Understanding the Team Environment
Like any dynamic system, a team operates within a broader and bigger system: the “environment.” Teams are an organic component of this system and play a role within it. Highly effective teams are able to support the environment and this system supports the team. The environment includes many components: the network of relationships with internal and external customers, suppliers, regulatory agencies, and the community as well as the network of relationships among teams in the organization. Teams must partner with other teams to achieve success. For example, sales teams are supported by marketing teams and operations teams need help from technical teams.
How to Become an Enterprise Team
A team needs support from higher-level leadership as much as leadership teams need to support all teams in the enterprise to commit to executing the organization’s strategic agenda. When teams are synchronized and aligned around opportunities to create value for the organization, they truly become “enterprise teams.” Enterprise teamwork can be defined as an organizational culture where teams see the big picture and act collectively to create purpose, strategy, and value across the enterprise, while moving away from self-interest and controlling systems, processes, talent, and projects. Research shows that enterprise leaders and teams are more adaptable, engaged, innovative, and able to achieve customer satisfaction. (CEB 2014 Enterprise Leadership Network Analysis)
Everyone in an organization needs to be concerned about building productive relationships with members in the environment; these teams form an ecosystem of interdependencies and connections. As teams explore and continually improve their points of connection and intersection, enterprise teams begin to form. Teams that are unable to do this operate in silos, leading to inefficiencies and creating stress for stakeholders and customers who expect the best from everyone in the organization. In addition, competitors and rivals can easily exploit the weaknesses and internal conflicts that exist when teams are misaligned and operating from a place of self-interest. Without taking active measures and communicating with these other stakeholders, the organizational silos will expand and teams can become myopic and self-centered. Leaders need to be mindful of the risks of internal, destructive competition among teams and seek out ways to synchronize their efforts and collaborate on their plans.
The Key to Building an Effective Enterprise Team
There will always be some degree of tension across teams. After all, they are competing for resources and opportunities. The key to effective enterprise teamwork is to help teams bridge their differences, rise above conflict, and channel their energy into finding productive solutions instead of focusing on the issues. Creating a constructive environment in which teams are willing to give and receive support will create greater value for the organization—and it must be present at every level. Senior-level teams must understand and service the needs of the teams over which they have stewardship. This requires open dialogue, constructive feedback, and a willingness to respond to each team’s unique situation.
Here are a few things to think about as you build your organization’s capacity for enterprise teamwork:
1) Link team strategies across the organization. Team strategies should align with the organization’s overarching strategy as well as across functions.
2) Identify processes and procedures to ensure cross-team collaboration on important issues and key performance indicators (KPIs).
3) Find opportunities to leverage talent across the organization.
4) Create mechanisms for sharing information and feedback and working through challenges and differences.
When it comes to building a high-performance organization, there is no perfect solution—but when teams collaborate and bridge their differences, amazing things can happen. As teams begin to talk, listen, and act in a more coordinated way, you can be certain that better outcomes are just over the horizon.