with greg layton

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Our High performance teams series has reached part 17 and today we look at part 2 of our pillar on Tools, namely Hardware and Collateral.

Last week we spoke about Scoreboards and Metrics and how you need to measure what you want to manage if you want to understand what success looks like in your business, and keep pushing the dial on performance.

But today, we explore the hardware and collateral that your people have at their disposal to do their jobs. This includes their phones, computers, tools, machinery, equipment, sales, brochures, sales decks, business cards, all this kind of equipment.

In this episode, I outline:

  • What goes wrong culturally when you have the wrong hardware and collateral;
  • How to know how much to invest in this, given it is often a capital expense and requires a return;
  • How Scoreboards and Metrics are intrinsically linked to Hardware and Collateral;
  • How to use Hardware and Collateral to create a happy workplace.

What goes wrong when you don’t have the right tools?

In most organisations, people are often blaming their performance on their hardware or their collateral. The problem comes if you create a situation where their hardware gives them an out, it will allow them to take the victim mentality and puts you in a difficult position.

So take some careful consideration, because the challenge is that you can often find yourself sitting there thinking, “Maybe I need to invest a lot more in hardware because it's a hardware issue; people don't have the right equipment to do their job.”

But in reality, the hardware and equipment is fine; it's the culture or the attitude that your people have. This is when it becomes really hard to work out what the root cause is, because you don't want to under-invest and you certainly don't want to over-invest either!

What happens when your team has the correct equipment?

The right equipment can make a person feel 10-foot tall and bulletproof in doing their job. They can really feel supported. They can feel like they're a valuable member of the team. It gives them confidence.

Some equipment can be game-changing for effectiveness: you can reduce long turnaround times or service delivery, or save time on operational processes.

However, it’s not all roses. What can happen is that over time, workers get complacent and having the right tools could lead to social loafing, so you've got to be a little bit careful. You don't want to let them get lazy and make the equipment do all the work. So, it's really about striking the correct balance.

How Metrics and Hardware are aligned

I want to tell you a quick story about where this can go wrong when you under-invest. This is a somewhat extreme example, but it’s worth it to make a point. Quite a few years ago, I was working with an organisation that sent teams right out into the desert to do particular jobs. What happened was these teams would go out for about two to three weeks at a time. They’d be in a camp, working on a particular job and they'd move around a bit doing this particular work. These are frontline professionals that did their work, but they were under fairly extreme pressure to hit time and cost targets.

So, in order to achieve the outcome, what one or two of the project leaders ended up doing was, in their costings for the job, they would put in that they were going to have a portaloo and shower facility on site. Perfectly reasonable. But…they never actually bought it, so the project actually would come in under budget and look good! This is a perfect example of when a metric can drive poor behaviour.

The project managers were actually treating their people like animals and in turn, they acted like animals (this wording came directly from someone involved in the organisation). So, if you treat your people poorly by giving them poor or no hardware, what happens is they don't turn up as their contribution or expertise doesn’t feel valued.

Now, let’s turn that on its head and think about professional organisations, particularly sporting organisations; the players turn up with the right equipment, they look sharp in tracksuits, they look like a unit and they're ready to do their job like a pro.

Happy workplace environment, happy life!

The fact is, hardware and collateral can have a huge psychological effect on your people, and when they have good equipment, they even start to do things like making sure their working environment looks better and cleaner. And then they start to take care of their work, and this attitude of quality starts to come through in your people.

I worked for an organisation where they had shift turnovers where one mechanic would come in and replace another mechanic who was working on aeroplanes. At the end of each shift, the outgoing mechanic was given 10 minutes to clean up the area, put all the tools in the right place and make everything absolutely perfect and sparkling clean for the next mechanic.

It really played such an important role in the respect amongst the staff, in the quality of work and in the workmanship. This is the effect that a really good quality set of tools and equipment can have on your people.

How do I get the correct balance of hardware and collateral, and investment?

This is the real trick. First and foremost, you have to go back to the work we did in the first five sessions on high performance teams around your mission; this was your vision, your values, and your strategy.

If within that you have identified that you need to invest more in equipment and the hardware and collateral for your people, then now is the time to do so. If you're getting a lot of complaints about the quality of equipment, if you're seeing people disregard or disrespect their equipment, you might sense it is the time to make a move.

You need to do a real cost-benefit analysis here. Any listed company is measured in the market on their return on capital expenditure. It is a key metric of whether or not shareholders or major investors will invest within that organisation.

So as a leader, your job is to make sure that any capital you expend has a very good return and you need to do that analysis carefully. If you're not sure how to do it, go and work with the Finance team and make sure that you are providing really solid evidence for the case for more expenditure.

But don't spend it wildly. Spend it first on the one or two things that will move the dial the most on achieving your vision and your strategy. Remember, as a Chief, you're after a good Track Record here that supports the organisation you work for; if you end up investing a load of capital that gets no return, it doesn’t do you nor the organisation any favours.

What if we can’t spend more money?

If the decision – based on your analysis and business cash flow – is not to invest more, then go back to the team and explain why. Get them involved in a process whereby they start to take greater care for the tools they have. Give them that extra time to clean things up, give them time to improve the quality of their hardware.

If they've got an old laptop that's rubbish, try just get it cleaned up. Maybe get it slightly upgraded, rather than a full replacement. Get some software that can make them run faster and be less cluttered.

Make the new equipment a special moment in time

A common pitfall is when an organisation or a leader invests a stack of money on new equipment and then they hold it over the employees by saying, “Here's new equipment. Now you have to improve your performance to justify the expense!”

Well, that's just a condescending bribe and all that results in is people thinking that the leader has just given them what they've always needed to do the work being demanded of them properly, but never gotten. And to make it worse, now they’re being told to improve?!

The key takeaway here is that as a Chief, the reason you're investing in hardware and collateral is to lift the spirit of your people; if they haven't had the tools and collateral to do the job before and it's made their life harder, tell them you're sorry, but now you're really happy that you can give them new equipment to do their job. Tell them they deserve to have it; make them feel special.

Think of when a parent gives their child their first-ever boots to play football, or their favourite tennis shoes for their first game of tennis. How much excitement does the kid have?! Well, I know we're not all going to feel the excitement a 10-year old kid feels when they get their first bit of sporting equipment, but that's okay. The principle here is to make people feel special. Recognise them when you are investing in hardware and collateral for them. If you're investing to increase performance, the tools alone should provide most of that uplift.

After the new collateral comes in and all the new hardware is rolled out or the new equipment is handed out, engage the team to buy into the numbers by going back to the previous episode on scoreboards and metrics. Once these two are aligned, so will the cultural transformation of the team be.

Stay epic,

Next article in the High Performance Teams series:

Pillar 4/Tools: Part 18 – Systems and Processes