I'm currently focused on meeting my big publishing deadline for the book in mid-October (as well as juggling mortgage-paying work) so blogging is a little more intermittent than I'd like right now, but one of the (many) interesting aspects of the research I'm doing in support of the writing is considering how team-working can help organisations to move fast. Author (and expert in team dynamics) Richard Hackman has written well on the subject, and he defined four key features that are critical to create an effective team in an organisation: common team tasks that work towards fulfilling a compelling vision; clear boundaries in terms of information flow, who is in the team, and alignment with other resources, priorities, policies and teams; autonomy to work within these boundaries; and stability.
As part of this there was an interesting delineation he sets out between a ‘co-acting group’ and a real team. A great deal of organisational work is performed by groups that are commonly called teams, but in reality are more like co-acting groups that have members who sit in close proximity, may have the same leader, but where each member has an individual job to do and the completion of that job does not depend on what the others in the group do. The hope is that managers can gain the benefits of teamwork whilst still directly managing the behaviours of individual members but this is, he says, misplaced: ‘If you want the benefits of teamwork, you have to give the team the work’.
In the context of moving fast, we need far greater emphasis on genuine team work, and particularly on using small, multidisciplinary teams where the dependencies, work and individual responsibilities intertwine in the course of concurrent working towards a common objective. As the UK Government Digital Service was always fond of saying: ‘the unit of delivery is the team’.