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Developing Teams of Teams

“It finally feels like we are hitting our stride, within the team and across the organization.” This was the opening part of the conversation with the Senior VP of R&D for a major scientific organization. The executive had a difficult start in his new role, eighteen months earlier. The R&D team had been of vital importance in the rapid growth of the organization during the previous five years, which led to some large egos, super-hero approaches to project work, and a belief that any organization failure was the result of poor performance or talent in the other parts of the organization—never anything to do with shortcomings in the R&D team. When the new executive indicated he wanted to shift to a teams-based culture within R&D and embrace a teams-of-teams approach by actively collaborating with the Product Management, Marketing, Sales, Quality, and Manufacturing departments, several key players felt they were losing their elite status and decided to leave the organization. Rather than give in to the short-term pain of these departures, the executive leaned into the long-range benefits of a team-based culture.

Soon after the unexpected exits, customer complaints and product returns began to pour in related to a newly released product that was not living up to expectations. In the past, the organization would have looked to a superhero scientist who could rapidly find an answer for resolving the issue. Rather than fall back on the past, the R&D executive held true to his belief in the power of teams. He assembled teams of teams—teams who represented cross-functional departments—to address the scientific, commercial, and operational aspects of resolving the issue. While continuing to fill orders and address customer concerns, the teams of teams resolved the scientific, quality, and manufacturing difficulties in record time. The result—an organization win—a better overall product, better internal systems for the future, and stronger customer relationships.

A teams of teams culture starts with the realization that seldom is anything significant accomplished alone. Even as the importance of teams increases in organizations, there is still a tendency to highlight the star—that one individual who seemingly goes it alone and achieves their own success or to highlight the special group that jumps in to resolve an important issue. But, the best leaders recognize that success is created by valuing a “we” is greater than “me” environment that rewards team behaviors more than individual behaviors. Three keys to elevating the teaming culture in your organization are:

  1. Employ a consistent teaming model throughout the organization—one that highlights how team members interact and how they deliver results. Adopt a team model that allows teams to see how they are thriving together and how they could improve their results.
  • Monitor the structural and relational aspects of teams with a consistent set of metrics that allow teams to make data-driven decisions and adjustments. You use data to monitor and manage every key aspect of your organization—do the same in how you monitor and manage teams.
  • Embrace healthy tension that allows teams to engage in robust dialogue to reach critical decisions quickly. Not only does healthy tension improve accountability, but it also raises the confidence of team members and allows teams to engage with one another in productive ways that lead to powerful outcomes for clients, rather than preserving harmony that, too often, keeps teams from truly achieving needed results.

While critical team players may chart the course for navigating difficult challenges, it is teams of teams that execute those plans to deliver critical results for customers. Build and sustain a commitment to a teams of teams culture in your organization.

Contact Good Leadership today to learn more about the Team Momentum Survey—a foundational tool in building and sustaining a teams of teams culture.

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