Team Assessment

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Five Dysfunctions of a TeamFollowing my last piece on the relevance of Patrick Lencioni’s book, The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, to Collingwood Council, I felt I should explore some of Lencioni’s ideas, as well as look at how a team’s performance is assessed.

Teams (or groups) can be assessed several ways: the best way is internally (by their own members). The second is by a professional outsider who has the competence to do so after observing their behaviour in meetings. The third is by outsiders whose role is merely to watch them (as we watch council online or on TV).

The three methods are not exclusive, and those truly committed to the team would accept outside analysis as well as internal, and try to figure out how to best improve their public performance and the perception of it. That’ll happen with Collingwood Council once Hell freezes over. The idea of building a team to work together towards common goals is alien to this group because their ideology forbids it. The keyword being “commitment.”

I might point out that last term, council met twice to prioritize our collective goals and lay out a plan for the term. Staff were involved to provide guidance. Regardless of ideologies, we worked towards accomplishing them. The second meeting was to reiterate those goals mid-term and determine what had been achieved and what remained. That was a real strategic plan: measurable and definite, not a woo-hoo exercise by outsiders, as is the current effort.

In the back section of the book is a 15-statement quiz (p. 192-193) to assess the performance of a team. Three questions each relate to the five areas of dysfunction and they are answered with a point system. Participants assign a score to each statement according to how well they see them as being acted upon in the team. Answering usually gets three points, sometimes gets two, and rarely one. The lower the score in any area, the worse the dysfunction.

Fifteen questions is not a comprehensive method for analysing psychological behaviour, however. On the Table Group website, it offers an online assessment that extends the concepts found in the book. The sample team assessment report suggests there are 38 questions in the online assessment: eight for trust; eight for conflict; seven for commitment; seven for accountability and eight for results.

The statements in the two tests do not directly correlate with one another. For example, in the book, statement one is “Team members are passionate and unguarded in their discussion of issues.” This is actually statement two in the online test, and statement one is, instead, “Team members admit their mistakes.” Question 15 in the book is 25 online, and so on. However, the statements in the shorter test seem to be included in the longer.

The other difference appears to be in the scoring. In the online analysis, there are five ratings: never, rarely. sometimes, usually and always. It isn’t clear in the sample report exactly how the scoring works, but from reading it I suggest it is scored from 1 to 5, respectively, with 1 as worst and 5 as highest score. I gather that the results in each category are added and then averaged by the number of participants.

I decided to rate Collingwood Council based on this understanding, using the questions in the analysis. I tried my best to be honest in my assessment. I’ve added some slides of the key concepts to reiterate the concepts.

Absence of trust

Now of course, I can’t speak to how members of Collingwood Council see themselves. I am not privy to their numerous private or in-camera meetings (have you ever seen a council with so many in camera meetings?). I cannot eavesdrop on their secret parlays or their emails, nor sit with them while they chatter confidentially with the CAO and cook up their schemes. I can only comment what they appear to be like based on my perspective as an outsider, watching them online or reading about them in the media.

Absence of conflict

Since I don’t want to breach any trademark or copyright of the authors, I won’t go over every detail or list the contents of the report in other than general or non-specific terms. But you can download the sample yourself and see what result you would come up with.

Here are the averages I worked out for each of the five areas of dysfunction:

  • Trust: 1.13
  • Conflict:1.50
  • Commitment: 2.14
  • Accountability 1.14
  • Results: 1.37

The median for all levels is 3. This tells me that council is not even at best mediocre. It is sub-par in every area. But you already knew that without this test, didn’t you?

Lacking commitment

My specific values for questions, based solely only own observations, are as follows (following the order in the sample):

Trust

  • 1: 2
  • 6: 1
  • 10: 1
  • 13: 1
  • 17: 1
  • 22: 2
  • 32: 1
  • 33: 1

Conflict 

  • 2: 1
  • 4: 1
  • 5: 3
  • 7: 2
  • 12: 1
  • 18: 1
  • 23: 2
  • 27: 1

Commitment

  • 11: 1
  • 19: 3
  • 24: 2
  • 28: 2
  • 30: 2
  • 34: 3
  • 38: 2

Accountability

  • 8: 1
  • 16: 1
  • 20: 1
  • 21: 1
  • 26: 1
  • 35: 2
  • 36: 1

Results

  • 3: 2
  • 9: 1
  • 14: 1
  • 15: 1
  • 25: 2
  • 29: 2
  • 31: 1
  • 37: 1

As you can see, by my assessment this council is no more a team than a pile of bricks is a building. But you are welcome to try it yourself and see what you come up with.

Lack accountability

Lencioni wrote in his book (p.216) that,

The ultimate dysfunction of a team is the tendency of members to care about something other than the collective goals of the group. An unrelenting focus on specific objectives and clearly defined outcomes is a requirement for any team that judges itself on performance.

With no vision, no objectives, no planned outcomes, and an aggressive approach to promoting personal agendas, how can council evaluate its own performance? The ongoing dismemberment of town institutions and ruining of relationships is not an accomplishment to brag about: it will leave a legacy of destruction, dysfunction and ill will.

One of the statements you can rate is “All members of the team are held to the same high standards.” I gave it a 1 (“never”) because I’ve read the proposed code of conduct that says in black-and-white that its authors and advocates clearly distrust one another. That’s not a high standard at all – it’s the lowest possible standard of interaction: overt distrust.

For statements 1 and 22, I raised the count to 2 because of Councillor Fryer’s inappropriate and face-saving mea culpa over his damning Integrity Commissioner report. To be fair, though, he did apologize. But the rest never apologize, never admit mistakes. Their ideology forbids it.

Only two questions got the highest mark: 3 (“sometimes”). Both are because in the political forum council sometimes ends discussions with an actual result and, once a motion or bylaw is enacted, stick with it. But of course, that’s part of the procedure, not the team’s commitment to working together.

I gave 24 – about priorities – a 2 (“rarely”) instead of a 1 because I can think of two at the table, sometimes three, all with prior council experience, who have expressed clear priorities in their comments and campaigns, while the others waiver and waffle and wait for consultants, reports and plans to tell them how to think. Planning for priorities isn’t actually a priority.

On 30 – The team is decisive even when perfect information is not available – I might have rated it a 1 if you think about how council was waffled and shirked decisions about the waterfront because some imaginary plan hasn’t been presented. But to be fair, when they had little practical or useful information about the budget, they managed to raise taxes raise water rates AND give themselves a pay hike even without understanding the impact on business and our residents. Being decisive doesn’t always mean they were smart about those decisions, or were concerned about how they affected the community.

Productive conflict

By the way, using the 15 questions presented in the book, I came up with a score of 18 out of a possible 45. All questions except 4, 10 and 13 scored a 1. Those three scored a 2.  Frankly, a few deserved a 0, here and in the online version, but it wasn’t an option.

If you disagree with my assessment, feel free to try the exercise yourself. I think if you are at all open and honest in your evaluation, you won’t be able to assign a higher score in many, if any, of the questions.

The cost to licence this test, by the way, is a mere $38.50 USD per team member and for this council, I think it would be money well spent. Certainly it’s a better use of our tax dollars than donating $40,000 to “Senator” Jeffrey’s political joyride around Canada.

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