Recently I was part of a discussion on team improvement, and someone asked “How do you know if a team is the best it can be?”
My first instinct was to ask why it matters, although I couldn’t think of way of doing so quickly and be sure I wasn’t sounding rude. However, that’s definitely the question I think about when those kinds of questions arise. After all, knowing what difference the answer makes influences where best to look for an answer.
One aspect to my answer (which I did offer) was that I would hope any team is always looking to improve. This is relevant because the whole environment in which any team works constantly shifts and changes (budgets, stakeholders, competitors and more all ebb and flow). So remaining static will necessarily mean even a great team won’t remain great forever.
Another aspect to my answer was to think about the Theory of Constraints. (Oddly the second time I’ve referenced this in two weeks.) We can imagine a lot of teams in an organisation, all working towards some goal. We may turn our spotlight on the most concerning team, seeing them as the bottleneck to our optimal overall performance, and work with them to improve until the point that they are no longer the most concerning team. Then we turn our attention to the next team which most needs help. And so on. This way we continually improve our performance as an organisation. We’ll never know if any one team is the best it can possibly be, but that’s besides the point. The point is those teams exist for a greater goal, and we are constantly improving our total performance towards that.
If you know of a better answer I’d welcome it.