The missing element when improving team quality of remote teams

Is your team viewed as not pushing out quality deliverables? Is your team perceived as not delivering to high enough standards? I’m going to offer a few suggestions.

Hi, I’m Peter Nichol, Data Science CIO.

One of the big leadership challenges is managing expectations. A lot of times, we give our teams the benefit of the doubt. We encourage them to produce high-quality artifacts, whether that’s data models, data-mining analytics or project plans from a project and portfolio management perspective. Regardless of the actual results, we assume good intent. We hope the deliverables our teams produce will either meet or exceed our stakeholders’ expectations. However, sometimes it’s just not possible. We didn’t design in quality. Only one person is accountable for poor quality, and that’s the leader.

I want to introduce the idea of portfolio staff leveling. The purpose behind portfolio staff leveling is to ensure that your team has the ability to meet quality standards. For example, let’s assume your team is perceived as not meeting quality standards. The team might produce low-quality project plans that aren’t detailed enough, or the business requirements aren’t elaborated to the degree required. Regardless of the issue, they aren’t reaching the bar. If this occurs and the team is allocated at 110%, it will be tough to have those resources add extra effort to their work products because they’re already maxed out.

This is where portfolio staff leveling comes into the mix. Instead of taking every initiative or project at face value and delivering all artifacts or deliverables for that project, use some judgment as to which elements are adding value. Start to consider which artifacts are necessary based on the size of the work. If the program is a multi-year, multi-million-dollar effort, you probably need some due diligence—again, if that project is architecturally significant. You probably need additional documentation for compliance and audit. Inversely, suppose that project is two or three weeks long. In that case, it’s a weak argument to lean toward creating detailed communication plans or elaborate, complicated architecture documents when the initiative isn’t significantly impacting architecture.

When we apply portfolio staff leveling on top of team dynamics and—more specifically—team performance, we see positive results. We must allow for quality to be designed into the process. Ask yourself some questions:

  • What’s my team allocated to this month?
  • Is the team delivering consistently?
  • Where are the quality gaps?
  • Are the critical resources allocated at over 90%?

Realize that if you do allocate resources at 100% or greater, these resources will have no additional time to elevate their standards or improve quality. However, if these resources are allocated at 80% or 85%, they now have extra time to think, be strategic, and plan their next week or month ahead of time.

Aligning a team to expectations is hard work. The quality level is never where you want it. Delivery always seems to be slower than planned with more rework. When you feel your team is perceived as not performing, make sure that team has an allocation that promotes quality.

Often when I’m engaged to correct low-performing teams or evaluate a team that’s missing delivery standards, what I discover is they’re maxed out. These resources are working 50 or 60 hours a week. It might appear to a new leader that there’s some complex and underlying mysterious problem. The reality is that the team simply needs time to design quality into the process. As leaders, we need to provide that team sufficient time to think and give them time to increase quality.

As you head into this new week, take a look at your team. Take a good, hard look. Is your team meeting your expectations? Are they meeting the expectations of your colleagues and peers? If the answer is no, first analyze whether your team has the time to improve their quality.

Be a more decisive leader and give your team time to bake in quality.

Hi, I’m Peter Nichol, Data Science CIO. Have a great week!

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Peter is a technology executive with over 20 years of experience, dedicated to driving innovation, digital transformation, leadership, and data in business. He helps organizations connect strategy to execution to maximize company performance. He has been recognized for Digital Innovation by CIO 100, MIT Sloan, Computerworld, and the Project Management Institute. As Managing Director at OROCA Innovations, Peter leads the CXO advisory services practice, driving digital strategies. Peter was honored as an MIT Sloan CIO Leadership Award Finalist in 2015 and is a regular contributor to on innovation. Peter has led businesses through complex changes, including the adoption of data-first approaches for portfolio management, lean six sigma for operational excellence, departmental transformations, process improvements, maximizing team performance, designing new IT operating models, digitizing platforms, leading large-scale mission-critical technology deployments, product management, agile methodologies, and building high-performance teams. As Chief Information Officer, Peter was responsible for Connecticut’s Health Insurance Exchange’s (HIX) industry-leading digital platform transforming consumerism and retail-oriented services for the health insurance industry. Peter championed the Connecticut marketplace digital implementation with a transformational cloud-based SaaS platform and mobile application recognized as a 2014 PMI Project of the Year Award finalist, CIO 100, and awards for best digital services, API, and platform. He also received a lifetime achievement award for leadership and digital transformation, honored as a 2016 Computerworld Premier 100 IT Leader. Peter is the author of Learning Intelligence: Expand Thinking. Absorb Alternative. Unlock Possibilities (2017), which Marshall Goldsmith, author of the New York Times No. 1 bestseller Triggers, calls "a must-read for any leader wanting to compete in the innovation-powered landscape of today." Peter also authored The Power of Blockchain for Healthcare: How Blockchain Will Ignite The Future of Healthcare (2017), the first book to explore the vast opportunities for blockchain to transform the patient experience. Peter has a B.S. in C.I.S from Bentley University and an MBA from Quinnipiac University, where he graduated Summa Cum Laude. He earned his PMP® in 2001 and is a certified Six Sigma Master Black Belt, Masters in Business Relationship Management (MBRM) and Certified Scrum Master. As a Commercial Rated Aviation Pilot and Master Scuba Diver, Peter understands first hand, how to anticipate change and lead boldly.