Optimising your team to beat the odds

August 27, 2015

Team Optimisation is the theme of the upcoming Dell Management Challenge, where I’ll be speaking at the end of September. It’s also a theme that’s hugely important to me personally. It was fundamental to my career as a rower and the success I enjoyed at Olympic Games and World Championships. And it’s fundamental to my career as a management consultant. Team Optimisation is about getting the best from everyone. Sounds simple, but it can be an objective that’s easy to lose sight of – and doing so has dire consequences for your competitiveness. Get Team Optimisation right though, and you will be amazed what odds you can overcome.

I’m often asked what makes a winning team. If I had to pick out one characteristic it would be that the best teams share a common purpose. They know why they are all there and have a level of interdependence to deliver collectively. This overarching sense of purpose enables them to focus on the best possible outcome for the team, and put their own goals into this context.

To achieve a sense of common purpose, you need clearly defined goals. This isn’t just a list of desirable outcomes; it needs to be a plan. It’s important to distinguish between the different types of goals that your team needs, and the different roles that they will play. Outcome goals are what get everybody out of bed in the morning. Performance goals are the short-term, tangible measures that you use to measure progress towards those outcomes. They need to build on a schedule that will deliver the result you are aiming for, and they need to be commonly understood so that you can focus your combined efforts around them. Process, meanwhile, helps you to know how to act and behave on a daily basis to give you the best possible chance of achieving the Performance goals. It’s important not to mix these up. Process isn’t a goal in itself – it’s there to support your goals and it should be optimised around them.

We get better at managing our goals and building interdependence as a team the more opportunities we have to put these skills to the test. That’s why the Dell Management Challenge itself is such a great opportunity for businesses. It’s a two-day team adventure race that combines physical and leadership challenges to help embed these kind of behaviours – and give a fresh perspective on how you can get better performance from your business. I like the idea of teams working together outside of their regular day-to-day business, and I’m looking forward to helping people have a different level of connection to their colleagues.

There’s still time to register your team for this year’s Dell Management Challenge, which takes place in the Brecon Beacons from 25 to 27 September. Find out more and register at the Management Challenge website.