Whether you've recently inherited a team or you've been working with the same core group for several years, it's likely your team is a mix of rock stars, steady performers, and underperformers--otherwise known as "A", "B", and "C" players. It's important to have a healthy mix of "A" and "B" players on a team because you can't keep the rock stars engaged if there are more rock stars than exciting opportunities, and "B" players are necessary to support your department's bread and butter projects.
Ensuring you have the right mix of players on your team and that you are actively addressing "C" players is an important aspect of being a leader. Twice a year you and your leadership team should evaluate your team as a whole. This is different than the corporate-sponsored performance evaluations, though it makes sense to align this group evaluation with the individual performance evaluation periods. The most effective team evaluation method I've ever seen (or experienced) is 3x3 Analysis, a three tier by three category approach, coupled with a healthy amount of trusting your gut. The goal of 3x3 Analysis is to determine whether your staff mix meets the requirements and goals of your department.
Step 1: Project Type Analysis
To set up your 3x3 Analysis, you will need to first understand your breakdown of projects. What percentage of your projects are Tier 1, Tier 2, and Tier 3? Typically Tier 1 projects require creative briefs, have a high level of complexity, have longer timelines, and have significant impact whereas Tier 3 projects are production design (highly templated with quick turnarounds) and Tier 2 falls in between those two categories.
Step 2: Org Structure Requirements
Determine your preferred organizational structure based on results of above project type analysis and discussions you've had with Senior Management regarding department objectives.
Step 3: Team Assessment
Assess your team in the simple terms of "A", "B", and "C". "A" players are the rock stars; they consistently exceed expectations and, in doing so, rise up the ladder. These players need to challenged and thrive on working on Tier 1 projects. "B" players are reliable contributors who steadily meet expectations but either don't have the aptitude, desire, or skills to be "A" players, though every now and then they delight you with their efforts. "C" players require coaching to meet expectations and may not be motivated to change their career path. For these players you will need to institute a development plan to coach them to become "B" players, or you may need to dismiss them from your organization.
Step 4: Gap Analysis
Review whether the percentage of Tier 1 projects plus half of the percentage of Tier 2 projects roughly equals the percentage of team members you've identified as "A" players. Then add half of the percentage of Tier 2 projects plus the Tier 3 projects to evaluate whether that total is roughly equal to your "B" players. If you have any "C" players and you believe they are coachable, count them as "B" players for this exercise. Otherwise leave them out of the equation. You've now identified where there are gaps between your project types and staffing mix. When attrition occurs, either regretted or unregretted, you should seek to fill open positions per the gap analysis.
Larger teams with multiple functions should run the analysis for each function (print design, web design, video, editorial, etc) to have a thorough analysis of the team. Smaller teams may not have the luxury of multiple A and B players, but it's still important to evaluate your team against your projects. Regardless of your team size, hire per your project mix to avoid a high attrition rate which reduces your department's productivity, quality, and hiring costs.
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Rena DeLevie, a Cella consultant, is a people-oriented transformational leader with 23 years experience in the creative industry (Talbots, J. Crew, Kenneth Cole, UBS, Cole Haan); first as an art director for 8 years, then in Creative Operations for the past 15+ years. Her passion is to help companies and people succeed by listening, analyzing and proposing solutions for organizational structure, streamlining communication, financial accountability, increasing efficiency and reducing expenses.