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Organizations And Senior Leaders Are Champions Of Teamwork – Or Are They?

90% of what we do in the organization happens through collaborative effort. This means teams and teamwork. For two years in a row, Deloitte’s global human capital trends survey has positioned organizational re-design as the number one concern for businesses. In 2016 they termed this ‘The Rise of Teams’ and in 2017 “The Organization of the Future – Arriving Now.” Teams are to the forefront of the agenda in terms of organizational design. There is a growing acceptance that the traditional hierarchy is no longer the best means of organizing a business. Flat structure, devolved decision making, team empowerment and collaboration are all viewed as a means to creating the agile organization; the organization that reacts quickly, meets changing customer needs, drives innovation and adapts continuously to its environment.

The rhetoric of organizations and senior leaders tends to indicate they are champions of teamwork – the reality however, points to a very different scenario.

Organizations and senior leaders will openly profess their belief in teams and I know of many who include teamwork as one of their core values. They speak about collaboration, openness, empowerment and how much they trust their employees.

When one looks a little closer the gaps emerge. I have yet to find an organization with a genuine and real team strategy. Strategies for everything else, but none for teams. If teamwork is so important you would think there would be a strategy. Most organizations cannot tell you how many teams they have in play. They have no idea as to the number of each type they have – traditional, project, teaming work group or virtual teams. There is little recognition that different teams require different approaches to recruitment and composition. The virtual team requires very different types of people in terms of membership to the traditional team. Indeed, the means to team management for a virtual team is radically different to that of a traditional team. All team types have strengths and weaknesses, and all have different challenges. Yet, no strategy exists to deal with these differences.

No standards established as a minimum requirement for an effective team and equally no metrics in place to understand what constitutes success for a team in an organization. Teams are seldom given direct budget responsibility, particularly at the lower levels of the organization. We trust our employees, just not with money! Every time they want to spend a penny –metaphorically and perhaps literally – they must revert to the traditional hierarchy and wait unreasonable lengths of time for a decision. Where is the integration of individual performance management and team performance? Who do teams go to if they need team support, not individual coaching or learning and development?

Teamwork does not happen by accident. The organization, for the most, operates through teams yet all the systems and processes are designed for the individual – recruitment, compensation, performance management and general support, etc. The disposition of most organizations would suggest they believe in magic and just by calling a group of people a team they will become high performing. It is estimated that only 10% of teams can truly be deemed to be high performing, 40% are dysfunctional and detrimental to team members experience.

The balance of 50% can at best be described as performing marginally and never producing more than incremental results. For teams to work and the real return to be realized, an organization must put a corporate team strategy in place. Anything less is to suggest that they do not believe in the power of teams.

If you and your organization really are champions of teamwork and believe in teams you will know the answers to the following questions – if you cannot answer them, then at best your organization has a very ad hoc approach to the most important means of output. These are just some of the questions that need to be answered to formulate a corporate team strategy for teamwork. Regardless of a recognizable strategy, these questions should be immediately answerable as you all profess to be champions of teamwork – don’t you?

Questions to be addresses in formulating a CTS

  1. How important is team work in our organization?
  2. Are employees engaged in more than one team at a time? What are the implications?
  3. How many teams do we have at any one time?
  4. How many team types do we have at any one time – Traditional, Project, TWGs, Virtual, Committee?
  5. What is the optimal team size in terms of team type for our organization?
  6. What is our model for teamwork?
  7. What is our language of teams/teaming?
  8. What tools do we provide to support our teams?
  9. Are there differences in performance between teams?
  10. Is there a team that demonstrates the ideal for our organization?
  11. What are the team work behaviours we expect of teams?
  12. How do we measure team success and is there a means of assessment?
  13. How often do we assess teams?
  14. When do we deploy these different types of teams?
  15. How often do teams assess their own effectiveness?
  16. Is teamwork performance integrated with individual performance?
  17. Who do teams turn to when they need help?
  18. What kind of leadership do these different teams need?

Show me an organization with a comprehensive strategy for teams, even a basic strategy, and I will see an organization that ‘gets it’ in terms of the importance of teams. Teamwork does not happen by magic. Nice words and empty values do not deliver effective teams. It is time to wake up and smell the coffee – the day of the truly empowered team has arrived. Unfortunately, despite the rhetoric, organizations and senior leaders are not the champions of team work they would have us believe.

Dr. Simon Mac Rory

Dr. Simon Mac RoryVerified account

Contributor at CEOWORLD magazine
Dr. Simon Mac Rory is a team development specialist. He works with senior leaders to help them discover that edge to become truly high performing. He founded the ODD Company in 2011 to deliver TDP (a cloud-based team development tool and methodology) to the international markets. He received his doctoral degree from Nottingham Trent University for his work on the application of generic frameworks in organization development and is a visiting research fellow at NBS. His new book is “Wake up and smell the coffee – the imperative of teams,” LID Publishing (30 Jun. 2018).
Dr. Simon Mac Rory

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