Gouda Performance Management Makes Building Great Teams a Brie-ze

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Setting a clear vision and strategy are critical to creating and sustaining successful work winning teams. Performance management must be aligned to that vision and strategy if you’re going to succeed.

My view on the performance management and motivation of my team has been shaped by a classic story that I’m sure appears on every MBA and leadership school course content across the world.

I don’t really know if the story is true, or if it’s one of those fables that makes a point so perfectly that it becomes real…

“During a visit to the NASA Space Centre in 1962, President Kennedy noticed a cleaner carrying a broom across the control room. He interrupted his tour, walked over to the man and said: “Hi, I’m Jack Kennedy, what are you doing?”

The cleaner responded: “I’m helping put a man on the moon, Mr President.”

The cleaner understands the importance of his contribution. He truly felt he was a valuable part of something bigger than himself. He wasn’t merely a cleaner, he was a member of 1962 NASA Space Team.

Having my whole team working towards one set of common goals, and ultimately one mission or purpose, has always been fundamental to how I set out performance management and measurement. And, enhancing that, having that team aligned to, and bought into contributing to, organisational goals and ambition. This is my ultimate goal.

Whilst the cleaner putting a man on the moon is a great story, it can be hard to quantify how you create the motivational team environment in an everyday business. Not every business is boldly going where no man has gone before. So, rather than thinking about putting a man on the moon… I like to think about wedge of Swiss cheese.

I’m a visual person. A wedge of Swiss cheese is a great way to think about how an organisational ambition can be translated into both practical, tangible measures and performance metrics in a work winning team. In reality, this is just another management diagram, but making it cheese makes things tastier.

At the tip of your wedge is the vision and strategy of your organisation. This is the central focus of your work winning team. You are part of an organisation and your role is to create the jobs and opportunities that sustain the organisation long term.

As you move from the tip wedge to the opposite end, you can visually capture the objectives and goals the team collectively needs to meet to deliver the strategy. From function to team to individual, performance goals need to align and relate to one another up and down that hierarchy. It allows people to understand the part they play and how they contribute to your overall objectives.

And of course, as a wedge of cheese, if you put all the wedges together (each one representing a member of your team), you’ve got the whole wheel.

Too many objectives and you’ll have so many holes in your cheese it becomes the diet version, with more air than dairy. A not very nice experience when eating it. And likewise, too few holes and it’s clear this isn’t premium cheese. Getting the balance right is key.

When our editor Martin Smith asked the question, “How do you measure performance?” for this edition of BQ, the answer for me was simple. Measurement is only as good as the context you put around it – and we measure performance by assessing how everyone in the team contributes to the success of others and the business as a whole.

This article was written by Mike Reader.

Mike Reader is one of the UK’s leading work winning professionals, helping senior leaders navigate the bidding and sales world. He leads a specialist team at Mace who work across all continents pursuing mega built environment and infrastructure projects. He also loves cold water swimming, politics and good food.

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