Monday, September 24, 2018

What is the foundation for long term, successful teamwork? - part #1

Every day leaders recognize that there are two moments of truth. A. G. Lafley, and Ram Charan in their book, The Game-Changer: How You Can Drive Revenue and Profit Growth With Innovation (Crown Business, 2008) explain this concept by calling the first moment of truth when a customer, client or consumer chooses to buy a product or service. The second moment of truth is when they actually use it. If we are going to put the consumer at the center of everything we do, then we need highly functional teams.

After two years of discussing teams and team work with leaders of companies all over the country, I am going to share with you what I have learned, unlearned and relearned this fall into winter via this blog. First, there is a general consensus that “Today’s teams are different from the teams of the past. They’re far more diverse, dispersed, digital, and dynamic (with frequent changes in membership).” Martine Haas and Mark Mortensen in their excellent article, “The Secrets of Great Teamwork” (Harvard Business Review, June 2016), call these new teams, “4-D teams”.

From my discussions and observations, it is clear that 4-D teams are more project based, rather than day to day operations focused. These teams are organizing the work as a series of projects. And as a result, the 4-D team is expected to rapidly adapt and make course corrections as the problem, the team and the environment change.

Furthermore, within the 4-D team world, Peter Cappelli and Anna Travis in their article called “HR Goes Agile” (Harvard Business Review, March-April 2018 issue) find the following five unique problems are surfacing. First, in order for teams to be successful, they require multidirectional feedback, i.e. upward feedback from employees to leaders, downward feedback from leaders to employees, and sideways feedback from peer to peer. Second, many people on these teams often work in isolation. Third, there routinely are technological barriers to work. Fourth, there are often a lack of clear communication norms. And finally, there is a lack of clarity about frontline decision rights. As they write, “Organizations are pushing them [decision rights] down to the front lines, equipping, and empowering employees to operate more independently. But that’s a huge behavioral change, and people need support to pull it off.”

Based on the current research and my own experience of observing teams and talking with leaders, it is clear that the following needs to be in place for great teamwork to happen.

- A Compelling Direction. People have to care about achieving the goal at the department level and the organizational level.

-  A Strong Structure. As Martine Haas and Mark Mortensen note in the above article, “Every individual doesn’t have to possess superlative technical and social skills, but the team overall needs a healthy dose of both.”

- A Supportive Context where the entire team has access to the resources, information and training in order to be successful.

- A Shared Mindset. Again, as Haas and Mortensen write, “Distance and diversity, as well as digital communication and changing membership, make them [4-D teams] especially prone to the problems of “us versus them” thinking and incomplete information…. The solution to both is developing a shared mindset among team members - something team leaders can do by fostering a common identity and common understanding.”

This week reflect on the concept of 4-D teams and whether the above four components are in place for your team to be successful.

Geery Howe, M.A. Consultant, Executive Coach, Trainer in Leadership, Strategic Planning and Organizational Change Morning Star Associates 319 - 643 - 2257

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