Is it time you had a top team reshuffle?

Martin Palethorpe looks at how to decide when it's time for some new faces in the boardroom, and how to get it right.

by Martin Palethorpe
Last Updated: 21 Sep 2012

David Cameron recently had a cabinet reshuffle, an opportunity for him to refresh his team by removing the poor performers, rewarding the high potential; and invigorating new ideas and ways of working in the country's top team.
And whatever team you run, it’s never too soon to ask yourself - do I have the right 'cabinet' running my organisation? It could be time to have a reshuffle of your own.

All too often, executive teams don't have the right operating board composition. Either the structure is not logical or effective, or the people in the key positions are underperforming. 

It is a common trap that any organisation can fall into, and why would you continue to operate with a team that is ineffective or suboptimal?               

Usually it is because when you're busy running the business it can be hard to take a step back and look at the very important strategic topic of your team formation and players.

Even when you know the problem, it can be hard to make the tough decisions you may need to about team members.  It is easier, and certainly more comfortable, to stick with what you know and just focus on getting the job done. 

But if you’re aiming to build and grow a great organisation that you can be proud of, then it is vital that your team operates at its full potential.  Strategically, as a board or as the leader of any team, one of your most important responsibilities is to get an 'A' team in place. They need to be high quality team members who can work together to take your organisation to another level. 

Start by asking - is your structure right? 

An effective team needs to be a carefully selected group of individuals. There needs to be a healthy mix of knowledge, skills and experiences appropriate for achieving the team's overall goals. 

The team should just be large enough to handle the key tasks. Sometimes a larger team is in place than is really needed. This can arise when firms don't restrict membership for fear of upsetting others.  

Be honest. If there are more people than really needed then time ends up being wasted co-ordinating the larger team. This is time that could be better spent on the tasks in hand. Also, a larger group often results in reduced accountability and ownership.  

Consider the stability of your team. The team composition should be stable enough to ensure there is some continuity. A group that is perpetually losing people has to spend too much time reorienting, taking one step forward and two steps back.  But remember that some fluidity and change in team membership is a positive thing, as it will importantly bring new ideas and fresh energy. 

Next ask - how good are your people? Are they 'A' players? 

It's vital to ensure that they have the knowledge and skills needed to help you most effectively deliver on the organisation's vision and goals. 

Where the team has any gaps, are you supporting and challenging their development, to help them become great? 
One thing that is often missing in this process is thorough evaluation of individual performance.  Evaluate and challenge performance, develop and improve, or reshuffle. If you are the team leader, this is basic good management, which is too often overlooked or performed poorly.  If you’re the CEO, your board should also be evaluating you and holding you to account. 

So, before you begin running expensive away days or team development exercises, or before you simply dive headlong into your next fiscal quarter...  

STOP 

Get the right team in place. Give yourself the best chance of achieving your organisation's goals. Ensure you have the best possible 'cabinet'. 

Martin Palethorpe is an executive coach at The Pragma Group, a leading UK-based performance consultancy. For more details visit: www.thepragmagroup.com

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