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Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Effort vs. Results on a Great Team

There's another interesting and important exchange underway in the Core Protocols Group forum ( This one is about the relative merits of effort versus results.

As with all these discussions – in this forum or any other medium – a lot of the debate revolves around the meaning, and the implications, of the words used. For example, from Peter A.:
I think we're getting caught up on multiple interpretations of "effort". On the one hand effort refers to "the number of hours spent doing something", which is how it's being used in the results/effort ratio. On the other hand, I think the article is primarily using effort in the sense of "applied oneself diligently against a defined standard with realtime feedback" (i.e. Deliberate practice). While more is better in some sense here, the key point is that this kind of practice is a good thing vs. not practicing or ineffective practice.
... there are multiple interpretations of what "results" mean. If results include the ability of the individual/team to produce more/better output in the future at less cost, the strategy/math for optimizing results/effort is different than if you only value output for the current time interval.
The “article” referred to above is The words that could unlock your child ( which has the punch line
This reveals a radical new approach to the way we engage with children - that we should praise effort, never talent; that we should teach kids to see challenges as learning opportunities rather than threats; and that we should emphasize how abilities can be transformed.
and even a comment left on behalf of Einstein!: 
This from Einstein:
"I know quite certainly that I myself have no special talent; curiosity, obsession and dogged endurance, combined with self-criticism, have brought me to my ideas."
Since my operating slogan is “It's not about effort – it's about results”, I can't avoid weighing in on this issue.

Let's set aside the unanswered questions from the article about how we encourage children versus adults, and whether or not we praise talent, or ability, or hard work, etc., and the words we choose in each situation, and with each personality – all complex adaptive systems!

My slogan is to make the point that in any enterprise, effort that doesn't finally produce a satisfactory result isn't truly effective and hence worthwhile. We can't get distracted by claims of hard work, and even true hard work, if it doesn't deliver. And please note I added the word “finally” to cover the obvious examples of practicing, failing, recovering, trying again which are all necessary efforts for most of us to build skills and competence to achieve a goal.

The real point is that effort all by itself with no achievement except fatigue is not a valuable  commodity. At least in the exercise gym fatigue is an indicator of potential muscle development. 

Nonetheless, when did you last go to the store to buy “effort”?
Well, Mr. Reeves, our company employees worked night and day to design, fabricate, and ship this product. We didn't actually get it operational, but we worked really hard at it. How many would you like?
Jeez, boss, I was here till midnight working on that analysis for you and I know you needed the answer for that important client sale this morning. Although I didn't get it done, I really worked hard at it.
You know I haven't taken a vacation in 3 years!
It is certainly NOT that effort isn't required. We don't go to the “Results Tree” and pick results off the low hanging branches. But if we praise effort without results, or in place of the required results, then we are not being smart. At the worst we are deluding ourselves that somehow hard work (and what is truly hard?) is an acceptable alternative to an actual achievement. (Scan all the news reporting from the United Nations, and governments in general, to see examples.)

And if we are in business, and only concentrating on effort, then there will definitely be a final result and that will be failure.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Leadership on a Great Team

In the Core Protocols Group forum ( Jose Ramón Diaz started an interesting thread on the question of leadership on a team using the Simple Rules and Tools of Great Teams – the Core Protocols.

His question is:

“What's the role of leader on a team of this kind [one using the Core Protocols]? I am thinking that a true team using ... the Core Protocols, doesn't need a leader, but on the road to perfection, it will be needed, I suppose.”

After some answers from other forum members, Jose Ramón continues:

“The work of a leader in this kind of situations, is to not be necessary. I agree, but I find much resistance to this idea.

For you, that I suppose have experience with *great teams*, is it negative to have a leader? If there is a leader, is the team in pursuit of a shared vision, or could it be that some people follow the leader instead of their own (shared) vision?"

Since the Simple Rules and Tools of Great Teams – the Core Protocols – provide for dynamic leadership behaviour from any team member, the issue of the boss / manager / leader role can be a sticky one.

Particularly before one attends the Immersion session and learns the Simple Rules and Tools.

Particularly for the team leader!

To answer Jose Ramón, I find it helpful to be more precise and explicit about the use of the term "leader". We often use the word to mean a role in a hierarchy, and also to mean a behaviour with outcomes, such as people following.

In the Simple Rules and Tools of Great Teams Immersion (aka. BootCamp) the Managers in the simulation play the role of leader in that they assemble the team, hire consultants to help, provide the team the assignment, and monitor progress and quality of the product. At the same time, anyone on the team can behave as a leader by, for instance, proposing a course of action in a Decider (the Tool used by Great Teams to make unanimous team decisions) which the team decides to follow or not.

So the first is a leader position in an organization chart sense, the second is dynamic, changing, emergent behaviour.

The resistance Jose speaks of is usually organizational position protection. For example: I declare myself the team leader, or I have been appointed the team leader, and am going to protect my position and resist being declared unnecessary. And usually with good reason, since in most organizations teams want and wait for the leader to tell them what to do. Or at least are expected to – by the leaders!

In the Great Teams Immersion session, it is ideal to have the organizational leader present. This lets them realize that they can share the leadership behaviours with the team and be an equal with the team members in matters of developing and improving the vision, ideas, product quality, etc. It's like getting the leader's paycheque without having to do all the work.

The hard part is often getting the leader to accept that meritocracy (starting with them learning to listen well, and not get in the way), and sometimes just as hard, getting other team members to step up to the responsibilities and accountabilities of the Core Commitments to let their leadership behaviours emerge.

So having the leadership behaviours in the team is wonderful; they just don't have to come from the organizational leader on the team.