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From Good to Great: The Recipe for Building a High-Performing Team

April 10, 2023

Are you a new data science and analytics leader tasked with building a high-performance team? Don't let the challenge intimidate you. The success of any organization depends on the effectiveness of its team, and you can make a significant impact by taking charge and implementing the right strategies. In this blog, we outline the precise steps required to assess your team's strengths and weaknesses, create a plan to fill any gaps, and ensure a seamless transition to leadership.

Assess: Skills and Dynamics

Building a high-performance team is a complex process that requires a meticulous approach. New leaders must assess the current state of the team to identify areas of strength and those needing improvement. One critical step is to conduct a skills inventory and technical capability check of each team member to understand individual strengths and weaknesses. Once individual skills have been assessed, leaders must analyze team dynamics, including personalities and how team members interact with one another. Identifying leaders and followers within the team and ensuring they are organized to work effectively together is also essential. It is equally as important to examine processes, including data analysis and management processes, and solicit feedback from the team and partners to identify areas requiring renewed focus.Next, new leaders must understand who their team’s key supporters and detractors are and how to support them effectively. Knowing who to lean on first and where bridges need to be built is essential for success. Moreover, it's crucial to evaluate how current and recent projects align with key corporate initiatives and values, recognizing that not all projects have the same level of importance. This understanding will help a new leader allocate resources effectively, prioritize initiatives, and create a culture of success that aligns with corporate values.

Plan: Skill Gap Mitigation and Organizational Adjustments

To optimize the team's performance using the information discovered in the assessment phase, a plan must be developed that addresses the individuals, the organization, and the processes. The portion of the plan focused on individuals should combine both hiring and training initiatives. This comprehensive approach will ensure that the team has the necessary skills to succeed while also developing the existing team members' abilities. Now is also the time to assess the team's structure to determine if plans require any team-level reorganization or individual team member movements will further optimize performance.Developing project plans to address processes that aren't working well will also have a significant impact. This involves identifying areas where the team is struggling with inefficient or ineffective processes. New leaders are advised to develop internal PR and marketing campaigns to highlight the team's successes and communicate its goals to key stakeholders and partners. Personal outreach and bridge-building with key partners and stakeholders will also help to build strong relationships and promote collaboration. Finally, leaders should identify projects that can be phased out in favor of new ones that better align with corporate goals and values to ensure that the team is always working towards the most critical objectives as priorities shift.

Execute: Implement, Track Progress, and Build Strong Relationships

Finally, it is time to execute the plans. A first step is to begin the hiring process while implementing training plans and measuring progress towards completing them. This will fill the skill gaps identified. It is also time to execute any reorganization or personnel movements that were identified. Ongoing monitoring of team dynamics will validate that the updated structure and skills are having the intended impact so that further adjustments can be made as required.Likewise, it is also vital to execute, track the progress of, and measure the impact of process improvement projects. Ensure that they are being completed and validate the actual benefits versus those that were projected. Continuing to build strong relationships with key partners remains crucial to ensure the success of the team. Scheduling recurring meetings, distributing team newsletters to showcase accomplishments, and getting on the agenda of partners’ meetings to discuss and demonstrate the team's value will build strong partnerships over time. Additionally, prioritizing higher-value initiatives while simultaneously targeting some quick wins will keep the team focused and motivated while having a noticeable impact on the business.

Starting Strong as A New Team Leader

In today's dynamic and competitive business environment, building a high-performance data science and analytics team is essential for success. However, the task of creating such a team can be daunting for new leaders. By seeking inspiration from the steps discussed above while transitioning into their new leadership role, one can elevate their team's performance to new heights and create a lasting impact on their organization's success.

This post was developed with input from Bill Franks, internationally recognized thought leader, speaker, and author focused on data science & analytics.