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Lessons from the Great American Leaders & How They Apply Now

Posts Tagged ‘structure

The Key Components of Virtual Teams

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womanonscreen

A team is a small number of people with complementary skills who, committed to common purpose and performance goals, hold themselves mutually accountable. Virtual teams on the other hand are teams of people who primarily interact electronically and may occasionally meet face-to-face. They include teams of people working at different geographic sites or a project team whose members telecommute.

Virtual teams effectively deal with the realities of time compression, distributed resources, increasing dependency on knowledge-based input, a premium on flexibility and adaptability, and the fact that most of the information they use is in electronic form.

They take advantage of the electronic infrastructure, which enables them to work in parallel rather than serially, having continuous access to the latest and best knowledge and information. This allows individual team members to participate from remote sites without abandoning other aspects of their work and home lives.

The flexibility of virtual teams allows them to bring new team members up to speed through the online record of ongoing work. The fact that they are able to capture their collective work electronically—often in real time—makes it easier for other teams to access their efforts.

This is important since the rationale for virtual teams centers around the differences in time and space for team members. Team members may not be physically connected, so it may not be practical to consistently travel for face-to-face meetings. The fact that individual team members may be working in different time zones and work shifts poses additional challenges for leaders who manage these teams.

Skill Sets

There are four basic components for the success of virtual teams:

  • The selection of the right team members
  • Identifying and communicating a clear and common purpose
  • Developing an appropriate high-performance technical infrastructure
  • Ensuring that the organizational culture supports the information sharing required by the team

Selection of the Right Team Members

Best practices in the management of virtual teams derived from the review of a number of corporate case studies reveal that the virtual team environment is not for everyone. Not all individuals are equally adept at handling the uncertainty and responsibilities associated with virtual teams. Past participants who require a significant amount of structure in their work environment have reported feeling lost in this type of less structured work environment. For the right candidate, virtual teams can provide the freedom, flexibility and challenge to maintain his or her interest.

Managers should choose individuals for virtual teamwork carefully. Individual team membership should be based on the core competencies needed to achieve the desired outcome. However, in selecting the right candidates, qualities like responsibility, dependability, independence and self-sufficiency crucial to the viability of virtual teamwork should be considered. Individuals who possess the needed skills and appropriate temperament should be recruited regardless of standing or title within the company. In many cases, an employee’s manager on one project may be their staff on the next. The bottom line is that virtual teams are developed based upon the skill sets best suited to meeting the project’s requirements.

The Virtual Team Concept

Virtual teams typically follow a three-part model, the components of which capture the essential qualities of successful virtual teams. They represent the capabilities and behaviors needed to succeed in complex knowledge work in virtual environments. The three components include:

  • People
  • Purpose
  • Links

People

People populate small groups and teams of every kind at every level.

Purpose

Purpose holds all groups together, but for teams, the task that expresses the shared goal is the purpose. The purpose should be defined according to the cooperative goals set at the beginning of any successful teaming process. Interdependent tasks enable teams to accomplish the desired purpose initially defined with outcomes and measurable results at the completion of the project.

Links

Links are the channels, interactions, and relationships weaving the fabric of the team as it develops over time. The greatest difference between conventional teams and virtual teams is the nature and variety of their links. It is what makes virtual teams distinctive. The electronic infrastructure accessed by virtual teams makes their distance-related interactions possible.

Trust in Virtual Teams

The world of virtual teams has many benefits in bringing together people of talent, providing international perspectives and saving a corporation the expense of physically bringing the team together.

However, virtual teams can’t work together until trust is established between its members. The dilemma faced by leaders is how team members build trust when they seldom if ever get a chance to meet the other person and observe their actions and behaviors. Before trust is established in virtual teams, individual team members must be able to answer three questions about one another:

  • Value – Do you have anything to offer me?
  • Commitment – Can I count on you?
  • Thoroughness – Will you get it straight?

Value

The initial conversation with a team member is the first place that value is displayed. Before any discussions and dialogue take place, qualifications of all team members should be shared with the team. This may be in the form of a resume, profile or professional listing that all can access.

Individual team members should be encouraged to communicate with each other and learn more about each other’s jobs, their personal goals and what they want and need from each other.

Leaders should inform team members that because most communications will take place electronically, their tone of voice, energy level and enthusiasm does much to transmit the value they are bringing to the team.

Commitment

Participation on a virtual team means that an individual’s work and contributions are not readily observable. This degree of freedom comes with added responsibility for individual team members. There is no one there to appreciate the efforts that one person is contributing to a project. The question becomes whether individual team members are committed to the success of the team. Other team members can only judge by what is related and shown to them. Team members need to be accessible, especially through instant messaging, to remind other team members that they are on the job.

Delivering large projects in smaller pieces is also advisable. Due to geographic constraints, personal commitment to the success of a virtual team takes additional work and increased expectations. It is up to team leaders to monitor the activities and output of individual members to ensure that all are committed to the success of the project.

Thoroughness

In the virtual world the most common response to something going wrong is silence. The burden of any mistake is more likely to fall on the absent person who “didn’t get the job done.”

Virtual team members must take control of their circumstances, double check and follow up more than in a face-to-face world. They must listen for concerns and questions from other team members. They must advise other team members of potential problems before they occur. Attention to minor details is more critical on virtual teams, since they can readily turn into major perceived problems by the rest of the team.

Once trust is established on a virtual team, its benefits will be realized. Things will work more smoothly with everyone sharing a positive attitude. The team will be more productive, respond to more significant opportunities and grow in both capabilities and confidence.

Excerpt: Managing Virtual Teams in the Global Economy: Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training (Majorium Business Press, Stevens Point, WI 2011) 19.95 USD
 
Related:

How Personal Agendas Can Destroy a Team

The Use of Teams Requires Self-Discipline

When Performance Lags, Look to the Team Culture

Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D. | Author | Publisher | Majorium Business Press
Author of Great! What Makes Leaders Great: What They Did, How They Did It and What You Can Learn From It (Finalist – 2011 Foreword Reviews‘ Book of the Year)
Linkedin | Facebook | Twitter | Web| Blog | Catalog |800.654.4935 | 715.342.1018

Copyright © 2013 Timothy F. Bednarz, All Rights Reserved

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Written by Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D.

December 17, 2013 at 10:55 am

Apprehend, Think, Learn and Innovate – The Building Blocks of Knowledge-Based Work

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smallgroup14

The knowledge revolution has rendered many conventional management methods obsolete. Unprecedented and rapid advancements in information technology, telecommunications and artificial intelligence are transforming both the content and context of work.

Those on the leading edge of these changes have created virtual organizations that have obliterated what has been considered the raw materials of the traditional bureaucracy—the office and files. These traditional elements have been replaced by intranets, electronic databases and groupware as well as web and teleconferencing.

Organizations are increasingly devoting their resources to apprehend, think, learn and innovate—the building blocks of knowledge-based work.

The changes organizations are experiencing are causing them to employ more individuals who use and apply their thinking skills rather than simply follow directions.

Under conditions of uncertainty, bureaucratic organizations do not possess the requisite learning and information processing capacity to cope with the accelerating rate of both technological and social change.

It is important for leaders to understand that they are working within a dynamic and changing environment. As such, their individual actions are not conducted in a void, but in this environment. Likewise, teams are structured and developed in the same atmosphere, where they must relate and work together to accomplish organizational goals.

Many organizations have experimented with the use of teams in the development of various management fads, such as re-engineering and TQM, with mixed or poor results. As teams are structured, leaders must explore the self-directing team structure as one that is capable of producing more desirable and satisfactory results.

The key feature of self-directing teams is the underlying structure that places the responsibility for control and coordination where the work is actually performed. These teams are also held responsible for managing their work process and are held accountable for the results.

Once considered a radical shift in management thinking, many organizations have discovered that self-directed teams are dynamic in nature, and the dynamism of these teams closely lines up with the changes in the business. This shift gives organizations the ability to create continuous self-renewing learning functions that are manifested in the following team structural features:

  • Employees have the knowledge, information and skills to make all of the decisions that concern them.
  • The authority and responsibility for control and coordination are located as closely as possible to the individuals actually involved in the work process and those who deal with customers.
  • Authority is not based upon hierarchical position or status, but upon competence and expertise.
  • Management and leadership are shared functions widely distributed across levels and departments.
  • Access to information and feedback is both transparent and instantaneous.
  • All organizational support systems are congruent and synergistic with the requirements of a self-directed work structure.
  • The overall role of management is redesigned to focus on the creation of value for key organizational stakeholders including shareholders, customers and employees.

It should be obvious that self-directing teams are structured to more efficiently organize work. They display the properties of complex adaptive systems. The elements of such a system are capable of a high degree of cooperative behavior, where the group is capable of producing more complex results than any single individual could.

Additionally, self-directing teams have a superior competitive advantage because they create a redundancy by extending the skills and functions of individual members and by relocating the responsibility for the control and coordination of work to the specific level that work is performed at. Self-directing teams absorb the function of management since they have the direct responsibility for achieving and measuring results.

Overall, the structure of self-directed teams provides organizations with the flexibility to quickly adapt to meet the challenges facing them, all the while possessing a strong sense of confidence in their success.

Related:

The Use of Teams Requires Self-Discipline

Five Critical Factors of Team Success

Seven Negative Roles & Behaviors Which Undermine Team Performance

Excerpt: Developing a Team Approach: Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series (Majorium Business Press, Stevens Point, WI 2011) $ 17.95 USD

Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D. | Author | Publisher | Majorium Business Press
Author of Great! What Makes Leaders Great: What They Did, How They Did It and What You Can Learn From It (Finalist – 2011 Foreword Reviews‘ Book of the Year)
Linkedin | Facebook | Twitter | Web| Blog | Catalog |800.654.4935 | 715.342.1018

Copyright © 2013 Timothy F. Bednarz, All Rights Reserved

 

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Self-Directing Teams Place Responsibility Where Work is Performed

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smallteam

The knowledge revolution has rendered many conventional management methods obsolete. Unprecedented and rapid advancements in information technology, telecommunications and artificial intelligence are transforming both the content and context of work.

Those on the leading edge of these changes have created virtual organizations that have obliterated what has been considered the raw materials of the traditional bureaucracy—the office and files. These traditional elements have been replaced by intranets, electronic databases and groupware as well as web and teleconferencing.

Organizations are increasingly devoting their resources to apprehend, think, learn and innovate—the building blocks of knowledge-based work.

The changes organizations are experiencing are causing them to employ more individuals who use and apply their thinking skills rather than simply follow directions.

Under conditions of uncertainty, bureaucratic organizations do not possess the requisite learning and information processing capacity to cope with the accelerating rate of both technological and social change.

It is important for leaders to understand that they are working within a dynamic and changing environment. As such, their individual actions are not conducted in a void, but in this environment. Likewise, teams are structured and developed in the same atmosphere, where they must relate and work together to accomplish organizational goals.

Many organizations have experimented with the use of teams in the development of various management fads, such as re-engineering and TQM, with mixed or poor results. As teams are structured, leaders must explore the self-directing team structure as one that is capable of producing more desirable and satisfactory results.

The key feature of self-directing teams is the underlying structure that places the responsibility for control and coordination where the work is actually performed. These teams are also held responsible for managing their work process and are held accountable for the results.

Once considered a radical shift in management thinking, many organizations have discovered that self-directed teams are dynamic in nature, and the dynamism of these teams closely lines up with the changes in the business. This shift gives organizations the ability to create continuous self-renewing learning functions that are manifested in the following team structural features:

  • Employees have the knowledge, information and skills to make all of the decisions that concern them.
  • The authority and responsibility for control and coordination are located as closely as possible to the individuals actually involved in the work process and those who deal with customers.
  • Authority is not based upon hierarchical position or status, but upon competence and expertise.
  • Management and leadership are shared functions widely distributed across levels and departments.
  • Access to information and feedback is both transparent and instantaneous.
  • All organizational support systems are congruent and synergistic with the requirements of a self-directed work structure.
  • The overall role of management is redesigned to focus on the creation of value for key organizational stakeholders including shareholders, customers and employees.

It should be obvious that self-directing teams are structured to more efficiently organize work. They display the properties of complex adaptive systems. The elements of such a system are capable of a high degree of cooperative behavior, where the group is capable of producing more complex results than any single individual could.

Additionally, self-directing teams have a superior competitive advantage because they create a redundancy by extending the skills and functions of individual members and by relocating the responsibility for the control and coordination of work to the specific level that work is performed at. Self-directing teams absorb the function of management since they have the direct responsibility for achieving and measuring results.

Overall, the structure of self-directed teams provides organizations with the flexibility to quickly adapt to meet the challenges facing them, all the while possessing a strong sense of confidence in their success.

Related:

The Use of Teams Requires Self-Discipline

Five Critical Factors of Team Success

Seven Negative Roles & Behaviors Which Undermine Team Performance

Excerpt: Developing a Team Approach: Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series(Majorium Business Press, Stevens Point, WI 2011) $ 17.95 USD

Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D. | Author | Publisher | Majorium Business Press
Author of Great! What Makes Leaders Great: What They Did, How They Did It and What You Can Learn From It (Finalist – 2011 Foreword Reviews‘ Book of the Year)
Linkedin | Facebook | Twitter | Web| Blog | Catalog |800.654.4935 | 715.342.1018

Copyright © 2013 Timothy F. Bednarz, All Rights Reserved

A Systematic Approach is Required to Structure Your Teams

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smallteam

Leaders should be cognizant of the fact that teams do not evolve automatically, and that the only things that do in the organizational environment are disorder, friction and poor performance. Effective team design and structure require thinking, analysis and a systematic approach to their development.

Organizational and team structures are not mechanical, but organic, as both organizations and the teams that work within them are comprised of people, not machines.

Additionally, designs and structures are unique to the organization, matched to meet its particular needs and objectives. Leaders should note that some of the worst team development mistakes were made when a mechanical model of an ideal team structure was imposed upon a living and organic business.

It is important for leaders to understand that strategy determines the structure of a team. The basic questions, “What is our business?” “What should it be?” and “What will it be?” define the purpose of any team and organizational structure.

The answers to these questions identify the key tasks and activities for which specific teams are formed. It is this effective structure that makes these activities get off the ground, function and produce results. Therefore team structure needs to be primarily concerned with these key activities; all other purposes are secondary.

Team structure demands self-discipline from every member. All individuals must take responsibility for the work of the entire team and its performance. It is the combined efforts of organizational teams that allow them to accomplish all of the key goals and activities.

Teams need to be designed and structured to integrate three distinct forms of work:

Operating Task – responsible for producing the results and output of the team.

Innovative Task – enables the team to approach its assignment with a view toward the possibilities the team can attain.

Management Task – directs the work of the team, creates and monitors its vision and sets its course.

All of these distinct forms of work are integrated into the team’s structure and approach. The specific blend of these tasks is determined by the responsibility, assignment and makeup of the team.

The structure and approach of the team is created to satisfy specific organizational needs, including:

Clarity

Clarity should not be confused with simplicity. Teams can be working on complex problems and issues that require complex solutions. They are not expected to simplify these solutions for the sake of the organization, but they should clarify them so they are understood and implemented.

Economy

Teams must employ an economy of effort to maintain control over the group and to minimize friction between team members. Excessive time devoted to the resolution of internal problems wastes the team’s resources and is uneconomical.

Direction

The direction of the team must be geared toward results rather than the team process. This means that teams should be concerned with the reasons why they were created rather than with the techniques they need to employ. The focus should be placed on output over form.

Understanding

Teams need to be structured so that team members clearly understand their specific roles, tasks and assignments and how each contributes to the accomplishment of individual team goals.

Decision Making

Decision making must be structured to focus on the right issues; it must be action- and results-oriented.

Stability

Teams must be structured for stability rather than rigidity. This allows them to survive turmoil and to adapt to the changing circumstances and environment that they are operating within.

Perpetuation and Self-Renewal

The team structure should be conducive to producing new leaders for the organization, and further be instrumental in helping these new leaders continually grow and develop their skills. It is this self-renewal of leadership that allows teams and organizations to develop and incorporate new ideas. Only with self-renewal can businesses maintain their competitive edge.

Related:

There are Only Three Reasons to Form a Team

The Use of Teams Requires Self-Discipline

Five Critical Factors of Team Success

How Do Know If Your Teams Are Remaining Strong & Productive

Excerpt: Developing a Team Approach (Majorium Business Press, Stevens Point, WI 2011) $ 17.95 USD

Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D. | Author | Publisher | Majorium Business Press
Author of Great! What Makes Leaders Great: What They Did, How They Did It and What You Can Learn From It (Finalist – 2011 Foreword Reviews‘ Book of the Year)
Linkedin | Facebook | Twitter | Web| Blog | Catalog |800.654.4935 | 715.342.1018

Copyright © 2013 Timothy F. Bednarz, All Rights Reserved

The Key Components of Virtual Teams

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A team is a small number of people with complementary skills who, committed to common purpose and performance goals, hold themselves mutually accountable. Virtual teams on the other hand are teams of people who primarily interact electronically and may occasionally meet face-to-face. They include teams of people working at different geographic sites or a project team whose members telecommute.

Virtual teams effectively deal with the realities of time compression, distributed resources, increasing dependency on knowledge-based input, a premium on flexibility and adaptability, and the fact that most of the information they use is in electronic form.

They take advantage of the electronic infrastructure, which enables them to work in parallel rather than serially, having continuous access to the latest and best knowledge and information. This allows individual team members to participate from remote sites without abandoning other aspects of their work and home lives.

The flexibility of virtual teams allows them to bring new team members up to speed through the online record of ongoing work. The fact that they are able to capture their collective work electronically—often in real time—makes it easier for other teams to access their efforts.

This is important since the rationale for virtual teams centers around the differences in time and space for team members. Team members may not be physically connected, so it may not be practical to consistently travel for face-to-face meetings. The fact that individual team members may be working in different time zones and work shifts poses additional challenges for leaders who manage these teams.

Skill Sets

There are four basic components for the success of virtual teams:

  • The selection of the right team members
  • Identifying and communicating a clear and common purpose
  • Developing an appropriate high-performance technical infrastructure
  • Ensuring that the organizational culture supports the information sharing required by the team

Selection of the Right Team Members

Best practices in the management of virtual teams derived from the review of a number of corporate case studies reveal that the virtual team environment is not for everyone. Not all individuals are equally adept at handling the uncertainty and responsibilities associated with virtual teams. Past participants who require a significant amount of structure in their work environment have reported feeling lost in this type of less structured work environment. For the right candidate, virtual teams can provide the freedom, flexibility and challenge to maintain his or her interest.

Managers should choose individuals for virtual teamwork carefully. Individual team membership should be based on the core competencies needed to achieve the desired outcome. However, in selecting the right candidates, qualities like responsibility, dependability, independence and self-sufficiency crucial to the viability of virtual teamwork should be considered. Individuals who possess the needed skills and appropriate temperament should be recruited regardless of standing or title within the company. In many cases, an employee’s manager on one project may be their staff on the next. The bottom line is that virtual teams are developed based upon the skill sets best suited to meeting the project’s requirements.

The Virtual Team Concept

Virtual teams typically follow a three-part model, the components of which capture the essential qualities of successful virtual teams. They represent the capabilities and behaviors needed to succeed in complex knowledge work in virtual environments. The three components include:

  • People
  • Purpose
  • Links

People

People populate small groups and teams of every kind at every level.

Purpose

Purpose holds all groups together, but for teams, the task that expresses the shared goal is the purpose. The purpose should be defined according to the cooperative goals set at the beginning of any successful teaming process. Interdependent tasks enable teams to accomplish the desired purpose initially defined with outcomes and measurable results at the completion of the project.

Links

Links are the channels, interactions, and relationships weaving the fabric of the team as it develops over time. The greatest difference between conventional teams and virtual teams is the nature and variety of their links. It is what makes virtual teams distinctive. The electronic infrastructure accessed by virtual teams makes their distance-related interactions possible.

Trust in Virtual Teams

The world of virtual teams has many benefits in bringing together people of talent, providing international perspectives and saving a corporation the expense of physically bringing the team together.

However, virtual teams can’t work together until trust is established between its members. The dilemma faced by leaders is how team members build trust when they seldom if ever get a chance to meet the other person and observe their actions and behaviors. Before trust is established in virtual teams, individual team members must be able to answer three questions about one another:

  • Value – Do you have anything to offer me?
  • Commitment – Can I count on you?
  • Thoroughness – Will you get it straight?

Value

The initial conversation with a team member is the first place that value is displayed. Before any discussions and dialogue take place, qualifications of all team members should be shared with the team. This may be in the form of a resume, profile or professional listing that all can access.

Individual team members should be encouraged to communicate with each other and learn more about each other’s jobs, their personal goals and what they want and need from each other.

Leaders should inform team members that because most communications will take place electronically, their tone of voice, energy level and enthusiasm does much to transmit the value they are bringing to the team.

Commitment

Participation on a virtual team means that an individual’s work and contributions are not readily observable. This degree of freedom comes with added responsibility for individual team members. There is no one there to appreciate the efforts that one person is contributing to a project. The question becomes whether individual team members are committed to the success of the team. Other team members can only judge by what is related and shown to them. Team members need to be accessible, especially through instant messaging, to remind other team members that they are on the job.

Delivering large projects in smaller pieces is also advisable. Due to geographic constraints, personal commitment to the success of a virtual team takes additional work and increased expectations. It is up to team leaders to monitor the activities and output of individual members to ensure that all are committed to the success of the project.

Thoroughness

In the virtual world the most common response to something going wrong is silence. The burden of any mistake is more likely to fall on the absent person who “didn’t get the job done.”

Virtual team members must take control of their circumstances, double check and follow up more than in a face-to-face world. They must listen for concerns and questions from other team members. They must advise other team members of potential problems before they occur. Attention to minor details is more critical on virtual teams, since they can readily turn into major perceived problems by the rest of the team.

Once trust is established on a virtual team, its benefits will be realized. Things will work more smoothly with everyone sharing a positive attitude. The team will be more productive, respond to more significant opportunities and grow in both capabilities and confidence.

Excerpt: Managing Virtual Teams in the Global Economy: Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training (Majorium Business Press, 2011)

If you would like to learn more about how to effectively structure and manage virtual teams, refer to Managing Virtual Teams in the Global Economy: Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series. This training skill-pack features eight key interrelated concepts, each with their own discussion points and training activity. It is ideal as an informal training tool for coaching or personal development. It can also be used as a handbook and guide for group training discussions. Click here to learn more.

___________________________________________________________________________________________________

Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D. | Author | Publisher | Majorium Business Press
Author of Great! What Makes Leaders Great: What They Did, How They Did It and What You Can Learn From It
Linkedin | Facebook | Twitter | Web | Blog | Catalog |800.654.4935 | 715.342.1018

Copyright © 2012 Timothy F. Bednarz, All Rights Reserved

Written by Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D.

March 6, 2012 at 10:42 am

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