We’ve been conducting extensive research over the past 20 years to identify the core factors distinguishing teams that are high performing, from those that are simply functioning. While these factors remain fundamental, the world in which teams exist has changed significantly. Disruption is in every facet of business.
This disruption is not just in the form of technology or business innovation. Disruption is also shaped by demographic changes, business complexity, globalisation, and macro-economic changes.
And with this new context comes new considerations for teams.
A team can still be accurately defined as “a small number of people with complementary skills who are committed to a common purpose, set of performance goals and approach for which they hold themselves mutually accountable.” But, working in a team today is a very different experience to that of a few years ago.
In the past, researchers implicitly assumed a team also had the following characteristics: a relatively stable purpose over time, bounded and reasonably permanent membership, consisting of individuals assigned solely to just that one team, and people working together, face-to-face, in a common location.
These assumptions are no longer true.
The nature of teams has already evolved, and as disruption continues to redefine the business landscape our approach to teamwork must similarly adapt. But, research suggests organisations have been slow to respond and retrain their high performing teams. As the following statistics illustrate, the context of disruption brings new considerations and opportunities for team performance which are currently being overlooked. As a leader, it’s vital you understand the challenges and opportunities these disruptors bring so you can turn them to your team’s advantage.
What’s not changed in teams?
While the context of teams has changed, human nature hasn’t. Trust remains a critical ingredient to any effective team. Similarly, other well-established predictors of team performance (many of which interrelate to trust) remain fundamental, including: communication, collective belief in ability, psychological safety, shared mental models, task conflict and shared leadership.
Developing high performance teamwork in today’s disruptive business environment is therefore less about discovering any new factors and more about understanding how these fundamental ingredients play out in different contexts. It’s about knowing what to focus on, and when.
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