Monday, January 28, 2008
Projects and Their Expectations
I've argued before that a team's performance is somewhat governed by the context within which it is placed. There are a lot of factors within the team's control and these are the things that move them up and down the team's performance curve. But, there are plenty of things outside of the team's control and it is these items that control where the performance expectations are placed.
What's interesting about this model is the fact that it explicitly acknowledges there are factors outside of the team's control that affect the team's ability to be successful. For instance, in case A, no matter what action the team takes it does not have the ability to meet expectations. These projects are called "good character builders."
In cases C and D it is shown that it is possible for a project team to over and under deliver against expectations. No surprise here. In case C the team's actual performance exceeds expectations and that is not always a good thing. If the team is charged with generating revenue or cutting cost then more is always better. But let's say that the team is charged with processing engineering change orders (ECO's) for the organization. If the team pulls out all the stops they can turn around an ECO in 24 hours, but it will require skipping lunch and breaks. If no one cares how long it takes to get an ECO turned around as long as it is less than a week then the team's effort and sacrifice is for naught. Eventually, feeling neglected the team will lower their performance level to meet expectations.
In case D the team is under preforming against expectations that are within their ability. Here it can be expected that there will be an intervention somewhere to get the team on track.
What's interesting is that while the model is rarely straightforward organizations rarely, formally at least, ask themselves if the performance expectations are appropriate for the context that the team is operating within. A simple way to counter this is to ask the team if they have everything that they need to be successful given the constraints and then believe their response.