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Performance is a Team Sport, So Why Aren’t We Managing it that Way?

‘Individual work’ now accounts for just 30% of the working week1! The rest is spent on internal meetings & other forms of internal collaboration!

What are the implications of this new 70:30 reality? The principal implication is that performance today is a team sport! Yet, most organizations primarily focus on individuals. Herein lies a great opportunity.

Performance Mgt. – the missing 70%!

Individual work now accounts for less than one third (30%) of all work. The rest (70%) is taken up by teamwork and collaboration. So, where to focus if you are looking to boost performance or efficiency?  Would you focus on the 70% (team) or the 30% (individual)? 

Based on the numbers above, most leaders would focus on the 70% – as it accounts for the majority of work it can deliver the majority of improvements. Yet, most organizations are still focused on performance at an individual level.

Traditionally the issue of performance has focused on the individual, rather than the team. That includes the annual review, the performance improvement plan and the mixture of carrot and stick incentives. All have been designed to manage individual performance.

  • Within many organizations people are rewarded and promoted based on individual performance, with little consideration of their contribution to the performance of a group or team.
  • The primary focus is on hiring and developing individual high performers or high potentials. But, these, so called ‘A Players’, can face particular challenges when it comes to collaborating effectively with others.

Traditional performance management is focused on just 30% of the working week! All the team and collaboration stuff gets neglected, even though it now accounts for most of the work (70%).

By focusing on individual performance, traditional organizational leadership, culture and even structure often promote competition ahead of collaboration.

Most Work is Now Teamwork!

As one of our coaching colleagues puts it: ‘If 70% of the time is spent on teamwork and collaboration, then teamwork is 70% of the work! It is also 70% of performance, 70% of cost and 70% of the waste or inefficiency. More importantly, it is 70% of the potential! You cannot overlook so much opportunity – you have to focus there! If you care about performance, optimizing teams and teamwork must be a priority.’

Another member of our coaching team makes a similar argument: ‘To look at performance without thinking of teams is a major blind sport and a significant lost opportunity. It is time for a team-centric approach to performance’.

Why Performance is a Team Sport

Teamwork doesn’t just dominate our calendar – taking up 70% of our working week. Teams have the power to elevate our performance or to depress it. They can frustrate us too!! For example, executives say that (on average) 50% of internal collaboration adds little or no value!!! That’s an alarm call for all executives!!

Given the rise of teamwork and collaboration, most executives now get less than one hour of uninterrupted time in a typical day. The primary casualty is ‘focus time’ to complete deep/complex work or even time to think and think strategically. Add to that a higher risk of burnout due to run-away multi-tasking.

The volume of ineffective meetings and unwarranted interruptions are evidence of the opportunities to optimize the Way We Work (as teams). Optimizing ‘the Way We Work’ doesn’t just boost the 70% (teamwork) but has a knock-on effect on the 30% (individual work) too.

Performance at 100%

By tackling the realities of today’s work (the 100%) – optimizing the Way WE Work – can be more than twice as effective as traditional performance management (which only works on the 30%).

That’s the No.1 Implication of ‘the new 70:30 Reality‘: A team-centric approach to performance management. It makes ‘the Way We Work’ the No. 1 strategy to boost performance.

The Team – Performance Link

Individual and team performance go hand in hand. Indeed, the impact of teams on individual performance is difficult to underestimate:

Teams shape our thinking, behavior & experience of work more than perhaps anything else! So, while our boss may have formal power, our teams have an informal power that cannot be underestimated.2

Our primary experience of the organization is through our teams. For most people, what happens in their teams shapes their daily work experience more than decisions taken by the board, the corporate strategy or the latest restructuring3.

Teams are increasingly seen as crucial to the organization also. Increasingly, the success of the modern organization depends less on the heroic solo-run of individuals and more on the collaborative effort of networks of individuals and teams.  That is because today’s new products, technologies and business models are brought to life not by individuals working in isolation, but by high performing teams that cut-across functions and silos. Yet, by focusing on individual performance, traditional organizational leadership, culture and even structure often promote competition ahead of collaboration.

All the above explain why performance and productivity must be managed and optimized at the level of the team, not just the individual. It can also optimize engagement job satisfaction & well-being too.

Why does it matter?

The Way WE Work matters more than the way You or I work. Indeed, it is up to three times more important. That is because executives are spending up to 70% of their time on internal collaboration!

Optimizing the Way You Work (as an individual) only addresses 30% of total work! The majority of work, the 70% that is collaborative – the WE work – is unaffected.

Optimizing ‘the Way We Work’ boosts the 70% (teamwork) as well as the 30% (individual work). So, it can be more than twice as effective as traditional performance management alone.

That’s the No.1 Implication of ‘the new 70:30 Reality’! It makes ‘the Way We Work’ the No. 1 strategy to boost performance.

The Way We Work (as a team) must be optimized if individuals are to be more productive and efficient. Also, if they are to enjoy high levels of engagement, job satisfaction and lower levels of pressure or stress.

So, imagine the benefits of optimizing ‘the Way We Work’ (a) for you? (b) for your team? (c) for your organization?

There is a growing awareness that performance is not just about the individual, as can be seen here:

  1. Data gathered via Pitstop Analytics across 1000 teams, date of analysis 2021. []
  2. There is a large volume of research on factors such as Groupthink, Social Conformity, Norms of Behavior, Social Comparison, Social Contagion and so on. If you would like to explore these in more detail see ‘Teams Don’t Work, Unless You Do!’ by Ray Collis and John O Gorman, ASG Press 2018. []
  3. To explore this in more detail see Nine Lies About Work: A Freethinking Leader’s Guide to the Real World” by Marcus Buckingham, Ashley Goodall, Harvard Business Review Press, 2 April 2019 []

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