To get into good habits and reap the rewards. But by that point the damage has been done and it takes much more work, effort and time, to lose the weight than it did to put it on!

The same can be applied to teams and teamwork. Most of us work in teams, whether that’s in a traditional way in an office or increasingly across geographical, organisational and even time domains.

We do what we do every day, mostly content with the way things are going. We fall into little bad habits or put up with issues that erode our performance in a small way, just like the odd biscuit, until before we know it we have our own work-based version of a wedding, looming holiday or cutting remark on our performance.

The trouble is the penalties at work can be far higher than a few pounds in weight. Lost revenue, increased staff turnover, reduced engagement, presenteeism (in work but not really engaged or working effectively), absenteeism and even redundancy are a few of the symptoms and issues caused by poor team performance.

However, what if it didn’t have to be this way?

What’s stopping managers and organisations taking a more proactive approach to measuring their team performance? Cost? Lack of awareness of how to measure team performance? Time? The reality is probably all three.

Thankfully there is a way. The Team Working Orientation Inventory (TWO)  is a powerful tool in determining how effective teams are at working together. It does this through self-assessing the five core-elements/competencies and identifying strengths and key areas for development.

The model is the result of more than 10 years of research with more than 1,000 teams across the UK and Europe. These include major organisations like Shell, Unilever, Kelloggs and the Inland Revenue.

The research behind TWO has shown that wherever there is highly effective team working, it always embraces five core sets of behaviours and competencies;

  • Working to common goals and objectives
  • Effective communication – both in sharing information and listening
  • Continuous improvement and problem solving – a desire to be better
  • Working together – irrespective of differences
  • Creating a sense of success and willing participation by all team members.

You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to know that when teams get this right it invariably leads to things like:

  • Better Performance
  • Better well-being – within the team and often within the wider organisation
  • A more positive set of behaviours

This tool is different from many other teamwork measures. Many focus on team dynamics and assess suitability for roles. Others examine personality to explain differences between team members in order to identify how productive relationships can be produced and where problems might arise.

What makes the TWO valuable is that it enables teams to assess and develop a consistent, proactive and preventative set of behaviours which support highly effective team working.

It was Henry Ford who said:

“Coming together is a beginning, staying together is progress, and working together is success.”

I think we could change that to “staying together is a process” and that process should include frequent measuring of performance and implementing small tweaks in behaviours. Much like an airliner, which is off course most of the time, but arrives at its destination through constant micro-adjustments to its flight path.

Another useful element of this tool is that fact that team scores are bench marked against every other team that has taken the test, giving managers and team members insight into how they compare against others.

As for cost and time, well the investment required in both is minimal with the assessment taking around 12 mins to complete per person.

So armed with this knowledge here are a few questions to get you thinking:

  • How confident are you that your team are performing to the best of their ability?
  • What would even a 10% improvement in performance do for them and your business?
  • What other benefits might come from giving the team a ‘service’?


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