Management teams in transition: changing the way we work, faster team transitions, achieving peak performance.

The challenge is clear: stronger results in an environment of constant change. In recent years, post-GFC, business realignment and consolidation continues in various forms including a focus on cost containment, tighter controls, lean business processes, matrix structures, and staffing reductions. Doing more with less, translates to an even stronger reliance on teams to maintain “business as usual” and drive innovation and customer responsiveness.

Heightened team effectiveness

Teams in contemporary organisations are dynamic and demand continual renewal, particularly when they involve complex, multi-stakeholder relationships and cross-functional interdependencies. Intentional team “time-out” sessions to get aligned, not only serve to reignite team passion, they are increasingly a business imperative. Teams have both formal and informal dimensions that can work for or against productive work environments and achieving team results. In practice, it is through the informal aspects that work really gets done. Made explicit, and jointly agreed, clear team fundamentals and ethos can be set up and maintained to harness diversity of perspective and team spirit to enable focussed outcomes.

Done well, high achieving teams take ownership for team success, reinforce accountability, leverage the synergy of individual strengths, and respond dynamically to the wider environment in which their operate.

Who benefits?

Team structures are the building block to execution in leadership teams, functional teams and multi-disciplinary project teams. Developed through working with managers in a broad range of industries and job functions, this series of working sessions has been recently enhanced to support teams in transition through a number of customised applications including:

1. Team start-up. Newly established teams in dynamic operating environments benefit from rapidly getting every one connected and fully on-board. They also have a need for clear roles and contribution, and a commitment to results through focussed team efforts.

2. Team regrouping. Teams undergoing significant change in post-merger or restructured environments, injected with new people and capability, demand a change of focus and responsiveness to deliver exceptional team results.

3. Team renewal. Annual team planning and review off-sites and conferences looking to re-vitalise, re-engage and align the team with future priorities and direction, and inspire commitment to action.

4. Project team start-up. Time-poor, multi-disciplinary project teams are typically charged with “hitting the ground running” on key strategic deliverables. They must also rapidly connect to deliver collaborative results and innovate around targeted business problems. Unstructured and unchecked, poor team process and tricky team dynamics can intensify conflict, over-run budgets, damage critical stakeholder relationships, and undermine overall success.

Sample program content areas

Team alignment

How clear are the team’s purpose, identity, direction and goals? Is the team focussed on value-added work or is it unable to surface from the day-day to drive future growth aspirations? Are team priorities fully aligned to enable a joint effort on the issues that really matter?

Leading and embedding new ways of working

Is the team mobilised for a significant period of restructure, ambiguity and uncertainty? How well does the team understand the external and internal contexts? How clear are the team on their contribution and accountabilities? Is there a robust and intentional transition plan to support the leader and the team?

Beyond the rhetoric of “high performance teams”

High achievement and high performance don’t just happen by bringing capable individuals together. At a minimum, team members need crystal clear direction, know what to do, where to focus, understand consequences and receive feedback on performance. Fuelled by passion and commitment, exceptional performance also requires higher levels of collaboration, trust and accountability.

Teamwork and team dynamics

All teams exhibit a team ethos or a “vibe”: is it sufficiently aligned and collaborative to achieve high performance? Are there blockages in critical working relationships that are holding back the team? Are there unresolved issues, fuzzy work boundaries or past legacies that would benefit from “clearing the air”? Are all team members ready to step up, take ownership and be accountable for results?

Innovation, conflict and contention

Innovation in organisations demands teams to challenge the boundaries, test assumptions, and liberate creativity and positive energy. Change to work routines can also lead to conflict and contention. How ready are team members to live on the boundaries of their ideas and be prepared to embrace those of others? Are there outstanding conversations that could make all the difference to team engagement and performance? How equipped is the team for “real conversations”?

Facilitation methods

A range of methods with an outcomes focus may be incorporated including, process facilitation, small group dialogue, peer consultation, future search, problem solving and innovation, brainstorming, skills practice, values articulation, personal disclosure and reflection, group energy mapping, and action planning. In addition, individual and team assessment diagnostics can be incorporated.

Design for relevance and impact

To optimise your investment, an effective design builds ownership for sustainable outcomes back in the workplace. In addition to crafting clear agenda and objectives, meeting content and process ideally balance four fundamentals: informing, listening, connecting, and mobilising the audience for action. It is recommended where possible to involve and test the agenda with participants in advance.