I’m inspired by Amy C. Emondson’s article, “Teamwork on the Fly” in the April 2012 Issue of Harvard Business Review. I’ve referred numerous clients to it over the last four weeks (since I first saw it).
The “in brief” summary of the piece reads as follows
Idea in Brief
In today’s fast-moving, ultracompetitive global business environment, you can’t rely on stable teams to get the work done. Instead, you need “teaming.”
Teaming is flexible teamwork. It’s a way to gather experts from far-flung divisions and disciplines into temporary groups to tackle unexpected problems and identify emerging opportunities. It’s happening now in nearly every industry and type of company.
To “team” well, employees and organizations must embrace principles of project management—such as scoping out the project, structuring the group, and sorting tasks by level of interdependence—and of team leadership, such as emphasizing purpose, building psychological safety, and embracing failure and conflict.
Those who master teaming will reap benefits. Teaming allows individuals to acquire knowledge, skills, and networks, and it lets companies accelerate the delivery of current offerings while responding quickly to new challenges. Teaming is a way to get work done while figuring out how to do it better.
The reason this article is so important is it provides a context within which to think about how the IT organization might add value to the fluid (dynamic, virtual) teaming Amy writes about.
After all, it really isn’t IT’s mission to make Sharepoint or Jive or Connections or anyone else’s tools more effective. It’s about how to make human processes reflected in these fluid, dynamic, virtual teams more effective.
Here’s another quote from the piece to give you more context.
“Stable teams of people who have learned over time to work well together can be powerful tools. But given the speed of change, the intensity of market competition, and the unpredictability of customers’ needs today, there often isn’t enough time to build that kind of team. Instead, organizations increasingly must bring together not only their own far-flung employees from various disciplines and divisions but also external specialists and stakeholders, only to disband them when they’ve achieved their goal or when a new opportunity arises. More and more people in nearly every industry and type of company are now working on multiple teams that vary in duration, have a constantly shifting membership, and pursue moving targets. Product design, patient care, strategy development, pharmaceutical research, and rescue operations are just a few of the domains in which teaming is essential.”
A few key observations about fluid, virtual, dynamic teams:
- This is the world of ad hocracy (per Toffler’s Future Shock, 1970-1971).
- This is the place where there are large virtual barriers to success (one very instructive way to think about virtual teams is the presence of barriers to effectively working together — see “Discontinuities and Continuities: A New Way to Understand Virtual Work” by Mary Beth Watson-Manheim, et al and subsequent work related to it.
- This is a place where technology can help bridge discontinuities to help make these virtual teams more effective if the technology is applied intelligently.
- People on these teams constitute no more than 20% of white collar workers in a typical organization so success requires targeting, not just deploying a tool everywhere.
- It also involves people outside the organization, by the way, and the number of those contributors is large and the external cohort is constantly changing (and unpredictable).
- The highest return for people centered strategies will come from empowering these virtual, dynamic, ad hoc teams.
Have you found these types of teams anywhere in your enterprise? Have you looked? Can you describe them and how their needs relate to typical “collaboration” solutions the industry offers? Have you singled them out as specific target to invest in? Or are they simply part of the larger target audience you’re looking at and trying to service?
Category: Uncategorized Tags: