A Team Can Deliver 100% of Every Sprint and Still Be Underperforming

A common scenario with clients I advise is that R&D as a whole or a subset of it might at first seem to be functioning at a high capacity. Sprint after sprint, they mark all their Jira tasks as being done and move along to the next. They report low levels of technical debt. Everyone inside might seem happy and pleased with their accomplishments.

Yet, nothing important is happening. Yes, they are working, but they’re not moving the needle. If you’re thinking back a quarter or two and you feel like they might as well have stayed home that time when it comes to business results, then why aren’t they?

To understand what’s happening, take a look at the following diagram:

If the team is not high-skilled and so is not able to deliver anything, important or not, that’s a different issue to address. They are either merely nice cheerleaders that need a skills push, or, in the worse case, a kindergarten.

The case we’re talking about, though, is different. If the team is high-skilled and delivering what it sets its sights on, but not moving the needle, it’s a team that’s spinning its wheels.

It’s like pushing with all your might on a pull door. You get an A for effort, but that’s it. And can you guess who’s at fault for the misdirection of the team? Why, of course, that’s you.

You are the goal-setter. It doesn’t matter how long they’ve been doing things this way. You are aware now, and the change starts with your leadership and direction. Before deciding on any drastic measures, you should begin by making it clear what kind of impact you’re looking for, and how their efforts have missed the target. What’s the yardstick they should measure success by? What will be a win?

In my experience with clients, more often than not, the issue stems from leadership not being clear on the goals. If you don’t know, how can they? Align objectives, align sights, and let them drive towards impact.