How we came up with Surwayne
In my previous work as project leader at Boston Consulting and today as team and project coach in my own company, The Team Enablers, the question that always comes up for me and many of my colleagues is: “How can we improve the work in the team?”
I have often come up against situations in companies that gave me a sinking feeling - in terms of the project or teamwork. Project managers who skip project meetings because they just can’t be bothered and don’t feel even slightly guilty about doing so, staff who carry on working in their own sweet way even though the priorities within the project have long since shifted, or should be considered as outdated entirely.
Let’s assume that a project of this type involves a project manager (earning, say, 80,000 euro per year) and experts from various departments at 60,000 euro each … You can easily add on several hundred euro costs for a single useless meeting or more than 100,000 euro easily wasted for a few months of the project. And if external consultancy costs are involved a whole new dimension comes into play. And if then, after frustrating team experiences, staff start looking elsewhere or doing only the minimum of work required, it all becomes even more expensive.
For me, project and teamwork involve six essential factors that contribute to motivating staff to perform to the best of their ability and thus generate real value:
- Value creation – only when team members believe that they are making a valuable contribution to the company’s success, that they are making something happen, providing an impact, will they be passionate about their work.
- Project management and communication – that has to work: poorly planned, structured and implemented projects either become extremely expensive (with reference to the value they are intended to create) or fizzle out. And in project management nothing works at all without communication.
- Teamwork – teams are often not really teams at all but simply a group of people. Individual roles, interactions and goal orientation need to be defined and supported. In other words: are we standing on the platform, all wanting to go somewhere or other, or are we starting the journey with a common destination.
- Personal development – it is not just the company management that has a destination in mind, the employees also have desires, goals and ambitions. This is sometimes ignored in project work. Then, after months of hard work, everything goes back to the old line positions. Would you rise to new heights of performance in such a situation?
- Sustainability – supplying projects and teamwork for short-term satisfaction has boosted many a career. But it has never been in the best interests of the staff, the company or the owners. A short-term view wastes money – that’s just the way it is.
- Consistence with the corporate culture – it’s your company’s DNA. It simply doesn’t work to implement a project with a sledge-hammer in a “nice” company or to hand round biscuits for hours in a company with a culture of aggressive performance indicators. If team or project managers back the wrong horse here, they will pay for it in the long term. Or the transformation may be intentional – in which case a structured approach is required.
How can these factors be handled?
Managers must be aware of these issues and recognise weak points. It is they who are the key to change, or to put it another way: a fish will rot from the head down! At The Team Enablers, we work directly with project teams to tackle these project issues. With my colleague, Artur Heinze, and other friends, I thought about: “How things could run more easily, faster, more directly and more accessibly for all concerned?” We christened the solution “Surwayne”.
With Surwayne we have created an online solution that also makes this achievable for teams of every type and with a wide variety of budgets.
Surwayne uses an extremely simple and appealing online survey to question all the stakeholders in a project about the six categories listed above. Respondents answer by clicking on “smileys” and comments can also be added. Ten simple questions taking a maximum of two minutes – it is very easy.
Our tool then identifies for the manager responsible where weak points can be seen in the team or the project. Next, Surwayne provides tried and tested proposals for improvement of these weak points. For example, if employees complain in the survey about a lack of clarity in the assignment of tasks (and mark this with ☹), Surwayne suggests to the project manager what could be done to remedy this. One of the suggestions in this particular case would be to call a team meeting to clarify the assignment of tasks and allocation of responsibilities.
Even before going live, we tested the tool in real companies, at Lufthansa, for example, where, in just one project, the concerns of more than 30 employees in different departments were taken into account. Endless interviews would previously have been necessary to discover what needed changing.
And so as to do justice to sustainability, Surwayne questions team members at regular intervals, every two weeks, for example, in order to ensure genuine improvements. Otherwise it would once again be a win for those who shine in the short term but don’t produce any lasting successes.