Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Leading and Achieving Organizational Transformation (Part 3/4): Leveraging Teams

(Part 3 of a 4 part series on leading and achieving organizational transformation)

In the previous parts of this series, organizational transformation was described as one of the most challenging tasks for a leader to undertake.  In order to accomplish this endeavor, it was discussed that organizational leaders must focus on specific efforts that together create the required drive and effectiveness at every level of the workforce.  These efforts are: 
1) strong communication utilizing frames (Part 1)
2) creating a shared vision (Part 2)
3) leveraging high-performing teams (Part 3)
4) shifting to a systems perspective (Part 4)

This series now continues with an argument for why leveraging high-performing teams is valuable and why it is an important part of organizational transformation.

Leveraging Teams

The creation and utilization of teams, especially cross-functional teams that include personnel from various different parts of the organization, allows different perspectives to be represented, ensuring that the team’s work will result in a solution that meets the needs of the whole organization.  Teams are the building blocks to building long-term working relationships between personnel in different parts of the organization as well as between different levels of seniority.  Successful working relationships are one of the first tasks to accomplish when executing a challenging transformation and effectiveness of teams will be dependent on how these relationships were developed and grown from the onset1.  Team effectiveness is not only dependent on the team membership though.  Organizational leadership plays a critical role in ensuring the team will be successful by officially sanctioning the team, communicating to the team what the purpose, bounds, and expectations are, communicating to the rest of the organization the purpose and importance of the team, and lastly by following through with implementation of the team’s recommendations. 

A team is a critical component to making successful organizational transformation a reality.  If the existing organizational structure and business processes were working well, there would be no need for organizational transformation, nor the need for a team to provide the crucial role of developing or executing transformation related tasks2.  Additionally, a team that includes senior personnel from the organization that is leading the transformation initiative gives legitimacy to the vision that senior leadership has laid out for the significant changes that the organization is about to undergo.  Without the instantiation of this team, there will be little confidence in the workforce that this latest charge for organizational transformation is anything more than a half-hearted attempt for a senior leader to make a name for themselves.  A legitimate team, with a representative group of the most influential personnel in the organization, that is able to effectively work together and generate forward leading ideas, is a team that will motivate the rest of the workforce to follow their lead.  

1 Manderscheid, S. & Ardichvili, A. (2008). A Conceptual Model for Leadership Transition. Performance Improvement Quarterly, 20(3/4), 113-129.
2 Kotter, J. (1995). Leading Change: Why Transformation Efforts Fail. Harvard Business Review, March-April 1995, 59-67.

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