A business transformation, e g outsourcing may consist of fundamental changes to processes, technology and even culture. It is the most complex and highest-risk project an organization can take on. Since few organizations have the expertise or resources to execute such projects on their own, they try to get experienced people, both by hiring and through partners that have proven track records, like Capgemini.
Collaborating with new people and new partners is bound to create challenges stemming from the geographical spread of multi-cultural teams, many times with a generational gap between members who have varying experience and exposure to the different technical tools. . Some people may get behind due to lack of digital skills, but still have valuable experiences. The distributed or virtual team is the new normal and the co-located team is becoming rather rare. The factors to achieve a high performance team are basically still the same, but the prerequisites have changed. The trick is to get everyone to participate actively in improving the system, and extend beyond the restrictions of a traditional office environment.
By distributed team, I refer to a team of 3-15 individuals geographically spread out, working towards the same objective, having a common way of working (including decision making), clear membership and a effective way of managing time. If any one of these factors is weak or absent, the performance will significantly decrease. I call this the “as if” state- it looks as if the team works (it consumes the same amount of time), but tasks are not completed effectively, and related problems aren’t resolved either.
There are three cornerstones to keep in mind:
- Understanding the team as a system
- Team dynamics
Effectively balancing Leadership vs. Managementship
- Understanding the team as a system: The absolute key to achieving any kind of high performance team – distributed or co-located – is a well working common work space. The use of technical equipment is essential to bridge the gap that arises when the group is geographically spread out. But, technical communication tools can create a platform for a common workspace, not really make it a high performing one.
- Dynamics of the team or the relationships between the team members rest unconditionally on how mutual values evolve; the most important ones being trust, respect, and benefit. If mutual reliance is weak, there will be barriers to a free flow of knowledge and experience between the members, negatively impacting performance.
- Leadership vs. managementship are two sides of the same coin, not necessarily the same as exercised by the same individual. Leadership handles the “soft” issues- relationships, team spirit, mindset, and meaning; and management the “hard” issues like tasks, objectives, roles and procedures. The leader uses soft communication building common ground, and managers use hard communication to coordinate and distribute tasks. The group performance is a result of the harmonization between team components. Leadership is about willingness, and absolutely key in getting people and things together. Management can only achieve acceptance. Action Research is an effective method, and can be easily applied to overcome the obstacles the team will face in their efforts to become a high performance group (and group system in harmony).
I am fully aware I put something odd in the agenda by addressing this topic in a technology-centric industry. But I have been struggling with this issue since many years and feel the time has come to share my experiences, and takeaways. As Peter Drucker says: We are becoming aware that the major questions regarding technology are not technical but human questions!