High Performance teams

What differentiates a high-performing team from a low-performing one? Let us call the difference is on account of ‘X’ factor ad demote the teams as ‘X’ teams.

X factor

So what are X teams all about? To begin with, X-teams have all the qualities of regular teams — teamwork, cohesion, trust but they transcend the boundaries of traditional organizations and work across divisions — and even beyond the boundaries of an organization. These teams usually have flexible membership: people come in and out of the team for short periods or move in and out of leadership decisions. For instance, when a team moves from a new product idea to actual manufacturing, the person leading the initial work on what the new the new idea is, may not be the best person to take it through manufacturing.

So what do X-teams really do that is different from traditional teams? For one, they do what is called ‘sense making’. They get a sense of the context — the technology, markets and competition.

Take the Motorazr, one of the most popular cell phones today. The Razr team at Motorola had a number of formidable technological challenges when they began work. So part of what they did was talk to other teams that had engaged in that problem before.

Eventually, they found some of the things that other teams within and outside Motorola — had not used . For example, they had to deal with miniaturization — how to get everything on that tiny, thin phone. They found the solution in ideas the other groups had thrown away.

The conduit:

Apart from such “ambassadorial activity�, X-teams create dialogue with top management. In a two-way dialogue: a team needs to understand how their work fits into overall strategy and top management must be able to see what it is that the teams know that can actually shape strategy. This link gets the team the resources it needs and gets the information from the people who

know the customers, the technology, the marketplace to those who are creating and gets the right direction.

X-teams also pull together resources and handle the co-ordination with other parts of an organization for that smooth execution through the organization for the product eventually made and sold.

It is not that X-teams are a radically new concept. They probably exist in almost all the companies. But it’s only now that their importance is coming to the fore. Increasingly, know how is distributed outside of the organization. In the pharmaceutical industry for example, core technology — molecules — is being brought from universities or small biotech companies.

Top management needs to change its orientation. The top team need to be able to listen to the ideas these teams have, they have need to be able to act on some of the ideas or else the people will not try anymore.

Clearly the world has changed and command and control is passé. It is no longer the case that the guy at the top knows all the answers. Organizations have to have distributed leadership.