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DPM Podcast

How To Leverage People Data To Run High-Performance Project Teams (with Bentzy Goldman from Perflo)

By 20/07/2021 No Comments

Galen Low is joined by Bentzy Goldman, Founder and CEO of Perflo, an innovative and fully distributed startup that helps project teams and their leaders stay aligned and collectively find ways of continuously improving team performance. Listen to learn how to leverage people data to run high-performance project teams.

Interview Highlights:

  • In this episode, we’re going to be exploring how people data can become your crystal ball for predicting and avoiding the unwelcome surprises that are limiting your team’s potential. [0:43]
  • Bentzy Goldman is a forward-thinking entrepreneur and business strategist who is absolutely fixated on finding better ways of doing things and helping organizations stay ahead of the curve. [1:14]
  • Bentzy is the founder and CEO of Perflo, an innovative and fully distributed startup that helps project teams and their leaders stay aligned and collectively find ways of continuously improving team performance. [1:32]
  • In his spare time, he reads up on the latest trends relating to the future of work, as well as autobiographies of famous entrepreneurs. He is a pretty sound tennis player, and he’s also very passionate about fighting rhino poaching in Southern Africa. [1:44]
  • As somebody that’s been advocating remote working for years, a widespread openness to video meetings is the most inspirational or impactful response that Bentzy has seen in terms of embracing new ways of working and adapting to the current situation. [3:17]
  • The new generation entering the workforce are very picky where they’re going to work. And just because they pay more doesn’t mean they’re going to work there. So they realize they have to be if they want to attract and retain talent. [5:19]
  • Perflo, on a very simple level, helps facilitate conversation amongst the team. [5:56]
  • As a startup, the kind of challenges they are facing as an organization these days are the typical startup challenges in terms of lean resources, how many feature requests from a product development side. [7:45]
  • At Perflo, they are asking things that are very much related to the project itself. They measure things like scope creep, resources, all things that are related to the project. [11:00]
  • One of the things that are exciting for Bentzy is sending data to the team itself and team members, not just the manager. [12:58]
  • One of the features that they’re building at Perflo is the nudges. Nudging managers towards positive behaviors based on data. [13:22]
  • Bentzy has a recent post on The Digital Project Manager, titled: How to Leverage People Data to Build and Run High-Performance Project Teams. [14:51]
  • People data is essentially data that is generated from people. On a more complex level, people analytics that organizations do. It’s analyzing data from the different tools and data sets related to people. [15:53]
  • On a very basic level, it’s so important to get data from people to understand them, to understand what’s going on. [17:39]

“It’s important to understand the team and what’s happening on the team on a very simple level.” — Bentzy Goldman

  • Going deeper, getting data from people is important to try and uncover issues that are going on. [18:07]
  • From a business perspective, to act on this data and make decisions based on it. You can also correlate it with project data. [18:29]

“People and project data, together, is our end goal. It is incredibly powerful.” — Bentzy Goldman

  • You can predict the probability of project success based on different metrics, stress, and low team engagement. [18:53]
  • From what Bentzy has seen from their customers, the pain points, in one word, are surprises. [21:01]
  • The interesting thing of using Perflo internally is it eliminates the number of surprises that you’ll definitely have in a project. [21:48]

“Higher team engagement correlates to higher increased task performance.” — Bentzy Goldman

  • If a team is more engaged in their work, they’ll do a better job. They’ll show up and be more excited about the work and the project. [24:30]
  • One of the success metrics that Bentzy measures in their micro reviews is the notion of “building skateboards”. [26:44]
  • Perflo’s Team Pulse uses in-depth, research-backed questions designed around project teams. [30:10]

“Most project teams should be measuring similar things, because most teams and most projects have core fundamentals that apply across the board.” — Bentzy Goldman

  • What you measure is what you get. If the team knows what’s important from the onset, they will be more driven to those behaviors and activities because it’s being measured. [34:01]
  • Bentzy is writing an article about why we measure clarity throughout a project. [35:59]
  • Bentzy doesn’t see Perflo as a survey tool, because there’s a little bit more intelligence behind it, like in terms of their scheduler. [37:43]
  • Perflo has two types of feedback loops. [38:12]
  • Micro Reviews – measuring just the success measures of your project, a success criteria. [38:15]
  • Team Pulse – research-backed questions. [38:22]
  • Stakeholder Pulse – measures client sentiment and feedback from clients or stakeholders. [38:27]
  • For anyone who does want to prioritize people data, the first step is including the team in the conversation. [54:58]

Guest Bio:

Bentzy Goldman is the founder and CEO of Perflo.co, a project team-feedback and analytics tool which is all about prioritizing the voice of people in projects. He is an avid future-of-work enthusiast and is completely energized by finding new ways to make the workplace a better place to work.

Photo Of Bentzy Goldman

“We want the team to collectively take responsibility on certain things, and work together to come to solutions.” — Bentzy Goldman

Resources from this episode:

Related articles and podcasts:

We’re trying out transcribing our podcasts using a software program. Please forgive any typos as the bot isn’t correct 100% of the time.

Read the Transcript:

Galen Low

So, you’re in your post project review and it’s been… eyeopening… and a bit tragic. Rinat has just revealed to the team that the reason she had taken personal leave was because the project work was impacting her mental health. Jarnell and Karthik both agreed they never felt clear on the process they were supposed to be following, and they didn’t really understand what they were building until the very, very end. And Heather felt that leadership was deaf to her attempts to raise the flag about these team issues among many others.

The result of all these things was a mediocre product, unhappy users, lower profit than projected, and an entire team of talented individuals that are now looking for the exit. How could you have prevented this?

Could you have prevented this?

Why is it that you only ever find these things out when it’s too late?

If you’re looking for ways to do a pre-mortem instead of a post-mortem, keep listening. We’re going to be exploring how people data can become your crystal ball for predicting and avoiding the unwelcome surprises that are limiting your team’s potential.

Thanks for tuning in, my name is Galen Low with The Digital Project Manager. We are a community of digital professionals on [00:01:00] a mission to help each other get skilled, get confident and get connected so that we can deliver projects better. If you want to hear more about that, head over to thedigitalprojectmanager.com.

Hey everyone. Thanks for hanging out with us on The DPM Podcast. My guest today is a forward-thinking entrepreneur and business strategist who is absolutely fixated on finding better ways of doing things and helping organizations stay ahead of the curve. Having sunken his teeth into the world of software startups early in his career, he has been constantly involved in projects that are focused on creating the future of work.

Today, he is the founder and CEO of Perflo, an innovative and fully distributed startup that helps project teams and their leaders stay aligned and collectively find ways of continuously improving team performance.

In his spare time, he reads up on the latest trends relating to the future of work, as well as autobiographies of famous entrepreneurs. He is a pretty sound tennis player, and he’s also very passionate about fighting rhino poaching in Southern Africa.

Folks, please welcome Mr. Bentzy Goldman. Hey Bentzy!

Bentzy Goldman

Hey Galen, thanks so much for having me, big fan of DPM and your guys’ work, as you know.

Galen Low

I’m really excited about our conversation today. We’ve had some great conversations over the past few months. It’s been great getting to know you. Uh, and I just have to say I’m a big fan of what you’re doing as well with Perflo.

I think it’s a really great idea. We’re gonna sink our teeth into that. We’re going to get into it as we go. Uh, but I thought maybe just to kind of give our, our listeners a bit of a teaser, I thought I might just start. One thing I really loved about our conversations is your focus on like future ways of working.

And I’m actually really keen to pick your brain today about just the state of the workforce today. I mean, we’re in the middle of a pandemic. Our life’s got flipped upside-down, the way that we do things, how has, has, has changed dramatically over the past year and a bit. Uh, so I thought I’d ask you, since this pandemic situation began, what’s been the most inspirational or impactful response that you’ve seen in terms of embracing new ways of working and adapting to the current situation?

Bentzy Goldman

Yeah. Great question. Uh, so obviously, you know, everyone talks about the remote working piece, but really for me as somebody that’s been like advocating it for years and we are obviously we’ve been remote from day one, so we didn’t change anything like how style of work or like nothing changed for us, but seeing everyone sort of, um, adopted and be on the same sort of wavelength of yeah.

A video meeting, uh, is we don’t have to meet up in person or, you know, we can chat asynchronously, collaborate online, um, you know, virtually and opens up like opportunities for global collaboration now, because in the past, like, people that were in this remote work community were like used to all these tools, you know, like mirror and just ways of working.

And now it’s becoming like normal, you know? So that’s awesome to see. And then obviously, you know, us and me being all about, you know, people’s centricity in, in the workplace, um, seeing that shift from like old school organizations, you know, that are like focused on employee wellness and work-life balance and all these things, which before was not a priority.

And now it’s like, how can we make this, you know, a healthy environment, a great place to work. Um, and it’s just, it’s like accelerated everything. So it’s, it’s awesome for us to see.

Galen Low

I love that. And yeah, like acceleration is definitely the right word. Like I’ve, I never thought that we could move this fast, you know, like, all of those industries that we’re like, Oh, we can never be remote.

You know, suddenly we’re pretty remote.

And then the people centric thing I a hundred percent agree with. Like there’s just so many more layers of, of depth in terms of seeing each other as humans. And I think that’s, yeah, absolutely been very, very inspirational.

Bentzy Goldman

I think it’s now like companies are realizing it’s, it’s actually besides just a nice to have or the soft stuff.

It should actually be a business priority because people are very, the new generation entering the workforce are not, uh, they’re very picky where they’re going to work. And, um, just because they pay more doesn’t mean they’re going to work there. Um, so they realizing like they have to be actually if they want to attract and retain talent.

Galen Low

And I, I dare say your tool Perflo, you were a bit ahead of the curve in a way, in terms of building a platform that is people-oriented in terms of performance, measurement and management. Could you tell us a little bit about what Perflo is exactly?

Bentzy Goldman

Sure. Um, I think, uh, an aspect for me to describe it, besides just describing the tool and the features is the, the concept behind it and, and, and what actually helps teams do. And really on a very simple level, it helps facilitate conversation amongst the team.

Um, and, and, and with the team lead helps, uh, the team lead to understand the team better, the dynamics of the team, and obviously uncover, you know, issues that they wouldn’t have before. Um, so it really helps teams to continuously uh self-assess you know, self-diagnosed and when you are proactive about looking at how we interact as a team, um, you know, where the weak spots, where the strengths, um, you actually, besides just creating healthier teams, you execute better projects because you’re more aligned. Um, teams that are, that have a continuous feedback cycle or high performing teams.

So we really enable this continuous feedback between teams, self-assess, how can we improve? How can we better be better as a team?

Galen Low

I love that notion of like facilitating the conversation, because there’s always that side conversation, um, that would be a very productive conversation to have if people were willing to have it in a more open forum or if it was getting sort of, uh, digested and, and presented in a way that’s not necessarily going to like target back to an individual. So, I think it’s really, really important.

Uh, probably a lot of interest in the tool, as you mentioned. Um, but also some like a bit of a challenging time. Um, I’m just wondering what kind of challenges are you facing as an organization these days?

Bentzy Goldman

Yeah, so, I mean, obviously as a startup, we have typical startup challenges in terms of like lean resources, how many feature requests and, um, as a, as a, from a product development side. But on the point of like, you know, there’s interest and people are scrambling for, for, for better processes or tools, we still struggle with actually getting the concept across in terms of adoption, actual, you know, people are like very interested.

Yeah. We need those things to the great idea. Like it would be great. This would be great, but do you, are you actually gonna implement it and use it in your team and take the next step? And then people, are we just running these projects and it’s so hectic. And like, we don’t have time for another thing.

So then it becomes like, Oh, so it’s not a priority for you. Like, so, and when I talked to him about like team health, for example, or team performance, and there’s a lot of associations with the word performance. We try to stay away from it sometimes and they always go to the project health. And I talk about like project team health, logic team performance.

It’s always like, yeah, tasks, you know, backlog, timeline, budget. Um, and I’m like, I’m not talking about the work. I’m not talking about the work or the project. I’m talking about the team. So getting that message across, being a sort of new concept in project management specifically, um, and, and a sort of new idea and way of doing things, um, adoption is, is much slower obviously than we would like. But, you know, with Tom and off to, you know, people start to see the results and use it. We hope that it’ll be more widespread.

Galen Low

I also too. I mean, uh, like in, uh, the article that we’re going to be talking about, you know, you’re, you’re focusing on, on people, data. Uh, and when we think of like project managers, especially like a lot of our listeners, you know, their metrics are exactly what you described, right?

Like, uh, you know, team efficiency, um, like, you know, like managing scope, managing timeline, managing budget, you know, like SPI, CPI and all of these, like how is the work going? Um, and in a way it’s kind of like, well, the people side of things is, is, is probably HR is problem. Um, and do you think it’s like, just a bit abstract?

Like, they haven’t necessarily connected it. They know they need it, but they’re not sure that it’s their problem. And, and, and like you said, like they can’t prioritize it because it’s still a bit abstract of why they need to pay attention to people and people data.

Bentzy Goldman

But yeah, a hundred percent I think, I mean, I remember one conversation I had with head of PMO at a massive company. And he was like, why are you coming to me? Like, this is HR problem, not mine. And I was like, dude, I built this for you and not for HR. That’s the whole point. Like, we don’t do any, you know, it’s not an HR tool. Um, it’s and the difference is we don’t ask things like, um, you know, how are you feeling today?

Are you happy? Like, it’s not soft stuff. We’re asking things that are very much related to the project itself. You know, we measure things like scope creep, resources, all things that are related to the project. The only way, the only difference is that the way we gather these insights is through people. So people are sort of like the medium, but the output and the insights are all related to the project.

Do you know what I mean?

Galen Low

Yeah, absolutely. Yeah. Yeah. It’s like the sort of, uh, the human sentiment around the project work. Um, and I think that’s a really important distinction because, you know, some of, some of our listeners, uh, their heads might jump to, you know, Oh yeah, okay. HR voice of employee programs, right?

They have like the seasonal survey that says, you know, how likely are you to recommend organization X, um, you know, as a place to work to your, to your colleagues or your friends. Um, this is different. This is about the actual project works that’s transpiring, how are you feeling about it? How do you think it’s going?

And it’s not really that sort of organizational focus. It’s very much that specificity of, do you think a project’s going well and could we be delivering it better? Um, give us that feedback so that we can action that, you know, sprint over sprint, iteration over iteration, phase over phase, to make sure that we’re getting better.

And also, uh, you know, providing that, that balance where, you know, people are proud of the work, feel good about the work. Um, and as a result are, you know, conceivably, uh, executing the work, um, like more effectively.

Bentzy Goldman

Yeah, a hundred percent. We don’t, we don’t, we don’t ask anything, uh, organization on an organizational level. Yeah.

Galen Low

That is very cool. I, I love this idea. Um, before we get into it, cause I’m excited to get into it, but, uh, I’m just wondering, is there anything exciting on the Perflo roadmap that you can share with us? Anything that’s sort of new innovations, top secret plans?

Bentzy Goldman

Um, I’m pretty transparent about it. Um, one of the things that, uh, that is exciting to me and is very, uh, sort of progressive concept is sending data to the team itself and team members, not just the manager.

So it doesn’t become a manager tool and managers analytics, you know. And one of the features that we’re building is the nudges, right? So nudging managers towards positive, um, behaviors based on data. Um, but now how can we actually nudge teams, right? Based on the data and, and not just the manager and rely on the manager to action everything.

And, you know, we have to hold, hold the manager accountable. Like maybe the team can actually be, um, in a way, you know, self-managing, but like bring up these discussions based on these nudges. And obviously, we know, you know, the different sentiment around, even though it’s anonymous, we can pick up trends, you know, based on, uh, just, uh, just the different data points.

Uh, it doesn’t matter who it is. Um, so I think team nudges is, is, is very exciting. Uh.

Galen Low

That’s very cool. And I love that idea that like, especially for, um, you know, the things that we’re going to be talking about today, um, and just that, that people, data overall sort of team, uh, team sentiment, um, and just feedback from the team, you know. The project manager doesn’t necessarily need to be the only custodian of that information.

Um, and to your point about self-managing teams, you know, more and more, you’ve got these cross-functional highly effective teams, um, that would benefit from looking at that data and having that dashboard and making decisions together. I really liked that. That’s super cool.

All right. Let’s uh, let’s get into it.

Let’s let’s talk about your recent posts on The Digital Project Manager on, How to Leverage People Data to Build and Run High-Performance Project Teams. So for those of you listening, who haven’t had a chance to check it out yet, it’s a really good read. I’ve included link down in the show notes below.

And, uh, I just think I really enjoyed it Bentzy. Uh, one of the things I liked best about the article was the way it talks about like the things we’re talking about, human impact, things like burnout, things like the emotional toll of project-based work. Um, it’s never really that easy. It’s always a lot of pressure.

Um, you know, you’re kind of, it’s kind of a slug, uh, and we do so much to measure things like processes and efficiencies, but sometimes we miss that human piece. And to your point earlier, you know, Oh, is that HRs problem? Probably… not. Based on what you said in terms of like the project context. Um, so I thought maybe we could take a running start at it for people, um, and start with a big question, which I framed as what the heck is people data and why does it matter?

Bentzy Goldman

Good question. So, people data is essentially data that is generated from via people, right? Um, or on a sort of more complex level, people analytics that organizations do. It’s, um, analyzing, you know, data from the different tools and data sets to on, on related to people. So people analytics, which is a huge, like growing industry and function within organizations are looking at like, uh, trends and correlations between, uh, employee engagement, retention, you know, productivity and I analyze different tools and, and, and the surveys and, you know, so it’s all related to people.

Uh, it’s not like business, uh, data, you know, operational data from our, our, on our side from a personal perspective, it’s the data generated from people on the team. It’s not, you know, any of the spine or monitoring stuff.

Galen Low

I like that. That’s a huge distinction because like, um, you know, definitely my mind jumped there when I first saw the word people data, I was like, okay, yeah.

Surveillance, and collecting, and scrutinizing, um, and, maybe being a bit cynical about, uh, people on the way that they’re working. Um, but yeah, that really sort of turn the dial for me in terms of, Oh yeah. Like, yes data about people, but from people. Um, and I think that’s a, that’s a massive distinction.

I think that’s really cool. And I mean, we talked a bit about it in the intro, but, you know, from an organizational perspective and from a sort of team delivery perspective, like why is it so important to get data from people?

Bentzy Goldman

Well, uh, on a very basic level to understand, to understand them, to understand what’s going on.

If you don’t, then you just basically is running off your intuition, assumptions, um, which generally are not representing what’s really going on always. So it’s important to understand the team and what’s happening on the team on a very simple level. Um, you know, going deeper, you know, to try and uncover issues that are going on, um, uncover things that via, you know, because it’s anonymous, uh, you’re getting a lot more insight than you’d usually get, you know. Introverts that don’t speak up in meetings or just if it’s not a sort of safe psychological safety in terms of the environment.

Um, and then from a, you know, from obviously a business perspective. Um, you know, to act on this data, uh, and make decisions based on it. And correlate this data. You can correlate it with project data, you know. People and project data together, which is like our end goal is, is incredibly powerful. No one’s, no one’s explored that yet on, uh, you know, properly.

Um, and then you can start to predict, you know, you can have recommended action items, then you can predict probability of project success based on different metrics, stress, low team engagement, you know. So again, it’s like, it’s not the soft stuff. It’s literally effects how work gets done, what the issues are. And, and obviously like how we can remedy them and get better.

So there’s an actual business outcomes and benefits. In fact, I read a stat the other day. I don’t want to give a number because it would probably be wrong. But companies, organizations that prioritize will have a people analytics function are X amount of times more profitable, you know, better places to work higher engagement that directly leads to productivity and bottom line.

Galen Low

Interesting. I mean, I love that. Uh, I love that sort of a line of argumentation because I think that’s kind of, uh, people’s knee-jerk reactions sometimes, right? Oh, this is soft fluffy stuff. Like, you know, how are you feeling about the project? And there’s some people out there who would be like, I don’t care how you feel, but when you start framing it back to like, actually this is having an impact.

Uh, and yes, in an ideal world, uh, you know, we have lots of people-centric organizations who do care. But even in a situation where it’s really performance orientated, uh, this is still something that matters. It’s not this, uh, you know, uh, uh, for all the naysayers to think it’s kind of, you know, kumbaya data that just goes nowhere or like adds to people’s plates and makes a lot of noise.

Um, the, the fact that it does have impact, I think is really cool. I wonder if, I wonder if I can frame it from the negative and then we’ll frame it into some of the benefits as well, but like, you know, we’re talking about some of these conversations, um, you know, that maybe aren’t being had. Uh, you know, people who don’t feel comfortable speaking up.

And, and what have you seen, uh, from your customers as like, what are the pain points? Those net effects of not having the conversations that Perflo helps to, to facilitate.

Bentzy Goldman

Uh, in one word it’s surprises. So if you’re not keeping a pulse on, on things and trying to understand in a proactive way where things, you know, maybe dipping with project might be going off track, et cetera.

And then you’ve got to be surprised by issues, and then they’re going to boil up and then you’ve got to put out fires and then obviously projects delayed and over budget and all these things. So I think one of the interesting feedback points is like these insights that they never had before, or sometimes had at the end of the project when I did a post-project review or something, or no, the truth came out when the team was, you know, dissembled and then, so I think the interesting thing, even that I experienced using the tool internally is, um, to, to eliminate the number of surprises, um, that, that you’ll, you know, you’ll definitely have in a project.

Um, I don’t know if that answers your question.

Galen Low

I think it kind of does and I’m like, okay, well, you know, what are some of these surprises in my head from my experience? And tell me if I’m, you know, uh, tell me if I’m on the road on the right track, but like, you know, uh, a surprise for me has been, you know, just like burnout.

Somebody just suddenly is like not showing up to work anymore, you know, or like actually just needed, you know, a week of, of, of, uh, like a mental health leave or more than a week. Um, and, you know, as, as a manager, you know, I may or may not have seen that coming, especially if I’m not having those conversations.

So there’s a big surprise if you’ve got, you know, your lead technical architect, um, you know, kind of suddenly out because, you know, they’ve reached the end of their rope before you even knew that they were close to the end of their rope. So, I mean, that would be a big one. The other one I’m thinking of is just like, uh, like.

Team, um, like general team morale. And I, you know, I, I dare say sort of that like mutiny point, right? Where, you know, if you’re kind of managing with your head in the clouds, you know, and you’re not seeing, you know, what it’s looking like on, on the front line, uh, and those conversations aren’t being had and your entire team can just be like, you know what, forget this.

We’re not even going to, like, we’re not even going to try as hard. Let’s just, you know, band together. Get it done and never speak of it again. And you might not be sort of seeing that or hearing that, and that’s going to have a massive effect on the quality of the product that they’re producing. And again, just that overall, uh, morale, um, you know, we talked about engagement like that.

That’s a good way to, to, to really hammer down on engagement is to just not understand some of the, uh, the, the, the pain points, um, that the team is kind of, uh, kind of wrangling with. And sort of not having those conversations and having the project go off rails. So those are my, like, those are the surprises that sort of jumped into my head.

Bentzy Goldman

A hundred percent and, and I’ve correlated stress, um, and engage actually that there’s a fact on this as well.

I’m big into my statistics data. So, higher team engagement correlates to higher increased task performance, which is, I mean, to me, it’s pretty obvious. Like it’s not a surprise to me. You know, if a team is more engaged in their work, they’ll do a better job, you know. They’ll show up and be more excited about the work and the project.

And if a team obviously gets along, you know. So, if you can detect that early on, um, you know, you’ll save a lot of issues as opposed to, usually people only will. They’ll only tell you once it’s hit the, you know, the breaking point because nobody wants to look a like incompetent or lazy or come across as like a complainer.

So people don’t say anything, you know, just get on with it. But at some point, and trust me, we’re guilty of this as well. I’m guilty of this. You know, obviously early stage startups is a different sort of, uh, you know, you’re running at a different velocity than like a nine to five or something. So we, you know, we do expect to be, we have to be, you have to be proactive again.

I’m not saying this word a lot to be preventative, you know, as opposed to cure, you know, curing the disease, try to, you know, prevent it.

Galen Low

I like that. And that’s actually something I hadn’t even really thought about it, which is that notion of like, it’s predictive. So if you’re getting some of the sentiment and it’s, maybe it’s not even like, it wouldn’t normally trigger a flag, right?

Whereas, you know, somebody who’s kind of like, come in and they’re like, Oh, I’m feeling down today. And you’re like, okay. Yeah. Some people have bad days, but when you sort of aggregate that data and look at it from a team perspective and like watch the trend and you’re like, Oh, actually, you know, people are coming in, uh, you know, uh, like more and more unhappy every day.

And I can sort of draw a line and plot a course and go, okay, well, we need to like correct this before it becomes a thing. Um, before it becomes that conversation that would normally be, you know, that like, that, that breaking point or that escalation point. Um, and just catching it there. I really liked that.

That’s very cool. I mean, I just through, um, probably, you know, just an example out of my hat there, but I’m just wondering, like, are there some sort of people metrics, um, that you’ve really seen change the game in terms of measuring it and acting on that data?

Bentzy Goldman

One of the things that we measure in our micro reviews, one of the success measures, uh, it’s called building skateboards.

Now, building skateboards, like, you know, product people will notice it’s instead of building these highly scalable complex features, you know. Build a prototype, um, you know, MVP in a ship it and see the response and iterate accordingly, et cetera. Um, and so as a startup with limited resources, uh, then we have to be very purposeful about this, you know, so we don’t build things and then we have to do rework or it’s not adopted, et cetera.

So we measure this, you know, on a weekly basis and everyone gives input. So obviously developers, um, CTO, see a designer and you can see literally a trend lands, um, and, and identify. So, so from a business perspective, for me, uh, looking at, you know, time to ship, uh, you know, rework, et cetera, issues, delays.

And so for me, it helps the business for the CTO. You know, it helps technical, technical rework, you know. It helps with, you know, just efficiency from, from the development side. So there’s different benefits to it, but it’s something that if we see it, any dip in this, we immediately take action. And then we’ll say, okay guys, why are we not, you know, why we have a low score on this?

What’s going on? You know, where could we do better? And people can give suggestions also anonymously in terms of. I mean a lot of stuff. We don’t, we, we speak about not anonymously, but it depends on, you know, your culture, transparency and organization, but that’s something that, like, for example, if we didn’t measure it, I promise you, we will be doing a lot more rework. A lot more like, you know, just going off track.

Galen Low

And in terms of measuring, like, what is the question or what does an example of a question you’d ask to measure that?

Is it kind of like, are we still building a skateboard? What do you think?

Bentzy Goldman

Yeah, literally. Yeah, that’s the, that’s the micro review, which is like our, you know, our very, uh, simple but powerful feature. That the team is literally doing these 32nd, like, you know, many retros on, on a weekly basis, or however you set it up, um, you know, like, you know how we’re doing, could we be doing better and suggestion how we can improve that, you know, concept from scrum.

But the difference is it’s not like a Kanban board or exercise of sticky notes. That’s just like, okay guys, you know, how are we doing? Uh, you know, where could we do better? Um, it’s very contextual to measuring specific, you know, success criteria. What’s important to measure in this project and this team in the business.

So, and then it gives you data, obviously, which like, you know, Kanban board or sticky notes doesn’t generate data captured any other time. Um, so yeah, it’s that, that the micro view is, is, is, is not like the reason, the research, bad questions, cause micro-reviews, you choose at the end of the, at the beginning of the project. Like, what do we want to, what are the success criteria for our project and our team.

Um, and then the team pulse, those are the more like in-depth research back questions designed around project teams.

Galen Low

That’s cool. I like that. And I think a lot of our listeners will be like, Oh, 32nd retros? That sounds really cool. And we’re going to get into that and what that looks like. And I think that’s really interesting, but you’ve touched on something that was really important, at least to me, which is sort of like selecting what to measure.

So, I thought maybe now’s just a good time to just segue into what I think is the main thesis of the article, which is really about, you know. How can people data, help managers and leaders build high-performance projects teams? And as I was reading the article in my head and prepping for this, I was thinking about, okay, well, you know, there’s various stages.

This doesn’t just happen suddenly. You’re not doing, I’ll just wake up on a Monday and say, okay, let’s talk measuring stuff. Um, uh, so I’ve kind of was thinking about things like, okay, well before a project starts and then like during and after and in the bucket of. Before a project starts, you know, the question I had was like, okay, well, how do you decide what to measure?

Because I imagine from a people that a standpoint, from a project objective standpoint, like you might have lots of questions, um, and lots of things that you want to measure. Uh, but then it starts kind of bulking up and suddenly you can’t do like a 30, 32nd questionnaire or retro because there’s like so many things you’re trying to measure.

So I’m just wondering, like, do you have to measure like a whole set, like from a research standpoint, is there like a minimum viable set of metrics that you have to measure or can you kind of pick and choose based on your project objectives?

Bentzy Goldman

Great questions. So, well, in short, both we, so we have a minimum and a maximum.

So we make sure, no matter what, that can’t go over 30 seconds, like we tested it multiple times obviously. And so you can’t ask more than seven, you know, success measures or different stages. You can’t ask more than like eight questions and this or that. And, um, no only one, I think one or two followups max.

Um, so we designed it to this custom it’s customizable in terms of what questions, what to measure, but also there’s some framework so that we, you know, and we don’t allow, you know, to go out like eight times a week, you know, uh, or on weekends or whatever. So we will have frameworks for this. Um, but then in terms of what to measure, so we designed this, you know, library and this template around the research of what makes a high-performing project team, right?

Um, and to continuously measure your team against that, you know, sort of ideal architecture. Um, and so each of the metrics that we have preselected, you can leave as, you know, your template or you can de-select and select your own. I don’t know. I’m like getting into the product here, but the idea is like most project teams should be measuring similar things because most teams and most projects have core fundamentals that apply across the board.

For example, clarity at the beginning of a project. Clarity on expectations, on roles, on, you know, the purpose of the project, you know, the, the, the plan, uh, always different elements of clarity. It doesn’t matter what type of project it is or type of team you call yourself agile, not agile. Like you need clarity on your role on what, why are we doing this?

You know? Um, so there’s certain things that are like fundamental across the board apply. Then there are things that are specific to your project, team, company, client, whatever it may be. And those things you can choose based on your project. So there’s a bit of both, I suppose, there’s the core things. And then there’s things that you want to measure.

And like the, the concept of like, what you measure is what you get. It’s like, if the team knows what’s important from the onset, you know, I’ve going back to the proactive part of things. People will be more, um, driven to drive those behaviors and activities because it’s being measured. And, and also like the one thing we say is like, okay, what should we measure?

Well, the question is, what do you want to prevent? And that is the way to sort of like work backwards, you know. Your risks, I suppose as well.

Galen Low

I love it. You know, it’s funny because like, in a way you said all of that, so nonchalantly, and I know in my head that you spent years researching this, and there’s a lot of like behavioral research.

There’s a lot of psychology behind, like the way you look at this problem. Uh, but I I’m willing to bet that, uh, some of our listeners, when you said clarity as a metric went Oh, what? Because, I mean, I, I did, um, I perked up a little bit. I’m like, Oh yeah. Okay. That is a really sensible thing to measure on any project generally.

Uh, but it’s not something I really thought of as, as a metric that I could like measure and see and ask a question around. Uh, and I, I really liked that notion of just like helping people understand that. Yes. What do you want to prevent? I want to prevent people just having no idea what it is that we’re building, why we’re doing this, how things are working.

Uh, I want to prevent that, so I’m going to measure it. Um, and I love that as a, as sort of a thing to select. And then I love that sort of notion that there is also, there’s also that psychology behind it. Knowing that it’s measured is going to impact the way people treat that, you know, the sort of the context around that metric and they’re going to strive for clarity.

Um, and I, I that’s, yeah, I, I think that’s like, I know it’s your day to day and you’re like, live and breathe this, but I think that’s kind of an aha for a lot of people listening. So I think that’s super cool.

Bentzy Goldman

Yeah. It’s funny. I’m actually writing an article about why we measure clarity summit, because we measure it throughout a project as well, because you know, roles change, things change. Product go in different direction and then people are clarity goes down.

So it’s important to measure that throughout the project as well, not just at the beginning, you know.

Galen Low

And I’m like in my head, I’m thinking about like thresholds as well, because for better or for worse, a project never like a hundred percent clear all the way through.

There’s sort of like these ups and downs, peaks and valleys, like knowns and unknowns. Um, and then one of the things you talk about in your article and also something you mentioned earlier was sort of these continuous feedback loops to sort of measure like that performance. What does, what does the, what does the process look like for you in terms of like creating this continuous feedback loop?

Bentzy Goldman

So, what it looks like in terms of, I mean, how it designed it is all about micro feedback. So, you know, it’s not like long surveys. It’s not like. It’s not like all open text, meaning that’s multiple choice or dropped down, or just, you know, a button, you click here, some designer that is very important to obviously have engagement and make sure that people are giving feedback.

Um, there’s also the behavioral science stuff not going into now, but like the idea is obviously you want people engaged, you want people giving feedback. So we also make sure that it’s not the same sort of questions or things going out every, every week. Like a lot of these team pulse tools, they ask five questions on every Friday, you know. By the third Friday, like, okay, I’ve been answering the same questions, you know, like give me something else.

Um, so the variety is important. Again, part of the framework of, of, of not just, um, Like, I don’t see ourselves as a survey tool, you know, because there’s a little bit more intelligence behind it, like in terms of our scheduler, right? So we look at how long the project is, and then we adjust the frequency based on that.

So if your project is four weeks, you know, it doesn’t help to do what one every two weeks. The product is six months. It’s too often, once every two weeks for certain, for some of them. Uh, so we have two types of feedback loops.

We have the micro-reviews, which are like measuring just the success measures of your project, a success criteria. And then we have the team pulse and that’s is research back questions, right? So we have two things. We also have a stakeholder pulse to measure client sentiment and feedback from clients or stakeholders.

But the idea is micro, so it doesn’t go out too often. It doesn’t take more than 30 seconds. Um, and it goes out at different frequencies based on the different, you know, based on the length of your project. Um, and it’s contextual to where the project is at. So at the beginning of the project, you’re talking about different things to the middle, to the end, and even throughout the middle of the project.

So for example, just to get technical, like we have tags that is like mid-one, mid-two, mid-three, mid-four, right? And so these are different question sets based on the different stages that we know projects develop or turn, you know, like I said, measuring clarity in the middle of the project, in case things go, you know, Uh, in different directions.

So it’s a little more intelligent than a survey tool, and it’s also like automated so that you could go in and you could just, you know, create your, your, your, your set up your project in Perflo. And you won’t have to actually go in and what do I measure? How often do I measure it? So we’ve created this like, sort of default, like, you don’t have to be, or, uh, you know, like breaking your brain about it and we’ll just automate it.

Galen Low

I like that. And because there’s so much that you just said there, that is like, Designing research really, right? And you know, a lot, a lot of project managers are just going to be like, I ain’t got time for that, but I think what, like, one of the things that is really important that you said is like that variety.

Like I think, uh, like, uh, a lot of folks might think, Okay, well, in order to like measure something reliably, you have to ask the same question each time, but then you get this numbness to it, right? And I’ve like, I’ve, I’ve definitely been there, you know, like, Oh yeah, here’s the like quarterly pulse survey.

And I’m like, whatever. I’m just gonna click all the same buttons again, because they just keep asking the same thing. Uh, and then suddenly that data like stops meaning anything because people are just kind of like answering based on muscle memory. Um, but that variation or the like, yeah, but like the different questions to ask, to measure the same thing, um, at, at sort of different frequencies and like different questions at different stages of a project.

I think that’s, uh, I, I, it’s a really sort of elegant solution, uh, to something that could really become, you know, just another thing to do, um, in a project.

The one thing I’m thinking about that I think our listeners are probably thinking are like, okay, well, Yeah, I know it’s only whatever 30 seconds and the interactions are pretty micro, but I can’t even get my team to like fill out their timesheets or, you know, show up to the weekly team meeting.

Like, how is anyone going to like, adhere to this? How can I expect my team to like, you know, just fill this out so regularly. Um, do you encounter that? What kind of pushback do you hear from folks who are, who really do want to implement this, but you know, teams aren’t on board or they’re worried that nobody’s gonna like follow the program and then get zero data.

Bentzy Goldman

Totally, totally. We get that a lot initially. At the end of the day, It’s up to the organization, you know, the project office or the senior leadership and the manager themselves and the team actually, um, to be responsible for this in terms of acting on the feedback and acknowledging the feedback. Because if you implement a tool, a feedback tool, and you just have these feedback loops going on, people are giving feedback, and then nothing’s talked about, nothing’s action.

People will stop and that, and that’s fair. They should stop because what they doing in terms of input, they’re getting zero output. Doesn’t make any sense.

If you’re having those discussions, acknowledging it, uh, specifically actioning things, cause the team gives suggestions of action items. Then people will engage because they’re seeing a direct impact.

Galen Low

That’s a huge point. And coming back to that thing you said at the beginning, which is that, you know, a lot of folks will be interested in this, but sometimes they can’t prioritize it. And definitely, I mean, it’s kind of a, maybe chicken and egg, right? And it’s like, well, if you could prioritize this and commit to investing the time to actioning the feedback, iteration over iteration and putting your money where your mouth is, so to speak, then you will start to see the benefits of, uh, of exactly how this program can either can both get adopted and also have an impact on, on the work that you’re doing.

Um, but if you can’t prioritize that, then it’s still gonna fall over and to your point, right? Because people aren’t going to fill it out, they don’t think it does anything. It’s just kind of another thing to do. And it’s not benefiting them in any way. Like it’s, it’s still that psychology and it still that like team culture that needs to be, uh, reinforced and built in terms of like, okay, this is actually helping us work as a team.

It’s bettering my life. It’s bettering the business. Um, And ironically, you have to commit to that in order to start seeing the benefits that are going to really help you as an organization or as a team prioritize a program like this.

Bentzy Goldman

Yeah. And, and also like the thing is you’re also going to be doing some of these things manually.

So what it is is digitizing certain things that you would do manually and specifically in person in office or rep or your spot, these things, you know, by seeing people’s faces and, you know, being in their chairs or just like, you know, talking in the hallway. So as all of these things are happening already, and we’re just making it more automated, digitized, and asynchronous, so people could do it in a and Tom, you know, like having these asynchronous collaboration sessions or using a tool like let’s say loom, you know, so it’s asynchronous zooms in a way and your own time.

And this is giving people, you know, different times zones, work different schedules. You can have a discussion. You know, in your own time and work collectively solve problems. So it’s not necessarily a completely new overhead in terms of like, you know, what we’re talking about it’s usually would happen manually or should happen manually.

Galen Low

And actually, I think that’s a really good point, just like the overhead for the manager. And I think a lot of people are kind of thinking right now. They’re like, okay, well, I’m going to get all these surveys back and I have to parse it and I have to come up with an action plan and then I have to do something about it.

This sounds like a lot of work.

Bentzy Goldman

Well, I mean, Let’s say you don’t detect that the team is getting stressed, burnt out and overworked. Is it gonna save you time and effort to detected early on or not? You know what I mean?

Galen Low

Yep. Yeah.

Bentzy Goldman

Like that’s a bigger picture in terms of just like, Oh, is this an extra 30 seconds a week or an extra five minutes to go in and look at it.

Um, and we also try to be in very intuitive. So like the post to a survey tool, just in terms of the setup and generally the results and the analytics you see. You have to inspect, like to try and get some insights, you know. You see like pie charts or whatever. Um, what we do is we don’t make people go in and look at each question and responses and percentages.

We just tell you, like, we have a chart called attention areas, right? It’s three things. These are the three areas where, you know, if you had five minutes, these are the three things that you should focus on. And in order, in terms of priority, where you can have the most impact and where the team is struggling with the most.

So you don’t have to go in and action everything. You have to action the things that are pressing, and it’s going to save you time because it’s gonna bubble up anyway. So that’s, that’s the idea.

Galen Low

I really liked that because it like, it prioritizes it for you. Like, I think everybody who’s ever asked a team for input or feedback, uh, probably has had the experience where so much comes in.

And some of it’s like, I don’t even really know what to do with this. Is it important? Is this just one person, like who has an issue and how important is I’m making those decisions of triaging through that feedback is sometimes the hardest part, but I love that notion of like, okay, well, we can kind of help prioritize what you action.

Um, you don’t have to action all of it. You have to kind of listen and show that you’re listening and show that you’re acting on it, but there’s going to be things that are, are, are more impactful than others.

Bentzy Goldman

Yeah. And also, it’s not just like, we don’t want, we don’t want this to be like a manager tool, right? So it’s also the team that is involved in this and responsible for this in terms of actioning things as well, because, you know, for example, You can include that you can pull up our dashboard in a meeting or a stand up or whatever with the team and look at it with the team and discuss it with the team.

And the team could action certain things, you know. So it’s not just like, you know, we don’t want it to be just like a burden for managers or just for solely responsible for everything. Like we want the team to collectively take, um, you know, responsibility on certain things and, you know, work together to, to come to solutions.

Galen Low

I love that. I think that’s really cool. Uh, I wonder if we can take the, the clarity piece, um, and think of it sort of like after the fact. After your project is delivered, um, the one thing that strikes me is that, you know, we’re asking the team these questions throughout the life cycle of a very specific project.

Uh, but how, how does an organization, or how does a manager or even a team, how do they take some of those learnings from a project for something like clarity and apply that to other projects and other teams? Or is it just really like, does it just give you aspect on the team that’s executing that one specific project or can you make bigger organizational like generalized decisions based on that?

Bentzy Goldman

I love that you asked us. I’ll tell you what. The end goal, in terms of like use in terms of digitizing feedback, conversation, digitizing. Having data on these things to our projects, as opposed to having just discussions or as opposed to just doing a lessons learned, which to me is like, it makes no sense that at the end of the project, look at what went wrong, you know. Like, why do I do it throughout the project?

Doesn’t make any sense. So our idea is to a, have these lessons learned going throughout the project, so you can see like, Oh, okay, I need to work on this as a, as a leader, or, you know, the teammates help here. But on a big picture, like if you have 50 teams, let’s say, or even 10 teams, and now you have a analytics dashboard on the different areas, factors within each of those teams, and you can compare, you can look at trends and you can look at, you know, leadership and influences, um, and sort of competencies that help to create.

You know, run these high-performance teams or successful projects. Like, what makes a project successful in our company? Right? Look at actual data now. And you can see exactly what the, what were the impact like literally in red, green and yellow, you know, what were the impacts and these hotspots? We were developing this, this chart called like hotspots, which is across the whole company. Where are the so-so like taking all teams and putting them in one. Where are the hotspots? Where we’re doing well, where could we do better?

So as a company, as a head of project management or whatever the title is, it doesn’t matter. Um, You can now make more sort of strategic decisions and whether it be like, okay, team development, um, company culture issues, leadership development, um, but more like contextual decisions because you could see, okay, listen, we need to work on, for example, clarity, like in general, it’s pretty low across our project teams.

And, and you know, what type of projects also are these things low on who was, you know, on the team or top of leaders and type of clients, and like, look at bring all those sort of 360 data, you know, cause we obviously get feedback from manager, team, and stakeholder. So what are the influencing factors across the organization?

You know, not just on a team or a team level and ultimately like, you know, use that data to, you know, be proactive in terms of setting up future project teams or being purposeful about like, we know that this is a problem in our company, in the middle of projects. This tends to happen. And then this happens as a result and this happens and then the project, you know. So again, being using the data to be proactive and make contextual decisions.

Does that, does that make sense?

Galen Low

Definitely. I’m like that, uh, like that jumped out at me. This notion of like, yes, looking at the data in aggregate and my first thought went to, okay, if I’m leading a team of project managers and you know, let’s say they’re working on multiple projects at once. I can start to see trends in individuals, and I can start to see trends in like, across projects, like in terms of how our process works.

But I like that notion of okay. But when in a project? When looking at that life cycle and going, okay, well, here’s a hotspot that always happens, you know, after sprint five. Um, and you can really sort of zero in on that. Okay. I’m gonna go, okay, well, how can we lift that up? It’s, it’s, it’s a, you know, it’s, I’m picturing this sort of, uh, the equivalent of, of a bit of an emotional, like journey map or something like, where is that low point?

And what can we do to lift that up so that we have better, better results? Um, because we can sort of directly correlate that to, like you said, what makes the project successful? And we can kind of drive that. I think that’s really cool. That’s really excellent.

Bentzy Goldman

And you can also measure the same thing across all your teams.

So for example, we’ll have like a client that is doing an agile transformation or something. So we recommend measure agility in every single team. And then look across, we have like literally a line graph that shows you and you can filter the team, et cetera. Um, so that’s also cool. Um, but then I just want to point out one thing is that, like, we’re not a, like a managers skills tool, you know, monitoring performance of managers, but we do give the, you know, the team gets feedback on the leadership.

Um, we do give feedback to managers on their, uh, you know, different leadership aspects that they could improve on or that they’re doing well on. Um, and really you can. Dude like, uh, you know, leadership development or just different things based on this, that’s more for the manager that it’s not like for, you know, HR to go in like penalize people.

That’s definitely not what we’re about, you know?

Galen Low

No, it makes sense. I love that sort of sweet spot where, yeah, it’s not, like you said, you don’t view what you’re doing as, you know, surveys necessarily. Uh, it’s not really sort of broad HR employee experience and engagement measurement, but there is this thing in between that I think a lot of folks are missing, which is, you know, at a sort of team, uh, or cluster of teams perspective, you know, how, how is that performing in terms of being effective and meeting goals, whatever those may be, whether that’s agility or whether that’s like making sure that everyone’s clear on what needs to be done and that overall sort of project vision, and you can start like really.

Looking at that and acting upon it, this sort of, you know, like almost je ne sais quoi before is now something that’s can be material that you can actually sort of make decisions around. I think that’s really cool.

All right. Bentzy, last question. People data sounds pretty easy on the surface, but as we’ve found out today, it’s pretty complicated underneath.

So for anyone who does want to prioritize people data, for anyone who is trying to become more of a people-centric organization, what is the first step? Where does, where does somebody start tackling this beast?

Bentzy Goldman

I think the first step is including the team in the conversation and looking at what are we currently do? You know, what can we blend into this? So we don’t have to do this, this and this. And how should this look in the company?

You know, both practical, like, you know what to measure, how often, but like, how are we going to incorporate this into our workflow? And decision-making so that when we, as other senior leaders or teams get together, you know, we’re going to look at this data. We’re going to discuss with the team, we’re going to action it.

We’re going to compare it, whatever it may be. It has to be a conscious decision to incorporate it in your work, in business and project team. And making it sticky in terms of like, okay, now we’re going to pull it up and look at it as a team.

Including the team I think is very important in like committing to it and saying like, we want to do this guys because we value your feedback. We want to pinpoint if at an early stage, and these are the benefits for team members, benefits for managers, benefits like benefits for the company. It’s fully transparent, but you know, the team members themselves, like you have to relate what the benefit is for them.

And obviously when they see that their feedback is listened to and action. Um, and the team is more engaged in these discussions and other people, like you said, brought involved with discussions, you will see like amazing change, positive change, if done right.

Galen Low

I love that. I love that co-creation piece.

Absolutely. That’s a great way to get buy-in and it is, you know, it’s something that everyone’s going to be participating in. You want that buy-in and you want them to understand the benefits. That’s super cool.

Awesome. Bentzy, listen. It was great having you on the show. I really enjoyed our conversation. I learned a lot. Uh, for folks listening again, Bentzy has posted a great article on The Digital Project Manager – linked below – talking about people data and how that can help build high-performing teams.

Bentzy, again, thank you so much. I really appreciate it. Sort of picking your brain about this. You’ve done so much research into this, and I know it’s sort of like baked in there, but you know, every everything you said was gold. So I hope our listeners, uh, had a lot of, uh, insights that they gleaned from this.

Um, and yeah. Thank you again. It’s been really great having you here.

Bentzy Goldman

Thank you Galen. Continue, uh, continue spreading the message.

Galen Low

Will do, will do.

So what do you think? What are your hacks, tips and tricks for keeping your finger on the pulse of your team’s emotions, sentiments and overall morale? What works? What doesn’t? Tell us a story. Have you ever seen team morale get so low that it triggered a revolt? What are some of the characteristics of your top-performing teams? Tell us in the comments below.

And if you want to learn more and get ahead in your work, come and join our tribe with DPM membership, head over to thedigitalprojectmanager.com/membership to get access to our experts forum, mastermind groups, monthly workshops, live consulting sessions, ask me anything sessions featuring a variety of experts, eBooks, templates, and more.

And if you liked what you heard today, please subscribe and stay in touch on thedigitalprojectmanager.com. Until next time. Thanks for listening.

Galen Low

Galen Low

I am a Client Services Professional and Agile Delivery Specialist with progressive experience driving human-centered digital transformation in government, healthcare, transit, and retail verticals. I manage large, cross-functional teams and executive-level relationships within boutique agencies and large consultancies to drive tangible business outcomes and strategic growth. A few of my specialties: digital strategy, agile web application development, project management, human-centered design, design thinking, innovation & growth, digital government, career coaching, professional development.

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