Business Advisory

A Look at Team Assessment Projects

As 8020 Consultants, we focus on issues that produce provable results measured by an increase in our Clients’ bottom line. While financial project execution and interim financial management are our bread and butter, sometimes, operational improvement goals bring our attention to the softer side of a corporation – its people. In the cases where the Client’s situation requires this area of focus, we can perform a team assessment to determine areas of opportunity.

Common Scenarios and Key Questions for a Team Assessment

For many organizations, the desire for greater growth can spur the reexamination of existing staffing and team structures. Some common scenarios that can bring outside Consultants to perform team assessments are when:

  • A new executive inherits an existing team
  • Accounting and/or FP&A teams regularly miss deadlines and/or are not able to provide requested reporting
  • There are many manual processes
  • Tension among departments exists, with significant finger pointing
  • The company has experienced significant change to its revenue structure, be it from expansion, acquisition, contraction or any other reason
  • Other situations arise in which executive leadership senses inefficiency of the existing team

The compelling questions that Clients typically want to answer in these types of scenarios are:

  • Who are the star performers I want to keep and make happy?
  • Who are great people who are misaligned with their current responsibilities who I need to realign to increase the team’s productivity and happiness?
  • Who are the team members who need specific training to become start performers?
  • Who are the ones who do not fit with company’s culture, goals and objectives and would be happier working somewhere else?
  • What is the optimal organizational structure given the current business needs?

An Example Team Assessment Project: First Steps

A recent Client has been in the consumer product industry for more than 30 years distributing kitchen tools and appliances. The Client’s IT team was 20 people strong with 6 programmers. The Managing Director questioned the IT team’s size and makeup and requested a team assessment. Did they need such a large team as a company distributing kitchen tools via various established channels from large online retailers to small mom-and-pop shops?

To find out, we conducted hourlong interviews with each member of the IT team to determine their level of technical knowledge and their level of satisfaction with their current role and responsibilities. We also asked questions centered on the Managing Director’s concerns and softer questions like:

  • What are their aspirations?
  • What would help them to perform their jobs better?
  • What would increase their satisfaction with the workplace?

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Team Assessments and Proposed Team Structures

It must be noted that the answers to these questions are operationally useless, unless they’re understood in the context of where the company is going and how the specific team is expected to support company-wide goals and objectives. The marriage of these two areas requires an experienced Consultant, who can:

  1. Understand the organizational goals and how people can strategically and tactically align to them.
  2. Identify the star performers, potential star performers and team members who would be more productive in a different environment.

Having all this information, the next step is a proposed best-in-class team structure with associated costs. This means filling positions with team members where appropriate with various recommendations such as:

  1. This star performer is ready to be promoted, and this position is a good fit for them.
  2. This star performer is ready to change responsibilities, and this position is a good fit for them.
  3. This team member requires this specific training to increase their productivity and job satisfaction.
  4. This team member is a great fit for where they are.
  5. This specific position is not a part of the best-in-class org structure.
  6. This position is a new position to reflect the company’s objectives, and here are the suggestions on how to fill it.

A Key Notion: The Answers Aren’t Always Obvious

In the Client’s case, the team assessment project revealed no real investment in the IT infrastructure (i.e., software systems and hardware) in at least 15 years. As such, many on-premise, homegrown pieces of software needed to be maintained. Additionally, the connectivity among these outdated pieces of software required extensive maintenance effort. Furthermore, IT performed a de facto role of project management in all projects that touched IT, even when the project belonged to the business and should have been managed by the business. Thus, IT was overburdened on all fronts.

The recommendations were to upgrade some systems and replace other systems with purchased SaaS cloud-based systems. Additionally, we recommended the Client utilize apps such as Asana and SmartSheet to establish more robust, controlled processes, including those associated with measuring the team’s productivity and helping the team with project management.

Until all those recommendations were put in place, the IT team could not be changed. Even more importantly, the business risk from the outdated IT infrastructure would remain elevated.

Getting the Most from Your Teams

If you feel uncertain about a corporate team’s makeup or effectiveness, it might be time to conduct an assessment. Third-party Consultants can offer a valuable, unbiased perspective as they help you navigate the uncomfortable politics of bringing clarity to a team’s structure and alignment to operational goals. If you’d like to learn more about how our team of accounting and finance Consultants can offer support, then we invite you to contact us to start a conversation!

For readers who suspect their accounting departments might have areas of improvement, but aren’t sure how best-in-class departments operate, we also offer this helpful health-check guide:

accounting department best practices health check guide button

About the Author

Ellen Vayner has 25 years of experience in management consulting and project management. She has worked with multiple multinational and cross-functional teams to achieve a variety of results, including several financial systems implementations, such as D365 F&O, D365 BC, NetSuite and Concur; the establishment of an invoice-to-cash process; an international manufacturing facility move; and streamlining operations and organizational structures for clients in various industries. She has worked with clients in entertainment, manufacturing, oil and gas, biotechnology, banking, consumer products, semiconductor and real estate, and her specialties include corporate strategy assessment and development, corporate and operational finance, business efficiency assessment, business case development, systems implementations and project management. She holds an MBA in Finance and International Business from Carnegie Mellon’s Tepper School of Business, attended London School of Economics as well as took courses at universities in Germany, the Czech Republic and Slovakia. She also holds a Project Management Professional certification from the Project Management Institute.

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