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“Building a Successful Team” Part III

26. July 2018 08:40

By: Gary F. Vitale: GFV Business Advisory
Building a successful team takes time.  It also takes persistence and a commitment on the part of leadership to ensure the process is ongoing and not a one and done philosophy.  The only way to make this happen is to set aside time for feedback and reflection and have a persistent and consistent approach to building a team culture in the organization.

Feedback and Reflection

Successful teams set aside time for regular feedback and reflection.  Why, because it works and enables the team to continue to improve and perform at a high level.  Sports teams have mastered the art of feedback and reflection.  They have been generating performance improvement statistics for years.  They keep charts on everything and review them after every game, during practice, and again before every game.  Most businesses however use feedback and reflection on a sporadic basis.  Feedback more than reflection, but even then, many companies don’t take full advantage of the information they receive.  To understand why setting aside time for feedback and reflection is important, let’s do a quick analysis of each.

The term “feedback” describes helpful information about a prior action that is used to adjust or improve future actions.  Feedback occurs when an environment reacts to an action or behavior.  We are all familiar with customer feedback and employee performance feedback.  These types of feedback are used to measure performance expected verses performance exhibited.  So then, who would dispute that feedback is a good thing?

Common sense and research make clear that feedback and opportunities to use that feedback helps to improve and enhance performance.  Feedback, both positive and negative, is valuable information that should be used to make important decisions.  Top performing teams and companies are top performing teams and companies because they consistently search for ways to make their best even better.  They are not only good at accepting feedback; they deliberately seek feedback that highlights the good and the bad.  This has two benefits, first it provides a foundation for decision making and second, it provides a platform to build and maintain communications with others.

Reflection is a simple but powerful task.  It involves taking some time to calm down and reflect on your actions.  When building teams, reflection is done by each team member individually and then shared with the team.  In the working paper Learning by Thinking: How Reflection Aids Performance, Professors Francesca Gino and Gary Pisano of Harvard Business School show how reflecting on what we have done teaches us to do it more effectively the next time around.

The researchers hypothesized that learning by doing would be more effective if deliberately coupled with learning by thinking.  They also hypothesized that sharing information with others would improve the learning process.  The experiment involved three groups.  Each group was given the same problem to solve.  One group just learned by doing, one group learned by doing and then reflected and took notes on their strategies used to solve the problem, and one group learned by doing, reflected on their strategies and then shared their notes with future participants.  Each group was then given a second round of problems to solve.

The results showed that the reflection and the reflection and sharing groups performed almost 20% better on the second round of problems than the first group that just learned by doing and then just took on the second group of problems without reflecting on their strategies for solving the first problem.  The two reflection groups also were given less time to spend on solving the problems.  They were told to stop 15 minutes prior to the learning by doing group to allow for reflection.  Think about this, they worked less and performed better.

There are not a lot of companies that encourage their employees to reflect, or give them time to do it.  But in terms of working smarter, research suggests taking time for reflection can improve team and company performance.

Given the information available on the benefits of feedback and reflection, and the positive impact they have on individual, team and company performance, it is imperative that we try and develop a company culture where feedback and reflection are the norm.  Make it part of your regular routine and watch your teams and company flourish.


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