Using elite sports as inspiration to lift team performance

Mastering SAP

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Chancing upon a people and culture presentation at last year’s Mastering SAP event has enabled Christchurch City Council’s Ross Metcalfe to make a radical shift in his team’s performance and motivation. Freya Purnell reports.

When Ross Metcalfe, IT manager at Christchurch City Council attended Mastering SAP in 2016, all was not well in his workplace.

“My team was under enormous amount of stress and pressure. We were overloaded with work, there’s more work coming on. There were conflicting priorities, everyone was exhausted, and there were just more coming,” he says, adding that an SAP upgrade was also impending.

Looking for a change of pace after technical overload at the conference, he attended a people and culture presentation by executive coach Greg Layton about using a sporting model for team management.

“There was one slide that caught my attention, and that was about the cycle that elite sport teams use when they’re working. It’s called P2R2 where they prepare for a game, they perform at a game, they recover after the game. Then they review their previous game, and cycle through that process.”

With the norm now for people to be checking emails long after they have left the office, Metcalfe realised that his team wasn’t recovering, and it was resulting in sub-par performance and disengagement.

“That very presentation inspired me to start looking at how do elite sports teams operate? What can I learn from them? That led me to a sports management approach to running our SAP team,” Metcalfe said.

One of the factors that is common to elite sports team is having leadership within the team, not just a captain.

“We identified some key people, and we were able to use them to work on the culture and the values of the team. Rather than me driving it or the executives from above, we got the team themselves to drive it, and we’ve come up with some core values that mean something to us,” Metcalfe says.

A formal recovery program was also introduced, to help people bounce back from the effects of long working hours under pressure. Each fortnight the team has a snap challenge, where for 30 minutes they do something unrelated to work – for example, a competition to build the best slinky course.

“We had five teams, and everybody is battling out to get the best answer, but at the end of it you come away, and sit down at your desk with a clear head,” Metcalfe says.

He says that by taking this approach and implementing some simple initiatives, it has completely turned the team around.

“A year ago, we had the lowest engagement within the IT department. Now it’s one of the highest teams, and it has motivated a lot more cross-training, knowledge-sharing, and the team has become super cooperative,” Metcalfe says.

It hasn’t just been a feel-good exercise. Last year, the council’s SAP enhancement pack upgrade, with a unicode conversion component added in, was completed four weeks ahead of the three month schedule, saving around $150,0000.

“Everybody worked well together before, but this approach has taken it to another level where everybody pitched in with testing, or if someone was having a problem, people will jump in. Our team is almost at the point now that we don’t need job descriptions because everybody is just prepared to do what it takes.”

While Metcalfe acknowledges the great value of the technical presentations at Mastering SAP, the insight into how to lift his team’s performance has made the biggest difference.

“Your people have to be in top form because now things are going faster every day, there are more expectations. We have more projects than ever before and it is only going to get harder, so going back to the basics of looking at the team has made a huge difference.”

Ross Metcalfe will be sharing his experience at Mastering SAP in Melbourne, 21-23 May 2017. For more information and to register, visit Inside SAP is delighted to offer a Special Super Saver Offer (save $700 on the standard rate) – simply use code InsideSAP when registering for Financials, HR & Payroll or Technologies.

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