Build Flexible Teams for Success

When it comes to driving business results through improved CX, the impact of team dynamics cannot be overlooked.

by Josh McVeigh

Process Excellence is a key area of our client work. Our objectives are always grounded by a need to drive business results through improved customer experience, increased efficiency and/or reduced costs. There are always process and procedural improvement opportunities, but the impact of the fundamental team dynamics cannot be overlooked.

We’ve gathered many invaluable insights about these team dynamics over the years. What makes a successful team? How is it possible that a team that has great potential and a strong start ends up fizzling and losing momentum quickly? Upon examination, it may not make sense ─ you have smart people with great experience, and they’re ready to deliver. Maybe they have even worked together before so you have gotten a kick-start on the forming and storming phases of team building. On top of it all, your task has great support within the organization and the objectives are well defined. So where did the team go wrong?

What many of us forget to consider up front is that organizational initiatives are by nature complex and evolving; what seems like the uncontested solution at the beginning of solving a problem is often only a stepping stone to the best solution. As visionary or well-proven as your team’s initiative may be, the complexities that exist within your customer’s life, your business, and the market will influence the project in one direction or another. This is one of the reasons that operating frameworks such as Agile are so powerful. The agile approach recognizes the shifting nature of scope and attempts to account for it through a backlog that is refreshed and re-prioritized in real time. But is a strong methodology enough?

The truth is that no methodology will perform the work and your team is likely to be subject to a swing in direction sooner than you think. So if we accept that the nature of our work and the needs of today’s customer are fluid, does that mean that all teams are destined to fail?

Within the context of an organization, industry, or methodology teams can be structured to not only weather the winds of change, but harness the nature of change, to iterate to a far better solution than anyone expects. As Jim Collins said in Good to Great the first step is getting the right people on the bus.

  • When building a flexible team, consider the following questions:
  • Is there a variety of skillsets within our team?
  • Is there a variety of personalities within our team?
  • Are the individuals on our team problem solvers?
  • Are the individuals on our team committed to this initiative?
  • Are the individuals on our team open to learning new or different things?
  • Is it possible to co-locate this team?

Once the team is assembled, instead of jumping immediately into problem solving, consider sitting down with the team and establishing operating parameters or a team charter. Some items that we typically charter include the following:

  • This team is built to be flexible and effective.
  • We are going to start our project by learning about our problem.
  • Defining progress metrics to assess whether we are headed in the right direction
  • We will question our motives and when we feel that we have gone awry, we will stop the line; (as in the Toyota Production System).
  • There will be sunk costs; in the solution process ─ small failures will lead to large successes.
  • Speaking your mind is encouraged ─ issues should be aired and dealt with as they arise.
  • Our success will be measured by the relevance of the solutions we deliver, not their breadth or detail.

Remember that finding or building a truly flexible team is an exercise in balance, intuition, patience, trust, and even a little luck. If you address team formation as a challenge and a learning experience, you will be well positioned to delight your customers and earn their business again and again.

Have you had success in creating a team that has not only met, but exceeded expectations?

Josh McVeigh
Josh McVeigh
Senior Consultant
Contact Josh

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