Teams are a constant in peoples’ careers across industries, levels, and types of jobs. That’s because most every role requires teamwork regardless of the problems, goals, or workflow at hand. And, to be successful, you will generally need to find ways to be a good team member and contribute in a team environment.
But what about the future? We are entering an employment era of virtual offices, changing job structures, job sharing, and other forms of personal flexibility. Does this mean that teams are a thing of the past? Probably not. Businesses will likely continue to find ways to use team contributions in their search for ever greater success; not using teams may leave companies in a less competitive capacity.
It shouldn’t be assumed that throwing people together or saying a business is “team-oriented” can create success. Some cultural and structural factors have to be taken into consideration. And the team actually has to be managed appropriately! If built and run right, the sum of a team can be greater than its parts.
Team Rules and the Future
Many organizations are already required to innovate and increase flexibility as a response to the many competitive challenges that they face. Therefore, strict hierarchical business structures will likely continue to fade due to the difficulty such structures may experience in adapting to new business models. It’s foreseeable that business will shift even more towards using teams of knowledgeable, talented staff to meet on-the-ground needs that shift rapidly.
The needs of a business to quickly respond to changing stimuli can demand a peer-centric organizational structure that strives to make collaborative improvement. Organizations will need to consider building new and virtual teams of optimum membership to solve problems and face a variety of evolving challenges—from the customer experience to the operations supporting the business.
Capturing Advantage by Adapting Technology
Technology is helping to bring teams together where it once would have been cost and time prohibitive, or otherwise impossible. It allows organizations to reap the benefits of team productivity through virtual teams that could not have existed in the past.
As firms grow and build teams across groups and geographies, they can be greatly benefited by staying on top of ever-newer technologies. Technological platforms that give team members spread across distances equal access to the same resources and information (including the sharing of documents and other written communications) can be extremely useful assets for quick and efficient collaboration.
It can be particularly important to use communications technologies to deconstruct informational barriers within teams. With current technologies we are already seeing this deconstruction process at work through access to video conferencing and chats, the ability to share desktops, and of course the mobilization of email.
Great Teams Have Great Management
Businesses that simply assign individuals to a team(s) do not always get the results that they want. Teams, and specifically team leaders, should understand their goals and choose team members that can make a unique and significant contribution. Further, all members should demonstrate leadership even if they are not the designated “team leader”. One of the greater challenges of managing teams successfully comes from establishing a platform of accountability across a broad range of experiences and inputs. Goals, contributions and conflicts must be managed well.
Team builders should consider creating teams that consist of a diverse group of members from a variety of roles, locations, and backgrounds for optimum innovation and problem-solving. Assigning all front-line people to an issue without considering operations specialists who can figure out the logistics of a situation may not be the best approach to problem solving. Nonetheless, although team diversification can be of great benefit in overcoming challenges, it may also require stronger leadership to ensure that every team member’s voice is appropriately heard.
Good teams should be able to innovate more quickly in response to a challenge. They should also be able to gather the resources to develop solutions that will keep an organization competitive. But they have to be empowered to do so.
No Limitations for Hiring the Best
If a business is adept at managing distributed teams, it can find and may be able to hire the best people anywhere in the country. This means a New York business would no longer have to recruit only in New York. It might find that the perfect person for the position is in Florida. If a New York business is able to integrate a Florida local as easily as it could a New York local, it is likely to end up with progressively more valuable employees.
The Team is Greater than the Sum of Its Parts
As future companies will continue to be constrained by costs, they will likely also be leaner. It will be very important to create teams that can improve performance with collaboration that surpasses what a group of individual contributors may produce. Virtual teams can be created and disbanded and new groups of virtual teams formed with the same employees. The ability to incorporate and efficiently re-structure well-managed teams can provide extreme advantages for companies that can learn to do it effectively.
Indeed, teams aren’t just here to stay, they are a key to growth and innovation.