The Essentials of Teamwork Series, #9: Measure Progress & Consider Adjustments

Thoughts on Excellence Free E-Newsletter Series
Volume 19, Issue No. 6a
October 1, 2020

By Dan Coughlin


There is a fine but very important line between different types of groups.

Brainstorming/Master Mind Group – the purpose is for the members to share ideas and build on each other’s ideas. It’s up to the members as to what they do with the ideas they hear.

Department Head Meeting – the purpose is for each person to learn what the various departments are working on and to offer each other information that might help to improve the performance of the departments.

Happy Hour Gathering – the purpose is to give people an outlet to share emotions and stories to allow them to vent and laugh and reenergize.

A Team – the purpose is for the members to support one another to collectively fulfill a meaningful purpose and achieve important outcomes.

Teams should be measuring progress toward achieving desired outcomes (tangible) and fulfilling their meaningful purpose (intangible). If the team is making no progress in terms of improving outcomes, then the team is being ineffective. The only way to determine if the team is being effective is to measure its progress.

The Purpose of Measuring Progress is to Learn

Go back to your high school days. You received grades on tests and quizzes, and you received grades on your report card.

There are two things you could do with those grades. First, you could compare your grades to other people, and the effect could be a raising or lowering of your self-esteem. Second, you could use your grades as indicators of what you do well and what you need to learn in order to improve future performances.

Here is my advice to high school students: don’t use grades as an indicator of your self-worth. It’s a game that you will eventually lose regardless of your grades and the grades of other people. Instead use grades as indicators of your performance in terms of what you are doing well and what you are not doing well, and use those grades as guideposts for leveraging what you are good at and determining what you can do to improve future performance.

As an adult, I am giving you the same advice. If your sales team numbers are better or worse than your competition, don’t base your self-esteem or your team’s worth on this comparison. Instead use the comparison as a means for learning what the team is doing well and what the team can do to improve in certain areas.

Making Adjustments is an On-Going Process of Learning, Tweaking, and Applying What Has Been Learned

As you measure the team’s progress in terms of fulfilling its meaningful progress, the actual grade or number is just the tip of the iceberg. The key is to dig under the result and find out what generated it.

What actions occurred that led to the result?

What decisions were made that caused those actions?

What was the strategy behind those decisions?

Who were the people that developed the strategy, and what did they do that was effective or ineffective?

Who were the people that executed the decisions, and what did they do that was effective or ineffective?

Where were the team members effective in supporting one another to improve results, and where were the team members not effective in supporting one another to improve results?


The result is what it is. Don’t base your self-esteem or your team’s worth on the result. Instead use the result as a starting point to dig deeper into understanding the performance that generated the result, and to dig deeper into understanding how to improve a future performance. Then make the necessary adjustments to improve the team’s performance. In doing so, you will be guiding the team to continually become more effective in the future.

Republishing Articles

My newsletters, Thoughts on Excellence, have been republished in approximately 40 trade magazines, on-line publications, and internal publications for businesses, universities, and not-for-profit organizations over the past 20+ years. If you would like to republish all or part of my monthly articles, please send me an e-mail at with the name of the article you want in the subject heading. I will send you the article in a word document.

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