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Performance Management Reference Materials

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Outstanding Team Management at IRS

Effective team management is key to the success of any team, whether the team is leader centered or self-directed, cross-functional or function specific, permanent or temporary. A team manager from the Internal Revenue Service's (IRS) Brookhaven Service Center in New York was recently recognized as the "Outstanding Manager of the Year" by the New York Federal Executive Board for his exemplary team management. This manager's leadership principles and management techniques would benefit any team situation.

New Teams at IRS

The Brookhaven Service Center embraced the concepts of quality and continuous improvement several years ago. In March 1994, John D'Ambrosio of the Adjustments/Correspondence Branch volunteered to train with and lead the first quality team in the service center. Under his guidance, the team concentrated its effort on analyzing and working on all incoming adjustment cases relating to tax penalties.

D'Ambrosio believed wholeheartedly in the team concept from the beginning. He helped mold 18 individuals, who were used to working independently, into a team that put the needs of the Service and the taxpayers first.

The team created a new process for distributing and tracking cases within its unit. It has proven so successful that all the other units in the section have now adopted it. Units using this new system have been able to process 20 percent more cases during the peak period of yearly receipts than units using the traditional workload distribution system. In addition, the team's overdue receipts were between 15 percent and 20 percent less than other units with comparable staffing.

During August 1995, a second quality unit was formed and trained. This unit had difficulty working as a team, and the unit caseload was not being processed timely. On October 1, 1995, D'Ambrosio was reassigned to be manager of this unit. Currently, this second unit's inventory is comparable to or better than all other section units. The team's volume of overdue cases is the lowest in the branch.

Winning Principles and Techniques

What are D'Ambrosio's secrets to creating and successfully managing effective teams? The following practices can strengthen any team situation, no matter the level of autonomy or type of work.

  • Open Communications. Team members feel free to approach D'Ambrosio about any topic. There are no "closed doors" in his group. Because open communications are practiced between the manager and his team, the members are open and honest with each other.
  • Respect. D'Ambrosio shows respect to team members, which they in turn display to each other. Team members' opinions are valued.
  • Trust. Team members trust D'Ambrosio as well as each other. Good, open communications foster high levels of trust.
  • Employee Involvement. For the first time, employees are empowered to determine how the work is distributed. Employee suggestions about changing the work distribution process were major factors that improved the team's performance so dramatically.
  • Training. In order to build a team out of a group of individuals, the members received training as a unit for a full week on subjects such as how to work in a team, group dynamics, problem solving, and decision making.

By ensuring that the above principles are practiced, John D'Ambrosio maintains a climate in which teams can successfully operate and flourish.

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