Improving Team Dynamics Using Data, Not Emotion.

The Team Renaissance Assessment provides arena for corporate and higher ed teams to boost productivity.

Collecting and using data to create a place to start conversations around team dynamics removes some of the inherent emotion that goes along with those discussions.

“While Team Renaissance, the book, provides content and a framework for teams to improve and build on, the online Team Renaissance Assessment and subsequent workshops offer a more in-depth analysis helping teams leverage strengths and improve weaknesses,” said Richard Spoon, ArchPoint CEO and co-author.

The book’s authors worked with computer engineers to design a tool to help teams identify barriers to productivity. The assessment mirrors the book in that it asks questions directly related to the nine building blocks of great teams identified in the Team Arch®: relevant rewards, sharp insights, common measures, defined roles, efficient practices, solid culture, team leader, clear direction and consistent communication.

ArchPoint partner, Renee L. Camplese facilitated Team Renaissance workshops across the country within AdvancePierre Foods. Because the workshop discussions are based on data, team members are able to have a more frank and honest discussion about what’s working within a team and what’s not, Camplese said.

“They’re looking at data-driven results — and that makes the difference,” she said. “The people who participate are the ones who live it every day. They’re the ones in the trenches, and the leaders aren’t always as connected to that.”

The assessment’s anonymous presentation of individual responses signals that some people on the team “are having a wildly different experience and allows for an interesting conversation” within the group, Camplese said.

“Taking the assessment makes it all real,” said Jan Risher, co-author. “’Do we measure performance against goals? Am I handing off work in an effective manner? Does everyone on our team know our mission?’ The assessment asks those questions and many more.”

At AdvancePierre Foods, Team Renaissance Assessment results generated unexpected discussions about company culture, alignment and strategy goals within his team, said Mike Zelkind, senior vice president of operations.

“Issues came out that I wouldn’t have thought were issues,” Zelkind said. “For example, I think we’re very strong at setting high goals and cascading down big picture goals. The question is how can we not be aligned? I found out that some people didn’t think we were. Everybody is aligned in silos, but not across silos.”

The feedback from the session has driven changes within his team — from the cadence of team meetings to a revamp of the strategic plan, Zelkind said.

“We’re discussing: how do we measure, what do we measure and how do we make it cross-functional,” he said. “We’re focusing on bridging the different silos and operating in a holistic way.”

Mike Sims, chief financial officer of AdvancePierre, agreed that the exercise opened dialogue and engaged employees in discussions that they may not have otherwise started with the company’s leadership.

“One of the things we’re trying to do is to get people to be more vocal and communicative about what needs to be changed,” Sims said. “The conversations themselves, as we went through them, were most valuable and we were able to draw some themes.”

As part of the workshop, the team created an action plan that tied together previously proposed initiatives, such as mapping out and trouble-shooting its work processes.

The Team Renaissance Assessment workshop revealed a similar need for the Hispanic Business Student Association at the University of Texas at Austin. The association’s executive team participated in a workshop in August, facilitated by Risher.

Balancing academic courses, social lives, and their jobs — the ones that pay and the ones they hope pay off, like their involvement in their student organization — makes time management a priority for the student leaders. Their discussion centered on efficiency in their executive team meetings and in planning and producing events for their membership.

As part of their action plan, they decided to create an audit system to gather data on events they organize — ranging from socials to career fairs that draw major corporations.

“We want to keep files on our events so we can improve and see what we got wrong and what we got right,” said Letty Vallejo, the organization’s secretary.

The exercise opened the lines of communication among the student leaders, said Breanna Luna, a senior journalism major and the group’s public relations director. “What surprised me was the many different focal points that we hit on — things we could improve on,” Luna said. “I never really thought there was necessarily a problem — or weakness — but when she showed us the results and we discussed them, we were able to come to an agreement on what we could do to improve.”

Based on the success of the assessment within the higher education framework, UT Austin has opted to use it for more than 30 other student organizations and is using the book, Team Renaissance, as a text in one of its classes. At least two other universities have also decided to incorporate the book into their business school curriculum.