Ian Dodds Consulting’s (IDC) Monthly Best Practice: Jan 2013
Gaining the big performance benefits available from developing super teams
“Companies on average only deliver 63% of the financial value their strategies promise” (Mankins & Steele, HBR, Aug 2005). A significant cause of this loss in execution is caused by inneffective teaming. Organisations that learn to team well are better able to: solve complex problems; be nimbler and more innovative; manage unnexpected events. Interest in ‘super teams’ is growing because of the considerable pressures for organisations of all types and sizes to find innovative means off sustaining, growing and even renewing themselves because of the economic downturn.
Professor Scott E Page’s ‘Diversity Trumps Ability Theorem’, which regular readers will be familiar with, offers a powerful key to unlocking innovation. This demonstrates that diverse teams consistently outperform expert, homogeneous teams in solving complex problems. Scott Page explains that this is because experts tend to share many of their ways of solving problems in common; thus providing an excellent partial view of a problem. By contrast, although the diverse group may have fewer problem solving methods on average than individual experts, between them they cover them all and add several more. They offer a more complete view. One essential condition for diversity to trump ability is that the diverse team members have to listen to and interact with each other effectively. This involves respecting and exploring different ideas and opinions and differing points of view and building on each other’s suggestions.
This was powerfully demonstrated to me when I was made HR Director, some years ago, for a large chemicals factory. It had very poor employee relations and I was tasked with changing this. Initially, I did what my predecessors had done and worked with the factory’s managers to improve the situation. Improvements proved to be slow and then I persuaded the Factory Director to engage the workforce in working with the managers to make it the best factory in the whole of the Group. He agreed to this and the executive team, of which I was a member, gave a different major issue to a series of mixed task teams we set up. These were led by a manager; but included people from different areas and different levels of the factory, including the front line. We gave these mixed teams training in interactive behaviour methodology. This involved me sitting in on the task teams’ early meetings and training their members in the interactive behaviours that make for both effective advocacy and enquiry. I also sat in on their discussions and generated profiles of the extent to which each task group member was effectively using the full set of interactive behaviours. This resulted in my needing to coach them on some of the key enquiry behaviours such as: checking understanding; seeking information; developing suggestions; acknowledging opinions, ideas and feelings; bringing in; summarising. These are exactly the behaviours required to explore differing points of view and idea and solutions.
Five years’ later the Group’s Chairman came to the factory to congratulate its workforce on turning it round from being one of the worst performers in the Group to one of the best. In the past the complex issues that had needed to be solved to turnaround this factory had been addressed by its managers. They were mainly white, Anglo-Saxon males, many of whom had studied science at a small group of prestigious universities. Although they were bright and expert, their diversity of thought was very narrow. By having mixed task teams the diversity of thought was multiplied to power innovative solution generation. The mixed teams included: women; people from different racial and ethnic backgrounds; people with different educational and life experiences; different thinking styles and problem solving methods; etc. Moreover, they were trained to interact effectively, i.e. to be super teams,
Interactive behaviour training and coaching is a powerful means of building high performance, super teams for business innovation and growth. If you would like to know more about this business critical topic please contact us.
Dr Ian Dodds,
28 Dec 2012,
· Innovative, high quality, problem solving requires teams which are skilled in interactive behaviour