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It's all about Team Work

Josh Bersin     December 26, 2016

Businesses are undergoing one of the most disruptive transformations in decades. Technology has transformed the way we communicate, live, and, the way work gets done. And this new world of 'always-on' technology has disrupted the way we organise ourselves.

Earlier this year, we asked more than 7,000 companies to rate their biggest challenges for the coming year. The No. 1 trend they cited, which 92 per cent of companies stated as urgent, was the need to "reorganise our business to better meet customer needs." In other words, nearly every company in the world is telling us that their organisational structure, roles, and jobs, as designed, are simply not working.

Josh Bersin, Principal and Founder, Bersin by Deloitte, observes that digital advancements have necessitated businesses to adopt a more collaborative approach. He believes the top-down hierarchical structure is passé, and that the time has come to create and empower a ‘network of teams’. Leaders and managers, he says, must now become enablers.

The real issue we face, as we become 'digital organisations' by nature, is that companies today no longer operate as traditional functional hierarchies, with 'bosses' who tell people what to do, and 'workers' who do the work. In order to meet changing customer needs, and drive innovation and business agility, companies now operate more like 'networks of teams'. We, as employees, work as 'team mates', 'team leaders,' or technical experts. The change seems subtle, but it has had a profound effect on how businesses run. While we still have managers, directors, and VPs with job titles and scopes of responsibility, when it actually comes to getting work done, people operate in teams.

Consider a sales person responsible for closing a large account. While they have a sales manager, and probably work in a regional sales office, the real work of getting to know the account, developing a proposal or pricing a solution, and influencing and selling this solution to a large company is done by the team. The team may comprise people who are from different functional areas, and each may have different managers, pay structures and skills. What we need our organisations to do is operate more like Hollywood movies, and less like industrial machines. When we need a new 'movie' to be developed, we rapidly assemble the team; the people work together as if they are part of one organisation and know each other, and quickly build an amazing, high quality product. In business, this happens every day. And it means our jobs almost always require collaboration, coordination, and cross-functional work.

This new organisation of the future, which we call a 'network of teams', demands a new way of setting goals, a heavy focus on building expertise, a culture of sharing, and common values. It's no wonder that 89 per cent of companies told us that "organisational culture" is a top priority this year, because it has now become the 'glue' that binds as people come together to perform in a productive way.

This organisation of the future means managers have to change, too: they must empower people, connect people, and constantly look for ways to make teams more productive and aligned, as people move from role to role. We have to redesign the way careers work, as people move from role to role, and advance in their technical, functional, or leadership professions. Today, learning and career opportunities have become one of the most important parts of your employment brand, so you have to take this responsibility more seriously than ever.

The biggest challenge in this shift is the tendency of leaders and managers to hold on to the past. People who worked their way up the pyramid, gained a 'VP' or 'Director' title, a high salary or other perks in the process, have to rethink their role and give up some of the 'older artefacts' of leadership. You aren't a leader because of your job title or position any more - today, you are leader because people want to follow you (we call this 'followership'), which means you have to rethink how you operate, communicate, and where you spend your time.

I believe, this change is one of the most important and far-reaching issues we face in the business world today. Companies that can empower their teams, their people, and keep their teams coordinated and aligned as they grow will outperform, and grow far faster then their competitors. Those who don't will see employee engagement suffer; they will find it hard to innovate, and their ultimate customer service will fall behind.

The new world of work, augmented by technology and a young and ambitious workforce, is here. Think hard about your own organisation structure and how you lead. I think you will realise that a focus on enabling teams is one of the most important things you can do. ~


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