According to research by Gusto, 37% of employees view teamwork as a very important reason for staying at a company they currently work for. Being part of a high-performing team can act as a great motivator for people, and encourage them to stay at their jobs longer. All of this translates into significant business benefits.
In the following article, I am going to talk about how to create a high-performing team, as well as share with you a couple of examples of companies who follow the HPT approach.
Let’s start off with a question.
We can define a high performing team as a group of highly knowledgeable individuals with complementary skills who work together to achieve a common goal. They continuously collaborate and innovate, which lets them deliver superior results, constantly.
Back in the olden days, organizations were built around one concept – efficiency. This concept goes way back to the industrial revolution, when manufacturers focused on repetitive (i.e., predictable) work.
However, with the passage of time and the rise of new technologies, this efficiency-based model became irrelevant. Businesses found themselves in need of redesigning their operational structure.
The call for change was already strongly visible decades before COVID-19 forced companies to alter business operations. In the 1980s, companies like General Electric and Boeing were among the first to “merge the business goals of the organization with social needs of the individuals”and organize in small interdisciplinary groups to get the work done.
In 2006, a study by the American Psychological Association found confirmation in HPT effectiveness, proving that people perform best when they’re arranged in groups. Fast forward ten years, a study by Deloitte already showed that organizations recognized re-arranging their operational model towards the network of connected teams concept instead of a divisional concept. They recognized it as the number one human capital objective (with 92% stating that it was of huge importance).
This approach remains a top priority well into 2021, and is reflected in the company’s most recent human capital report.
There are a number of approaches. To name one, Kaizenko’s Fadi Stephan recommends the Drexler/Sibbet team performance model, where teams start off with the so-called “bouncing ball” concept, i.e., an open, creative streak to generate ideas. They then seek to ground them in reality, work on them together as a team to formulate goals, and define the limitations. Overtime, they return to the “bouncing ball” stage to re-assess their work and fuel it with new concepts and implementations.
Now, let’s take a look at two global brands, Intercom and Gitlab, that have recently embraced the HPT methodology.
Intercom decided to redesign their organizational structure and build HPTs in 2020. Their goal was to improve team communication, collaboration, and internal processes.
They measure team performance on a quarterly basis, and divide the process into four steps:
Among others, to make sure that their HTP framework genuinely serves performance, they make sure to:
GitLab’s HPT approach stems from the Drexler-Sibbet model mentioned above. Among others their teams are characterized by a shared desire to grow together (i.e., egos being put into check), provide open feedback, and iterating complex tasks into “digestible” formats.
In their work, GitLab HPTs follow two key stages – creating and sustaining. These are divided into seven steps:
With all of the above in mind, here is how you can approach building your own HPTs.
#1 Build a data-informed feedback culture.
This requires a blend of two data sources – team-level insights about work habits from a platform like Network Perspective, and survey data measuring employee engagement.
For collaboration data, we recommend looking into the following numbers, among others:
#2 Follow the Purpose / Goals / Commitment / Alignment approach.
Make sure that your teams are aligned and committed to a common (team- or organization-level) purpose and that the goals for each are clearly defined. We recommend conducting team check-in and check-outs. It’s an effective method of starting and finalizing projects and processes. While check-in brings everyone on board and nurtures commitment, check-out focuses around closure and after action reviews.
#3 Create psychological safety.
Performance is deeply linked with psychological balance and stability. To make sure that your teams have the conditions needed to thrive, make sure to:
#4 Give space for performance and new experiments.
Particularly, ensure that team members aren’t overwhelmed with collaboration and have enough time for deep work.
#5 Keep diversity and development high.
Finally, to create truly powerful teams, hire for diversity and a collaborative mindset. With the right people on board, your teams will make the most of peer-to-peer learning and grow both on a team- and individual level.
Successful companies no longer evaluate their teams through the prism of efficiency. As proven by a number of successful companies, including Intercom, GitLab, Boeing, and General Electric, the spotlight should be set on performance, as it better suits today’s organizational structures.
In order to thrive, it’s essential to build High Performance Teams. While there are many various approaches, what characterizes a high performing team is a shared mindset, clear goal setting, a culture of open feedbacking and collaboration, and peer-to-peer learning.
To get started, it’s worth having access to a ONA platform like Network Perspective, which has been created to help businesses thrive on a team-level. Reach out if you’d like to hear more!
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