Eighty percent of companies - and 76% of conglomerates with over 50,000 employees - are restructuring their organization around smaller, leaner, and faster teams, says this Deloitte survey. Instead of being pigeonholed into a department under a hierarchy of managers, people are assigned to projects or products and rallied by a team leader.
Why is everyone making the shift?
Teams are faster. Most teams are given specific, clear-cut goals and are empowered to make the decisions on their level. This cuts through the layers of approval that weigh down a traditionally hierarchical organization.
Teams are targeted. Teams can be organized according to the skills and experience needed for a task. Companies can also cherry-pick from global talent, hiring specialists from other countries, or bringing in a specialist from another department.
Teams can innovate. When you bring together people of different skills, backgrounds, and thinking styles together, you set the stage for innovation and faster problem solving. “A high degree of cognitive diversity could generate accelerated learning and performance in the face of new, uncertain, and complex situations, as in the case of the execution problem we set for our executives,” says this study published in the Harvard Business Review.
However, it’s not enough for companies to change their structure; they also need to learn the skills to help them think like and as a team.
A study on multidisciplinary teams found that they do come up with more innovations, but only if they don’t break into smaller factions or rivalries (or, in layman’s terms, they don’t backstab and bicker). This can burden any organization, but it can cripple smaller groups with tighter deadlines. Team leaders need to watch the team dynamics, and know how to handle and diffuse conflict.
Richard Boyatzis -- Professor of Organizational Behavior at the Weatherhead School of Management at Case Western Reserve University – says the worst thing you can do is to ignore disagreements or figure out how to manage them when they appear. “Solving disputes after they happen is a hell of a lot more work.” Create conflict management processes and work on making the team feel like a team. What are your norms, goals and identity? What can everyone do to make all members feel they have a voice and are valued? “Devote a certain amount of time to talking about the team itself.”
When Google studied the secrets of its most effective teams, it discovered that the best performers had social sensitivity, or the ability to know how others felt based on nonverbal cues like facial expressions or tone of voice.
The lack of social sensitivity can be missed at meetings, where everyone can simply present information and then pack up and leave. The best teams understand what is not said, including tension or confusion. Google research found that even if they had less star performers, they still delivered better results.
Social sensitivity paves the way for psychological safety, or what Harvard Business School professor Amy Edmondson defines as a ‘‘shared belief held by members of a team that the team is safe for interpersonal risk-taking.’’ It helps team members feel they can share ideas, ask for help and feedback, or take creative risks.
Remote team management
Today, it’s possible for team members to collaborate even if they’re in different offices or even countries. It’s convenient and cost-effective, and when done properly, can be just as efficient as herding everyone into one office.
However, remote work has its own challenges. A study by Wrike found that remote workers often complained of:
- Lack of direct communication (38%)
- Hindered data accessibility (21%)
- Poor visibility into colleagues’ actions (19%)
So all of the challenges of teams -- communication, collaboration, conflict management and accountability – become twice as difficult to manage when you factor in distance, cultural differences and language barriers. “The secret to successfully managing remote teams is in recognizing that it’s more a leadership role than a manager one,” says John Doyle. “Too often I find that managers see their role is to assign work to people and then only interact when the work is complete or a problem is reported to them.” Leaders need to give a vision, provide information and productivity tools, and most importantly, have a rolling feedback model. “I am constantly going around the team, talking to them, repositioning them, drawing out their issues and helping find solutions.”
Team skills need to be developed
Communication, conflict management, and a commitment to psychological safety even in remote settings aren’t taught in business school. You can have a star performer who unconsciously intimidates coworkers at meetings. You can have specialists who constantly clash because they can’t see past their own perspective. You can have a team that doesn’t argue, but doesn’t take risks either. On their own, they’re highly experienced and effective – but together, they stress each other out and slow each other down.
“Teams can reach a higher level of effectiveness through continuous improvement,” says Rudi Ramin, Grow CEO. “Strong teams believe in the power of self-development and feedback, which enable them to pinpoint specific improvement areas that can contribute to better team performance.”
Grow provides professionals the solutions to aid them in shifting their mindset to teams. It helps teams synergize to get to high performance by increasing self awareness so they can work on strengths and development areas, helping them create a development plan and a shared team objective, promoting collaboration, openness and support, and equipping them with rich and relevant learning resources. By harnessing the power of the collective, teams maximize their potential.