(In this series of posts offering excerpts from the book, 'The Wisdom of Teams' by Jon Katzenbach and Douglas Smith (Harvard Business School Press), the excerpts are in bold.) Performance results—that’s what teams are all about. When the goals of the team do not define specific results that are important to the overall company’s goals, team accomplishments are unlikely to be very powerful. Similarly, performance challenges create real teams. Hence, if a potential team exists in a corporate environment where company goals are unclear or confused, both its challenge and its accomplishments are likely to be severely constrained. . . . . . . . .
Instead of looking squarely ahead at a job to get done, potential teams in weak performance cultures tend to look over their shoulders at changes in directions from above, at cynical, uncooperative behavior from other departments or divisions, and at unenthusiastic “it’s not my job” attitudes among themselves. Nonetheless, when teams do emerge in such environments, they have often had to overcome strong obstacles, as in the case of the Burlington Northern Intermodal Team. This tends to make them more resilient, more conspicuous, and even more heroic. As a result, they can have a disproportionately positive influence on the performance ethic and environment for teams that follow them. As a result, teams are among the brightest hopes those organizations have for pulling themselves out of their stagnation. . . . . . .
if the sponsoring leaders do not demand and then relentlessly support a fearless pursuit of performance by the teams involved, the efforts will produce nothing except more cynicism, more frustration, more risk aversion, and more playing it safe. If, on the other hand, even one of these teams succeeds, especially if it is a team that runs something, it can help an indifferent or confused company begin to clarify direction and recover an overall sense of performance. . . . . . .
Yet for many companies, building and sustaining these capabilities will require a period of major change unlike any that most of them have ever experienced. Major change is a relative notion pertaining to degree of difficulty. Whether an organization faces major change depends on the magnitude of 1) the behavioral changes required for company performance, that is, how many people have to change their behaviors, skills, or values, and 2) the degree of readiness or resistance inherent in what is often described as “the way we do things around here.” . . . . . . . These excerpts from the book validate the following insights:
1. The importance of organizational goal clarity, and the need to align clearly defined functional roles to team goals, and team goals to organizational goals. This calls for clear, transparent, and seamless communication across interdependent functions and hierarchies. The statement also emphasises the need for leaders to be role models of the behaviour and attitude that they want from their teams. 2. The potential of teams to become powerful change agents even when the organization as a whole may be going through adverse conditions.
3. The critical role of senior leadership in creating the right environment for teams to form and perform.
4. Under adverse conditions, the need for willingness on the part of senior leadership to see themselves as 'part of the problem', and to radically redefine some of their 'professional' paradigms, and leadership styles. As consistently experienced and demonstrated by participants in "CorporateTheatre" workshops, these possibilities are almost instantly and instinctively available and can be tapped to deliver performances far beyond expectations ,under constantly changing and intensely challenging conditions. It is not uncommon for participants to share at the end of a workshop that the experience changed many of their long held concepts of leadership and management. Throughout the book by Katzenbach and Smith, the stories shared are a clear indicator of this compelling need to redefine concepts and paradigms in order to go beyond conventional boundaries of performance and work culture.