Although the "department" method is effective for organizing work and goals, research from the Human Capital Institute (HCI) suggests that compiling the most effective teams takes more consideration.
In a Talent Pulse report from HCI, they explored why tactical teams are often created and examined the practices that determined whether or not they were successful. After analyzing the data, HCI found that the best performing workgroups did something that all coaches have advised against -- they put an "I" in Team (three to be exact).
HCI defines "intention" as a meaningful design that has a clear purpose and unambiguous expectations. When dilemmas arise, it's our knee-jerk reaction to quickly throw people at problems without giving much thought to specific tasks or desired outcomes. However, if we can curb our anxiety and be more deliberate regarding expectations, it will ensure the right people are selected for the job.
It doesn't stop there. In addition to purpose, team designers must also account for diversity and inclusiveness. A group of homogenous work-styles, skills, and perspectives will only limit the team's agility and creativity (all "hammers" will see all problems as "nails").
Instead, it's important to compile a diverse group of representatives with varying seniority levels, talents, and capabilities. Then, make sure everyone is aware of the team's unique skill sets so they can leverage them to amplify the collective intelligence of the group.
Lastly, make sure objectives are explicitly communicated and that each team member has clearly defined responsibilities aligned with the main objective. Also, ensure each member is aware of how critical his or her role is to the success of the organization.
Although teams need to be designed with the end goal in mind, too much structure can stifle creativity and decrease member interactions. Organizations need to provide guidelines and goals, but not at the expense of collaboration. Teams that were given freedom and empowered to use their own methods of problem-solving were more effective.
After teams are equipped with the right stipulations, it's important for leaders to instill a team mindset and emphasize the interdependencies. It's essential that everyone is on the same page and that their work is interconnected. If there is a lack of buy-in and individual work is valued over the groups, synergy will be thrown off, members won't communicate and the team's productivity will suffer.
Lastly, it's important to provide the team with tools and training to encourage communication and camaraderie. Unfortunately, we expect our employees to be great team players without ever teaching them the skills needed to work on a team. Whether it's how to manage conflict, delegate work, or leverage emotional intelligence, it's critical to provide team-building exercises so they can realize each other's unique strengths.
Building a diverse team with various abilities is only the beginning. Without first fostering transparency through open communication, different work-styles will create friction and negate the benefits of diversity. Team effectiveness will only be as great as the quality of their interactions.
Without the convenience of an org-chart to fall back on, handcrafted teams will need a clear and distinct leader. HCI highlighted a few traits of effective leaders:
- took accountability for the quality and quantity of the team's output,
- helped others accomplish their work,
- consistently communicated team progress and expectations,
- managed through conflict,
- coached an developed their team members, and
- fairly distributed resources amongst team members while also ensuring that everyone had an equal voice.
These traits help team leaders earn the respect and engagement of their peers -- a better way of gaining influence rather than solely relying on tenure or title.
It may take a little more time and effort to compile hand-crafted teams, but the research from HCI shows the benefits far outweigh the efforts. Organizations that reported the highest performing workgroups put these three "I's" in team.