Over the years I’ve had the opportunity to work with hundreds of teams. It’s always interesting to observe the teams and question why some teams succeed, while others flounder and eventually fail. Here are five characteristics the best performing teams have in common.
- Clear responsibility, authority and accountability must be assigned to the team. The team with responsibility and accountability is likely to fail if they lack the authority to act.
- Vision, mission and alignment to the business plan is a core criterion for success. If a team doesn’t have a charter with an agreed mission, the team will operate like a rudderless ship. It’s essential that the team works hard at the front of a project to understand the vision for the project, mission and joint goals. As part of the alignment of the business plan, the team must also understand how to measure its own performance and the success of the program.
- Management awareness and commitment to the team. One of the key elements for high-performing teams is the selection of team members. In today’s business environment when everybody is extremely busy, it’s essential for management to make a commitment of resources to the project. One other essential element is that the team success or failure reflects on the individual’s performance.
- Funding is always an issue when it comes to cross functional teams. I ‘ve seen teams struggle and fail when “who is paying for the project?” is unclear. Travel always seems to be a contentious issue when it comes to teams, especially if it’s global travel. One way to be successful is to create a budget upfront or agree with key line managers how much travel is involved and what time constraints will be placed on their department resources for this project. By addressing this issue at the start, team and project leaders can be assured that it won’t be an issue later in the project at a critical point.
- Reward and recognition is an essential part to assuring team success. Many team members are working on projects in addition to their regular workload. When a team is successful, it’s the responsibility of management to recognize their contribution to the business and develop some simple reward as a token of appreciation.
Many companies work to drive cross-business teams to meet business goals. Using these key elements as a project leader will improve the chances of having a high performing, successful team.
Will your team succeed?
It often surprises me that many purchasing organizations lack an effective process for building a team-based strategic commodity sourcing plan. Typically plans built with key stakeholders are more successfully executed, deliver high results and encounter less resistance in the organization when change is required. By working with a team, you can assure the greatest sum of knowledge, get a better understanding of the project complexity, increase creativity and assure acceptance and ownership of the project by all members of the team. While many purchasing professionals have trouble engaging stakeholders, I have found when you can engage stakeholders, you will improve and increase the opportunities for your organization.
Who should be on the team? Before I start a program, I typically engage a steering group. The steering group’s role is to approve the project, make recommendations and remove any resistance or roadblocks that stand in the way the team. If the steering committee is comprised of senior leaders of the multiple disciplines required for the project, it has a better chance of success. If the sourcing leader can engage the steering committee as champions, the project is primed for success. All sourcing professionals should understand the stakeholder in terms of how much interest they have in the project and how much influence they have in the organization; a stakeholder with high interest and high influence would be a good one to engage as a steering committee member. This process will also work for the selection of team members. Other criteria to consider for team members are their ability, availability, knowledge, experience and overall willingness to contribute energy and time. The team’s responsibility will be to develop both short term (tactical) and longer-term (strategic) category strategies and sourcing plans. The team is also responsible for effective communications, information control and internal briefing of the project progress. If the team is committed to success, you will likely have a great project and outcome.
How should the team kick-off? I suggest that the team build a charter. The charter identifies the mission, focus, objectives and scope of the project. It is an essential tool for keeping the team on track and focused. If things start going off the rails, the charter will bring the team back in focus. It is also necessary early in the sourcing strategy process to build a plan with timelines and milestones to measure the team’s productivity.
What are some important tasks?
- The first step in developing a strategic plan is to understand the historical situation and trends for the category. Ask the question “why has the organization sourced this category this way in the past?” If your organization can standardize the way “what we’ve done in the past” is reported, the more time the team has to explore future options and to focus on the strategy for the category.
- The team must evaluate the current situation, new opportunities and forecast the future trends to consider when sourcing this spend category. It is essential that the team take a deep dive into business needs and requirements, including things like receiving constraints at each facility, personalized service, inventory requirements, pallet markings and anything else that is currently being done by the incumbent supplier. Once the team has identified all of the business needs, it must look at the category and make the determination if the category should be managed tactically or strategically. Key tactical or strategic decision influencers are the number of suppliers in the industry with the capability and capacity to supply, the value-add contribution of the supplier and uniqueness of the specifications.
- Part of the planning process is to take a look at the sourcing history, price analysis and do a detailed analysis of the cost. Every buyer should have the capability to break out materials, labor, overhead and develop some idea of the supplier’s profit margin. Without this data, it is impossible to quantify the opportunity available in the project and determine the return on investment. This is a key checkpoint and milestone of the project: the ROI will determine if the project should go forward.
- After validating the ROI for the project, the team should evaluate the risk, global or local sourcing, technical opportunities, supply chain implications and supply market trends. The team now has the data to decide the way forward and determine the best strategy–should it be RFI/RFQ/RFP, auction, buyer’s offer, contract extension, logical negation with the incumbent, make or buy, or acquisition or joint venture? I have worked with teams that have developed and implemented all of these options.
The sky is the limit if a team can present a good strategy with a high ROI and build a convincing fact-based case. It requires discipline, process, strong leadership and the right people.
Do you have what it takes?