In many project teams, I see people mistaking actions for results. One of the best inputs a manager can give to a team is to evaluate when the team is too action-oriented and guide them to be more results-focused. If a project team is always really busy and working long hours but then they keep missing deadlines, the problem may be that they are too action-oriented. Being busy doesn’t necessarily mean that they are busy doing the right work or doing it efficiently enough to get the right results on time. It’s up to the manager to realign the team towards showing results.
When I came into a new team as a Test Manager, the team was very proud of a cross-team effort they had in place to do automation work. For the testers on this cross-team effort, the first priority was their testing roles within their own project teams. This general, broader automation work was secondary and in situations like this when it’s not the first priority, focusing on results is even more critical. They were using ideas from the agile development process such as having monthly sprints and more frequent stand-up meetings. So I attended a monthly sprint meeting and I was shocked. Nobody was making any progress on these automation tasks. I saw goodness in their list of tasks that were all assigned to owners. But when the owners gave status, almost all of them hadn’t made any progress on this work over the last month. When I asked what the months before looked like, they were the same. They were meeting and keeping status on these work items. Their tasks involved investigating and discussing issues, but not completing actual deliverables. They also weren’t given the time to ever get to this secondary automation work. The other part of this cross-team work that they were proud of was that they rotated through sprint owners every month. This allowed everyone to have an opportunity to lead the cross-team effort and this didn’t over-burden one person in managing this whole effort. But I believe this actually helped contribute to the action-oriented thinking. Nobody was accountable for results from this whole cross-team effort because the owner changed every month.
So I had to make changes to move this effort to results-driven. First, I assigned one owner for the whole cross-team automation effort, every month, always the same owner. That set up some accountability for showing results. Then, I went through the list of tasks, verified they were based on deliverables, and helped the new owner to prioritize them. I made sure that each person in the team could contribute time to do the work and if they couldn’t, they weren’t assigned a task, or that task was made inactive or lowered in priority. Finally, instead of tasks being tracked as either complete or not complete, tasks had completion percentages so that it was clear that some progress was being made. These are all simple changes, but together they can make a huge difference.
Another aspect to think through as a team changes to results-focused is on how the goals or tasks are being described. For example, some action-oriented goals would be:
Attend two training classes
Research the best model-based testing tool
Write two tools each month
Now here are the same goals written to be results-driven, paying attention to the deliverables:
Give a presentation or demo on two training classes you attended (turn attending a training class into a deliverable back to the team so they can learn as well)
Research the best model-based testing tool, give a demo on it, and incorporate it into the team’s testing processes (researching can’t be measured but a demo is a deliverable and incorporating it into a standard process will show continuous results during a project)
Deliver proposals to team or managers on gaps in testing or technology including solutions in the form of tools (writing two tools a month will leave a team with many unused, and potentially unneeded tools and a bunch of time wasted for the tester that wrote it – having the testers give proposals that can be properly evaluated will validate that the right tools are being created – and that may not be 2 a month!)
Overall, there are a few things to consider to move a team from action-oriented to results-driven. First, there needs to be accountability for the work. Secondly, goals need to be deliverable-based. Thirdly, progress needs to be monitored by the percentage of work that is being done and not just that a task is done or not. Finally, and this is an indirect results from being a manager, having the manager focused on the work being produced just naturally makes everyone on the team show more progress.
Here are my other posts related to driving for results.
Do Whatever It Takes! Describes how focusing on results and trusting your team
members can be a successful approach.
It’s Not Over, Till It’s Over Is a clever play on words that explores what
overdoing and underdoing work may look like.
There’s No Room For Watermelons Takes the discussion of results into how best
to report on them, and what not to do.
Going Dark Describes how communication goes hand-in-hand with achieving