These two short and simple exercises can drive continuous performance improvement for your team.
1) Energy Drain / Gain (aka Pain Points and Bright Spots): A Team-Building Exercise to Leverage Internal Resources
The object of this exercise is to identify the tasks that drain your energy (pain points) and that give you energy (bright spots) to find ways to shift tasks among team members to minimize pain points and optimize bright spots.
There are parts of your job that you hate doing. No matter what your position is, there are going to be responsibilities that play to your strengths, and others that fall under your less-than-ideal skill set. Whether it’s an emotional pain point or a work style pain point, the solution to making everyone on the team happier can usually be found within the team.
The Energy Drain/Gain exercise is quick and can be done with a team of any size. Each team member shares 1-2 pain points and 1-2 bright spots in relation to their responsibilities. The facilitator should list these out (see table below), then guide the team in identifying any connections in order to shift responsibilities and maximize everyone’s happiness. This is a great way for managers to learn what specifically does not work for certain staffers, and thus make everyone’s life easier by not assigning certain tasks to that person anymore. This will drive efficiency in staffing assignments, completion of work, and hopefully reduce burnout. (The less time you spend doing something you hate, the more likely you’ll retain energy and enthusiasm for your work.) It also supports a transparent work environment, which will also help to improve team relations and functioning.
When we did this exercise at our retreat last month, we found some pain point/bright spot matchups that allowed us to better align tasks and team members, like Excel — I love it and Rose doesn’t, and proofing–Katie is great at it and it’s a pain point for me. We also found bigger picture themes (we all love branding) that helped our team to identify future projects and staffing configurations that will give everyone more energy in their daily work. It was interesting to see that we all agreed on some tasks, which is good to keep in mind for team balance the next time we’re hiring.
You can use this exercise for specific projects, for small teams or departments, or as a general temperature-check of your team. It’s also great to do it annually during staffing transitions or after promotions, to identify new needs and areas of training that have developed.
2) Plus/Delta: A Simple Evaluation Tool to Drive Improvement
The Plus/Delta tool is a very simple process to capture what is working well, and what could be improved. Typically, this occurs at the end of an event or project, but it could be used as a general litmus test of a team or organization at any given time.
The “pluses” are actions, characteristics or components that are working well and that should continue.
The “deltas” are areas that should change or be done better in the future. (The term comes from the Greek delta symbol meaning “change.”)
To facilitate the process, the facilitator should open by asking the group to brainstorm and throw out any pluses. After a healthy list is developed, the facilitator will move the group on to list out deltas. The deltas should be specific and solutions-oriented, yet feasible.
Here’s an example of a typical plus/delta from an event:
Send invites out earlier
Send thank-you’s out sooner
Stayed within budget
This is a great way for the team to publicly praise each other, while also voicing areas of concern without blaming or complaining.
Once a strong list is created on both sides, the facilitator will guide the team in incorporating the feedback into actionable steps for the next round (assigning a specific person to each task and assigning a deadline). (Alternatively, the facilitator could send out a summary of the plus/delta, and the planning team could review the deltas when starting to plan the next round and address the items then.)
Look for bigger venues
Send invites out earlier
Send out invites
|Send thank-you’s out sooner||Brian|
Send out thank you’s
Within 1 week after event
Recruit and manage at least 15 volunteers
- Good teams will conduct plus/deltas immediately after the meeting, event or project to capture thoughts and ideas while fresh.
- Teams can engage in formal or informal plus/deltas, as long as the suggestions get captured.
- If the event/project was large, complex, or involved many parties, some teams invite everyone who was involved to contribute to the plus/delta. (Other teams may choose to keep it to the executive planning committee or key players.)
- If it’s difficult to gather everyone in person or for a phone conference, plus/deltas can also be done virtually by setting up a shared Google Doc, Survey Monkey, or similar platform. Note that in person or phone is ideal, to allow everyone to hear feedback, provide explanations, add on to ideas or share resources. However, it’s better to capture feedback virtually than not at all.
- Assign leads to take charge of changes and revisit the plus/delta periodically to ensure changes are being made.
- If you are listing the same deltas year over year, it may be a good time to think outside the box to identify more fundamental or drastic changes that can be made.
We love lifting up what works — share tools or exercises that you have used to improve your team’s performance with us!