Optimizing Team Productivity Through Cross-Functional Collaboration, Task Focus, and Team Investment

Angela Reynolds

Global Merchandising Operations Director at Lowe’s Company

Learning Objectives

In an increasingly competitive environment, how do you boost your team’s productivity while retaining top talent? In this presentation we will explore how to align at multiple levels to improve your team’s engagement, efficiency, and outcomes. By working across your organization to understand the landscape to increase your team’s ability to meet organizational expectations. Challenging work tasks to focus your team on the right activities to increase your team’s ability to deliver. Investing in your individual team members success through coaching, professional development, and opportunity to increase team member satisfaction.

Key Takeaways:

  • Be a leader in aligning cross-functionally to achieve surprising results

  • What your team isn't doing is just as important as what they are doing

  • Investing in your team can make the difference between good and great

"Once you get something done, make sure that you're defining your next steps in your next goals. This investment is a win-win for the company and your team members."

Angela Reynolds

Global Merchandising Operations Director at Lowe’s Company


Hi there, I’m Angie Reynolds. I am the global merchandising Operations Director for Lowe’s Home Improvement. And I want to talk to you a little bit today about optimizing team productivity through cross functional alignment, through task focus, and team investment. So it’s going to be a fun presentation. So I hope you enjoy. We are living in an incredible time in human history, we have rapidly changing technology with global commerce, being commonplace, innovation is happening with everything from clothing to mechanics. However, in my 30 year retail career I haven’t seen the challenges companies are facing today. With global commerce, we have increased international competition. We have an unprecedented number of disruptors in the marketplace with small startups and online storefronts. Competition for top talent is fierce. With the ability to work remotely, employees aren’t tied to a central work location, so they can shift between jobs easily without uprooting their families and their lifestyle. Employees satisfaction is all so more important than ever, with our connected society. A few bad reviews on recruiting sites, or LinkedIn can damage your brand and impact your ability to attract talent. Good news is it’s not all gloom and doom, there are simple ways to increase our ability to deliver against goals, increase team success, and improve employee satisfaction, making them your best advocates. So I’m going to take a little different approach to this presentation. So I’m going to be a little more challenging than what you would normally see. Because I really want us to think differently, because without thinking differently, we will not achieve success. So how successful Are you at working across your organization? According to small business genius, 86% of both employees and executives cite a lack of collaboration and ineffective communication as the main reason for workplace failures. I personally think part of this is often because we are not aligned either top down or cross functionally. So think about your goals as the as they relate to your company goals. Is there a one to one relationship? Or do you shift slightly to account for past business or departmental limitations? How do your goals fit with your upstream and downstream partners? What about your support teams? Are you all working toward the same things? As an example? Have you been surprised that your buying team launched a country of origin diversification plan that required contracts and other ports? And you have scramble to make that happen? Have you been frustrated that your tech team was caught off guard that they needed to add an attribute to a system due to a regular regulatory change that you’ve known about for a year? So let’s talk about a few things that we can do to close those gaps. So let’s talk about goals first. So often we take the easy way out of defining our goals. We either use the goals that we use last year, or we add those things that we should be doing every day anyway. We are not stretching ourselves to come up with some unique ways to achieve success. When’s the last time you added one goal to address a roadblock that was keeping your team from meeting sales expands your productivity targets? targeting what isn’t working can help your team now that you are not only aware, but willing to address a difficult issue, while bringing increased visibility that can drive support from your leadership and peers? How about measuring? Do you track and measure to the delivery of your goals? Or do you submit that plan and get back to business as usual, and encourage you to actively review and managed to your goals, making sure to adjust your execution plans as necessary to deliver against those goals. Don’t forget about that long term strategy. When it comes to long term strategy. We often think oh, that’s nothing I need to worry about. That’s three years away. That’s five years away. I’m too busy. I don’t have time to think about it right now. But if you have kids, you know that three years happens in a blink of an eye. So go ahead and start putting those building blocks into place. dedicate a small percentage percentage of your staff time to implement partial capabilities annually, but be flexible because we know things will change. This way when three years arrive, you are ready and able to execute quickly. Now you’ve put all of this Wonderful goal and strategy information together. So how do you cascade it? You of course, share it with your team. But

what about others to truly align and increase your likelihood of goal realization, pull together a cross functional meeting with your peers. Lead should pull together departmental goals risk and what they need from upstream and downstream teams to meet their goals. set the stage with expectation of transparency and willingness to adjust or compromise on conflicting goals or needs. And of course, resource constraints. Be sure to invite your support teams as the information will help them prioritize and get in front of activities that support your business and your success. Now, let’s talk about working on the right things. So we all know that time is commodity. And sometimes we have a great plan, but we lack the resources to execute it. We also may have great employees or that are feeling stretched and frustrated due to workload, we may feel our team is not working on the right things, or too busy to do a great job on any one task. Do you hear complaints from your team about working on things that don’t make sense? Or how they’re working on something that another team is working on the same thing? How about your departmental structure, when was the last time it was evaluated against the expected deliverables of your team? reviewing task and structure isn’t easy. And it’s not for the faint of heart, it can be incredibly uncomfortable for both you and your team. But it will be well worth it if you can free up your team to work on those things that add the most value. And by doing that, you’ll increase your team’s engagement and sense of accomplishment. So working on the right things, it’s not easy. And so what I’m going to recommend is not always pleasant. So every time I’ve done this exercise is met with a collective groan. But a task level review is invaluable to assess the work and where your team is spending their time. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy. It can be a simple spreadsheet that each team member completes with columns for the activity, who receives the out, output of the activity was called this the customer. How much time is spent on the activity and the frequency of the activity. So don’t forget your quarterly bi annual and annual activities. also suggest adding a no column for any additional commentary your team member wants to include. The team member could include commentary on a recommendation to discontinue the task reduced task frequency, moved to another team or team member or consolidate with other work. also encourage your team to think about what they’re not doing today that they should be doing. also include that in your task assessment. Once your team has completed the exercise, the real fun begins. So you’ll you and your neat leadership team will bring all of that information together and we will review with a critical ami. So compare the activities against your mission critical deliverables and goals. Do they make sense? Will the task help you and the business to meet their end goals? Have a frank conversation with your customers to determine if what is being delivered is actually needed. So you’ll be surprised at how often Tasker leftover from all processes are nice to have or should be changed because they no longer meet expectations. It’s also interesting to hold reporting to see how many of your customers follow up and ask for it. Then you can make a decision on whether or not you actually need to do that reporting. In addition, review what doesn’t fit within your area. There may be a need to work with other departments to take ownership of tasks that are more core to their responsibilities or expertise. Another game changer is to identify tasks that take an unreasonable amount of time and effort. Is the process really necessary is improvement in order. Can the task the automated ask yourself some really hard questions. And so now that you’ve narrowed down those tasks, grouped them into logical responsibility sets, making sure that the total task allotment doesn’t exceed 95% of a team members weekly expected work time. That will allow you to assign ad hoc requests or special projects. compare these against your current team’s talent their skill set and assign the responsibility set to the team member best suited to be successful with the work. At this point, you may need to determine if additional headcount is required. If there are skill sets that need to be improved, or if there are existing talents within within your team that needs to be repurposed to other roles within other areas.

Although a lot of work, this will increase your team’s ability to succeed by aligning your talent pool to the right work. Now let’s talk a little bit about team success. This is my favorite subject. So in an article by Jim Houghton title for roots of employee engagement, there are four critical areas that lead to engagement. People want to be part of something bigger than themselves. They want a sense of belonging. They want to go on a meaningful journey, and they want to know their contributions make an impact. That doesn’t sound so hard, right? Well, unfortunately, according to a 2020 Gallup poll, only 36% of our employees are engaged. more alarming is 13% of our employees are actively disengaged, most leaders think it’s their responsibility to build the culture of the team. I actually disagree with that, that it takes a village and by that I mean it takes a team. So the first step of team success is ensuring that each team member is confident in their role. I know we all love the job descriptions that are very broad and we can stick anything in there just to cover all of our bases. However, when it comes to tactical execution, the bra language doesn’t do us any favors. define what your team members roles are in simple and succinct terms, and have a conversation with them to make sure they are fully bought into the role and the responsibilities, get their feedback on where they need help to ramp up and what you can do to help. If work is being transitioned. Make sure there’s a transition plan. If possible, move slowly. That way, team members can get up to speed without putting the business at risk. And don’t forget to schedule periodic check ins to ensure the work is moving along. Don’t be afraid to adjust transition dates or responsibilities. Nothing is written in stone. team dynamics are probably the most critical component to a strong team. I suggest completing a team working session to build your identity. You will need to let go the reins and trust your team for this exercise to be effective. It’s very important to leave all titles and egos at the door. If possible, get any experienced facilitator but if there isn’t one available, lengthy exercise yourself, it’s that important. Just keep in mind the golden rules of facilitating Listen, don’t let a few people dominate the discussion and ensure that people know that it’s not only okay but expect it to be transparent during the discussion. Either way, you’ll need to do your homework but talking with your customers and trusted peers about what your team is known for, what they do well, what needs to improve and sometimes what needs to change all together. This will help you understand the needs and perceptions of your customers which can inform the results of the meeting. Your goal is to come out with a set of operating guidelines and I am not talking about an SAP or process. I’m truly talking about core behaviors that will drive activity. For example, although there are several different roles and specialties on my team, the team’s key tenet is provide excellent customer service, they decided the way to achieve this was to show up, meaning short well in meetings. be engaged, be prepared challenge when appropriate, think outside of the box, but also be accountable. Not only hold yourself accountable, but your teammates. Another is act with urgency. There are a couple of more, but you get the picture here. Everyone had to verbally agree to hold themselves to these expectations before they made the cut to the operating guidelines. This puts everyone on the same playing field with the same expectations of excellence. They agreed that they wanted to be excellent and we’re pulled together to make that happen. Today I have an amazing team. They jump in and help each other they coach one another and they are truly committed to helping other other team members achieve success. This in turn makes our business incredibly successful. Investing in your team is also incredibly important. In 2018, LinkedIn provided a workforce learning report that included a statistic that showed 93% of employees would stay at a company longer if it invested in their careers. That number is staggering. Many of us are looking for a corporate plan to help the one if there isn’t one. I don’t know about you guys, but I don’t have an unlimited budget

to do large training pushes conferences or other activities. But I think we can work without that. We can take an interest in our teams and we can invest in their growth. So first and foremost, this must be a partnership to be successful. The team member must want to do this if they are completely content in their role. They’re not interested in a professional development plan, make them feel important and otherwise, ask if they would like to focus on skill set development, a personal goal accountability partner, or maybe once a week coffee baddie, find a way to make them feel they are important to you, the team and the company. But right now we’re going to focus on that professional development piece. So once you’ve got that buy in, that your teammate would like to participate in a professional development plan, it’s time to do more homework. So reach out, capture feedback on what the teammate does well, where they have opportunities, and talk to your customers or peers, other leadership team members because that is all very important. Keep in mind, it’s important to be objective as you receive the feedback as you may not agree with it personally. However, perception is reality and should be addressed as part of your development discussions scheduled time to talk to your teammates about their short term and long term career goals. capture their thoughts on what they think they do well and where they need help. Share the feedback that you’ve gathered and discuss where there are gaps between what you’ve gathered, and what they think. Help them define a plan to close the gaps and increase their likelihood for promotion. Start with small stepping stones such as skill set development through training or coaching, actively support them through stretch assignments for special projects. And if possible, try to align them to the areas they may be interested in, by bringing them to a meeting or signing a body of work that crosses into the area. Another important part of investing is introducing your team to others across the building to help them find a mentor or just learn more about the business. This has the added benefit of helping them become more effective, as they will broaden their view to include other impacted areas when making decisions, as well as knowing where to go if they need help or direction outside of your team. And don’t stop just at one meeting schedule a quarterly check in and be an accountability partner. Sign up for things that you can do to help but also hold them accountable. And ask them to sign up for things to help their progress. Also partner on next steps. So once you get something done, make sure that you’re defining your next steps in your next goals. This investment is a win win for the company and your team member. If your team member grows and their contribution increases, they will be ready for that next promotion and help you retain the talent. But if you lose this team member, within your organization or to another organization all together, they will be an advocate which can help bring talent to you. Although we covered a lot of ground today, and we were sometimes incredibly tactical, I hope that there were some things that inspired you to start looking at your organization differently. And on closing, I have just a few parting thoughts. Challenge yourself to think differently. It is completely necessary in today’s environment, to do things that you’ve never done before. Be an alignment leader. Make sure that you are working together as an organization to make things happen for the business. Don’t be afraid to evaluate current state whether that is task process or people. It is critical to make sure that your team is working on the right things to achieve success. Last but not least, is having a great team that is transparent, engaged and relies on each other is priceless. It not only helps the business, I promise you, it will help you. It’ll help you sleep a little better at night knowing that your team does a great job. They enjoy their jobs, and you’re helping them achieve their ultimate goals of success. So thank you for joining me and be sure to comment below with questions or additional thoughts on optimizing for success. And if you’d like to reach out to me on LinkedIn, I’ve provided my LinkedIn address as well. So thanks and hope everyone has a very successful 2021

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