Data Analysis and Team Work

Data Analysis proves: It is the Humans that make teams work!

Who knew it would take a data driven analytic company like Google to tell the world that it is human behaviour that makes the difference for effective teams! HR professionals have always known that it is the soft skills that make teams work and that the development of employee soft skills is a Human Resources specialty.

Google, the world’s best known data analysis company, wanted to know what makes one team more effective than another.  In true Google fashion, the company started to look for the answers somewhere in the data.

If the answer for what makes one team more effective is found, is it possible to replicate and make all teams equally effective? Hence, the birth of the Googles’ team research project, Project Aristitole. Google invested two years and extensive manpower into analyzing data from more than 180 teams!

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Google was convinced that team effectiveness would be based on the intelligence and talent of the individual team members and they would find the concrete data to support that theory.  However, that was not the result; Instead the research showed Google the importance of employee soft skills. The data-based evidence revealed that it is not who was on the team that made it successful, but the relationships between the team members that was most critical. In other words, the human side is the most critical skill for effective team relationships. This again stresses the importance of the Human side of Human Resources.

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The most effective teams have successful relationships or a great understanding of their group norms.  Effective teams are able to answer the following questions:

  • What makes the team tick?
  • How is the team structured?
  • How do team members communicate with each other?

Developing positive group norms are keys to successful teams. Another term that is important to team effectiveness is the feeling of “psychological safety”, a concept which was first studied by Professor Amy Edmondson of Harvard University. The importance of making teams’ effective lies with HR. In order to make sure that groups have a solid understanding of Tuckmans’ stages of teams: forming, storming, norming, and performing,  HR must:

  • Take a lead role in ensuing groups norms are developed by a focused strategy and not by default
  • Develop a team structure that works specifically for that team
  • Stress the importance of inter-team communications

As for Google’s data based discoveries, it takes courage to admit when one has made a mistake. In this case, Google, while getting it all wrong from a data perspective, got it right by recognizing the importance of the human side of the data based equation.

Discussion Question:

  1. Upon becoming aware of the results of Google’s ‘Project Aristotle”, what would you include in a team building orientation training program?

The Demise of Goodwill

The very sudden and very public downfall of the Goodwill Toronto charitable retail organization has received much media scrutiny as the unfortunate chain of events has unfolded.  At the time of this posting, the latest step has been the declaration of bankruptcy on the part of Goodwill Toronto.

Goodwill Donations sign on building
Source: Ken Wolter / Shutterstock

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There is no doubt that the Goodwill Toronto saga is complex and difficult.  While it is easy to speculate and analyze this case from the perspective of an outsider, this is a painfully real strategic human resources planning issue that links directly to the connection between strategic organizational mission and the delivery of business outcomes.  When these are not connected, the results are clearly devastating.

Marnie Soupcoff of the National Post, provides some thoughtful insight into this much needed connection between organizational mission and business results.

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Strategic organizational mission should drive everything down to the last detail of business decisions which end in operational and transaction based results. The Goodwill Toronto situation shows us exactly how this is all unfolded from a negative perspective.   The organization’s disconnection from it’s own mission statement seems to have fractured everything in its path right down to the messy appearance surrounding donation drop-off doors.

One can only hope, should Goodwill Toronto choose to rebuild, that they will take a different approach by using its mission in a pro-active and connected way in order to achieve a positive new start that supports a sustainable future.

Discussion Questions:

  1. As an HR professional, how will you ensure that an organization’s mission is embedded into functional business strategy?
  2. Have you worked in an organization where there was a clear disconnect between the organization’s values and its day to day practices? How did that disconnect present itself?
  3. What advice would you give to the CEO of an organization that is mission driven when it becomes clear that the mission is not supported by all employees?
  4. Would you resign from an organization if you thought it no longer upheld its own mission, vision, and values? If so, why?  If not, why not?

Sleep time. Dream time.

Her message is simple and powerful – Get some sleep.

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After viewing this clip, you may be thinking, “What has this got to do with HR professionals and strategic planning?”  The answer lies in the power of giving organizations time for dreaming.  Especially when those organizations invest in the creative processes of shaping their own mission and vision.  Strategic planning should not be the production of a management checklist.  Rather, it should arise from the power of creative thinking.

When are our thoughts the most creative?  When we are given time to rest and to dream.

As Ms. Huffington states, we are in a society that seems to value the sleep-deprived state of one-upmanship.  Organizations, reflective of this society, seem to be caught up in the busy-ness of the business.  How much time is spent resting instead of doing, in order to allow for big picture thinking, planning and looking out for the future?  There seems to be far too much emphasis on a frenetic goal oriented checklist that narrows our work-life focus into the minutia and drains us of organizational life.  Getting ‘stuff’ done becomes critical so that we can prove our busy-ness worth in comparison to each other.

What gets lost in all of this frantic detail driven activity?  The ability to see and create mission, vision, and values, which come from, and enable, big picture clarity.

Organizations are living creations, made up of valuable human energy that ebbs and flows in natural rhythms.  All living things need to rest so that they can be re-filled and re-charged in order to meet new challenges in positive ways.   At the very least, let’s give ourselves a break and start building in some ‘organizational dream time’ on that checklist.

Maybe, we should sleep on it first.

Discussion Questions:

  1. How much time in your workday is devoted to thinking and not doing?
  2. When you are tired, how would you rate your ability to be creative?
  3. When are you most creative and productive within your workday?
  4. What is the value in being sleep deprived?

The Inside and Outside of Human Resources

Human Resources (HR) Professionals have to tackle multiple concerns at one time, and must frequently move their practices from transactional to strategic.

A significant part of being strategic is having the ability to conduct environmental scanning.  Understanding environmental scanning and the influences external to your organization, is critical to business and HR success.

Wayne Brockbank explains the impact of the external environment on successful transformation and strategic HR, in the video clip below.

Source: The RBL Group The above content constitutes a link to the source website.  Please click on the play icon to stream the video.

According to Wayne Brockbank, one way to ensure your organization has a powerful HR strategy is to have all five of these elements:

  1. A strategic plan must be sustainable in the long term
  2. The HR plan has to add substantial value that is greater than the competitors are offering
  3. The HR strategy must be comprehensive and not just covering pieces of the organization
  4. The plan must integrate the organization and make the firm whole
  5. The plan must translate into specific executable actions

This is actually a very good HR strategic checklist; however, most HR departments don’t come close to meeting more than one element when it creates its strategic plan.  The next time you want to assess the effectiveness of your HR strategic plan, use the above checklist to measure the quality of your plan.

Discussion Questions:

  1. Take each one of the above elements and describe how you would make it happen?
  2. How would you influence your HR Director to follow Wayne Brockbank’s five elements?
  3. Out of the five elements which ones do you feel HR drops the ball on most frequently?