Today’s accelerating reality requires teaming: continuously, in real time, and always taking into account the larger picture. A recent Forbes Insights executive brief, “The Revolution in Teaming: Essential Insights, Tactics and Tools for the New Era of Collaboration,” sponsored by Microsoft, explores this development.
In industries such as healthcare and transportation, for instance, teaming is essential to improving outcomes and is becoming more valuable to organizations than ever before. Microsoft’s own research shows that workers are now on twice as many teams as they were just five years ago.
Organizations today must pursue continual improvement across a wide range of functions, driven by customers, partners, suppliers and investors. Teaming on this scale requires more than a conscious willingness to innovate. It calls for an array of enabling technologies, from conferencing and video to chat-centered workspaces, document sharing and enterprise “social” media.
Characteristics that lead to effective teaming are evolving significantly. Companies today need the ability to:
Form teams rapidly. Opportunities that enable companies to stand out from the competition tend to arise quickly and unexpectedly, and windows of opportunity are often fleeting. Companies today need to be able to quickly identify such opportunities, then put the right team in place.
Transcend time and space. The core goal of any team is to bring the right skills and abilities together, wherever they reside. Teamwork is no longer place- or time-dependent. Team members often do their work when it best fits their schedule.
Manage both ephemeral and ongoing teams. Some teams will form as needed, achieve their objective relatively quickly, then dissipate. Others may engage in some initial flurry of activity, meet a short-term goal, then continue to collaborate at a lesser level of urgency—perhaps only as a monitor or updating body.
Pursue goals that focus on the enterprise. Marketing’s desire for lower prices, higher quality and better customer service must be balanced against costs borne by R&D, production, logistics, finance and others. The goal may be to delight the customer, but teamwork enables a more optimal balance across related issues.
Engage the broader ecosystem. The most effective teams today are often not only multifunctional but also include external voices such as customers, suppliers and partners.
Ensure data security. Transcending geography means that workers access enterprise applications and data from outside the office, often using their own laptops and smartphones. The good news is that enterprise and cloud environments can be readily secured to meet the requirements of almost any industry through basic best practices like the use of two-factor authentication.
Enable ease of adoption and operation. Leading technologies need to be intuitive and effective to encourage adoption. They must also integrate with one another seamlessly, preventing silos as well as workflow, data and versioning issues. Tools should also feature ease of provisioning as well as access control.
Teaming leads to innovation. This can be viewed as a threat to traditional organizational charts and processes, as cross-functional teaming often leads to wholesale disruption of prior practice. Leaders in their respective fields no longer optimize their businesses one function or geography at a time. Instead, they use global teams to pursue improvements to end-to-end processes. Such cross-functional teaming can be disconcerting in that often team-driven solutions lead to wholesale disruption of prior practice.
The challenge of change management cannot be underestimated. Senior management must set the expectation that managers and workers alike will embrace cross-functional collaboration and teaming. The clear expectation needs to become: the focus is end-to-end, cross-functional performance optimization, and where appropriate, teams will form and be empowered to make change happen.
For effective teaming, clear objectives must be established. Teams must have a clear sense of their reason for existing. Managers, and in turn teams, need to be shown a clear hierarchy of objectives and insights into which issues are immediate and urgent.
The ability to organize and enable teams is becoming a key driver of competitive advantage. Success in this new epoch requires mastery of a range of communication and collaboration technologies. To be effective, such tools must be intuitive, interoperable, secure and easily provisioned as needed. All of this is no less than a revolution in the role, formation, function and value of teams.
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