The DNA of Effective Teams

Richard agreed to work with his R&D team mainly because of repetitive pressure from the manufacturing group. As Systems Division Director in the telecom industry, he knew it was delaying other departments and frustrating clients when deadlines were not met. Richard’s VP realized that development deadlines are not always in Richard’s control, but he wanted to explore a way to improve delivery issues.  He stated, “I understand there are creative aspects to R&D,  but I feel that somehow this is happening more frequently than it should. Richard is generally open to making any needed changes. It’s just that we don’t exactly know what kind of changes would help in this case.” (VP of Engineering, telecom industry)

As in many cases, the problem was first assigned to the systems group. It seemed like development was slowed down due to poor project management. Richard’s team was made up of brilliant individuals. Why would such a capable team not adopt better project management habits? As the assessment of the situation deepened, it became very clear that systems were not missing because Richard and his team lacked the expertise to manage projects effectively. The real reason was that Richard and his team had good reasons, in their minds, to insist on quality despite the cost of delays.

Richard believed the most important thing was for his team to keep very high accuracy standards and, as an engineer, he felt things needed to be done in a certain sequence. He knew that when he pushed his team to improve standards before submission, it sometimes meant delaying production.  He also knew that the sales department would be on his case. He was truly the only one who knew the prices of faulty R&D and he believed it was better to delay production and avoid costly mistakes. Naturally Richard’s VP had a different perspective.

Getting someone like Richard to fully understand the perspectives of his VP, and the response required to balance production and sales is not an intellectual exercise. Trying to convince someone like Richard to incorporate other perspectives can be a long and tedious process, often a long battle of wits.

How do you get such a team to adopt other perspectives?

Over the years, working with many teams in a variety of industries, we have found there is a “DNA” for highly effective teams. This DNA is a collection of strategies  or success abilities that allow teams to access their full potential.

In assessing the DNA of Richard’s team, we  found that Richard and his team were rigid about quality, without prioritizing other important business aspects.  Why?  They needed a prerequisite strategy we call “Synthesis Vs. Analysis.”

For the purpose of understanding synthesis vs. analysis in this context, we can frame this strategy as the ability to shift from a decisive, determined, “there is only one way” state of mind to an open, flexible, inclusive state of mind. In extreme cases, people who are constantly in analysis tend to see things in black and white.

An effective strategy allows people to develop excellence in everything they do. Without certain effective strategies, teams do not have the ability to make the needed adjustments.

To get Richard’s team to change, the first thing we needed to do was to identify exactly which strategy will complete the team’s effective DNA.

With the new strategy in place, Richard’s team had access to seeing other perspectives. We did not teach Richard’s team how to listen, how to be less rigid or how to be more inclusive. The focus was to supplement Richard’s team with the foundation of strategies the team needed in order to better listen, develop agility and be more inclusive. “The first few weeks were concerning. We saw very little change and it seemed like this process, like the other approaches we used, was about to fail.  Then something really impressive happened. Richard’s team transformed in front of my eyes. It was like a strike of lightning. We have seen a complete shift in the team’s approach to deadlines and to the priorities of other departments.” (VP of Engineering, Telecom industry)

Over the years, working with a variety of teams in different industries, we have found that there are more powerful tools than those of giving people skills or changing systems for them. Prerequisite strategies (e.g., synthesis vs. analysis) create a platform that makes something that wasn’t possible before, possible. With the right strategies in place, teams can suddenly design the right systems and solutions all by themselves.

Contact us to find out which strategies would complete your team’s effective DNA.

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