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The New Organizational Currency: Designing Effective Teams

‘Team’ – a term that has existed, for sure, before dictionaries came into existence but whose importance grew exponentially in the last 40 years. Sometime around the late 20th century, this term found its way into the organization war rooms. Writers such as Belbin, Woodcock, Margerison and McCann, Davis, Parker, and Spencer and Pruss focused on team roles and how these affected team performance

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Let’s understand the relevance of the term in today’s context. While organizations grow across and talent crosses national boundaries, emergence of sunrise sectors like knowledge management, dynamic geo-economic equations, environment forcing organizations to be agile than ever before and the organizations performance/growth/track record being relayed real time, what is it that helps one organization gain an edge over the other. What is it that makes success sustainable, difficult to emulate and yet mysterious. 

Resources available to competing organizations may be the same, quantitatively and qualitatively, but yet one may score over the other. Possibly, it’s here that we sense the presence of a vector force, something that exceeds the arithmetic sum of all resources and something that leads us to the domain of intangibles, a force binding people that deploy the resources in a synchronous synergy that creates an output which exceeds a simple arithmetic sum – an Effective Team. 

 

 

 

 Teams are essential for accomplishing business goals in today’s work environment. Businesses are becoming increasingly reliant upon teams for solution finding and production. Additionally, virtual teams are increasing in acceptance and popularity, as five million employees are estimated to have worked remotely in 2016. 

Based on these trends, research is warranted in exploring teams. What are the characteristics of effective work teams? What challenges are teams faced with today? Are there uniquely important aspects which distinguish effective virtual teams from effective face-to-face teams? The Human Capital Institute (HCI), along with research partner Lee Hecht Harrison - Knightsbridge Human Capital Solutions, explored the current state of teams in today’s organizations. HCI surveyed more than 250 professionals, ranging from individual contributors to C-level executives at mid-sized to large organizations, of which 86 percent are located in North America. 

From the quantitative survey, interviews with thought leaders, and secondary research, I share a broad overview of the findings : 

  1. With most teams, there is room for improvement. While 92 percent of employees believe teams are important for organizational success, only 23 percent believe their teams to be very effective. 
  2. Half of survey respondents indicate they work in virtual teams at least 50 percent of the time. There are no differences in what makes virtual versus face-to-face team members effective. Effective virtual work teams are not significantly different from face-to-face work teams in terms of effective attributes. The ability to listen well, be receptive to feedback and be a problem-solver were the most frequently listed attributes critical for effectiveness in both face-to-face work and virtual teams. 
  3. Poor communication and lack of clearly defined roles and responsibilities are the top challenges reported by team members. These challenges were the highest reported for virtual teams and face-to-face teams, including effective and ineffective teams. 

As per the respondents, there are three accepted ways to address team challenges:

a. Identifying a common team goal, 

b. developing open communication, and 

c. clarifying roles and responsibilities are the most effective ways of addressing work team challenges.

In my opinion, the findings may not be very different at a holistic level (humans after all) but may throw up some different dimensions for India. However, the point that all of us agrees to and acknowledge is the power that effective teams bring to an organization.

Figure 1 depicts the impact and the interfaces that effective teams may affect, for an organization. Let’s try and see what factors may prevent the formation of effective teams. Figure 2 depicts a schematic representation of the same.

 

 

 

Starting with the Organization Vision and its canvas, it is the Leadership team and an empowered human resource team(including the Line managers and their alignment) who define how sensitive the organization is to the creation and sustenance of a culture that breeds fairness, open communication, transparency, respect for diversity, scope and encouragement for failure, importance to people and the fact that people are just not carriers of knowledge, skill and ability but traits, beliefs, attitudes and values.

It’s critical to stitch a strong cultural fabric with people whose value system matches with that of the organization. There are no rights or wrongs but a mismatch even at one level and one role can trigger off an uncontrolled chain reaction which may cause a lethal damage to the team spirit, across the organization.

Effectiveness of teams may surely get impacted if the structure and the environment make interactions and working together a tedious task. It’s the grit of the Leadership team and their decisions that convey the degree of seriousness the organization attaches to its ethos. If a high performer who compromises the values can get away, you are once again triggering off an uncontrolled chain reaction – lethal damage to the team spirit.

Teams thrive on trust; trust that is built by the Leaders, through:

  • the Value framework, 
  • the adherence and the pains taken to preserve it, 
  • by everyday actions of influential people in the organization, 
  • by a fair mechanism of defining, identifying, appreciating and rewarding talent
  • by appreciating and accommodating diversity
  • by encouraging failure and supporting development
  • by creating an environment that understands and rewards the unseen acts and intentions performed in the interest of team spirit.

 

There are organizations that have consciously and steadily stitched up mechanisms and frameworks that guide them through the maze of their daily actions in preserving and fiercely guarding their ethos at every stage of the organization life cycle, across countries. Their degree and speed of success maybe a resultant of multiple factors but what the one thing that is certain is, that they are successful and their bank accounts are overflowing with the new organizational currency – Effective Teams.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house


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