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Should We Evaluate Team Performance in Addition to The Performance of Individuals?

We use a lot of self-directed work teams in our organization. Should we evaluate team performance in addition to the performance of individuals? And how do we evaluate the performance of teams?

Team appraisal is difficult. And it may be unfair.

Consider a college example. At the beginning of the semester, the professor divides all of the students into teams, gives each team a research assignment, tells them that they will make a team presentation at the last class meeting, and states that their grade for the course will be based entirely on the quality of the team’s work.

One team is made up of Joe, Mary, Dolly, Sharon, and Tim.

Four of the five are dedicated, diligent, achievement-oriented, straight-A students. But Dolly is a goof-off. All she wants is the lowest possible passing grade with the minimum possible effort. So throughout the semester she cuts team meetings, ignores assignments, and does nothing on the project. On the last night of class, Joe, Mary, Sharon, and Tim make A-level presentations. Dolly’s presentation is an F. Four As, one F. The professor averages it out and awards the team—and each individual on the team—a B for the course. Joe, Mary, Sharon, and Tim are disgusted. Dolly is tickled pink. The problem with appraising team performance is that it may punish the hardworking and diligent and reward the shiftless and lazy.

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Companies rarely appraise the performance of teams. In the national benchmarking study of best practices in performance appraisal I conducted in 1999, we specifically looked for examples of companies doing performance appraisals on teams. We expected, since so many organizations report that they are using self-directed work teams, that we would find several examples of team appraisal. We found none. There was a great deal of interest in the subject, but no one was doing it.

What companies are doing in assessing the performance of teams is to assess the performance of the individuals on the teams. The team measures matrix, illustrates the difference between measuring performance at the individual level and at the team level.