How to Build Environments Where Teams Thrive and Talent Wins

Structure trumps talent.

Badly designed organizations sabotage the best performers.

4 structural saboteurs:

  1. Overlapping domains:  Managers with overlapping territories are paid to compete with one another.  The stronger the talent, the more intense the in-fighting.
  2. Conflicts of interests:  Managers can’t both innovate and keep things running smoothly. You can’t go in two directions at the same time.
  3. Impossible jobs:  Don’t expect talent to excel on multiple fronts at the same time. People can only be “world class” at one thing at a time.
  4. Disempowerment:  You can’t hold staff accountable for results if you disempower them by telling them how to do their jobs.  If things go wrong, who’s at fault?  The employee, or the process you imposed on them?

Building organizations that work:

  1. Eliminate overlaps with clear boundaries.
  2. Ensure that every gap is filled with needed competency. Every technology, discipline, and service is somebody’s job.
  3. Cluster similar lines of business under leaders who know how to manage each specific profession.

Where to begin:

Define jobs as businesses within your business – entrepreneurships with clear products or services that serve internal and external customers.

  1. “Engineers” sell and support solutions.
  2. “Service Providers” keep things running.  They buy solutions and use them to sell ongoing services.
  3. “Sales and Marketing” link to customers, be they external or internal.
  4. “Coordinators” help people come together on plans, policies, and standards.

And to bring together just the right specialists on each team and define their individual accountabilities, build an explicit team-formation process.

Successful leaders create environments that empower talent and enable teamwork.

How have you seen situations where organizational structure hinders staff?

I’m delighted to collaborate with organizational guru Dean Meyer on this post. If you’re considering restructuring your organization, Dean’s new book, Principle-based Organizational Structure, is a must read!