How to Build Environments Where Teams Thrive and Talent Wins
Structure trumps talent.
Badly designed organizations sabotage the best performers.
4 structural saboteurs:
- Overlapping domains: Managers with overlapping territories are paid to compete with one another. The stronger the talent, the more intense the in-fighting.
- Conflicts of interests: Managers can’t both innovate and keep things running smoothly. You can’t go in two directions at the same time.
- 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.
- 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:
- Eliminate overlaps with clear boundaries.
- Ensure that every gap is filled with needed competency. Every technology, discipline, and service is somebody’s job.
- 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.
- “Engineers” sell and support solutions.
- “Service Providers” keep things running. They buy solutions and use them to sell ongoing services.
- “Sales and Marketing” link to customers, be they external or internal.
- “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!
Keeping it elegantly simple, as usual. Structure – that is why United Airlines has been in the news so much recently as their structure completely overwhelmed any sense of decency or customer focus. Lack of Structure is the flip side, evidenced by the current chaos in the Office of The President, where little makes sense, and neither does anything else, giving new meaning to that old GOP term, flip-flop.
Plan the work and work the plan. Focus on dis-un-empowerment and clear goals and objectives, where collective results are important and not just individual or departmental numbers.
As Bill Clinton might have said, “It’s the environment, stupid.”
Thanks Dr. Scott. “It’s the environment stupid.” Wish I thought of that. 🙂
Simple but sufficient comes to mind. Cautious leaders probably use too much structure and short-sighted too little. Cheers
Structure like systems can help or hinder organizations. But the key thing that impacts the environment or culture is the Leadership.
Some famous business writer wrote that Leadership is the flip side of Culture. Leaders can not change everything but they can strongly influence how things work, for the better or worse.
Thanks Brad. If there is any area where leadership buy-in is essential it’s structure change. This type of change may originate from the bottom up. But it’s dead on arrival if leadership doesn’t buy in. Good point
I agree with Brad that structures can help or hinder but that it is leadership which makes the difference. Any leader can lead over 80% of employees to be highly motivated, highly committed, and fully engaged, and these people will fix any structure that hinders them from reaching real excellence.
Thanks Ben. Love your mention that any leader can lead 80% of employees to be highly motivated. It gives me pause. It probably suggests that any leader can demotivate 80% of employees.
Right on Dan. Today, most are choosing to demotivate 80% and they do that by following the upbringing given them by our authoritarian society and the advice given them by the leadership industry.
An interesting topic for serious review by HR Heads for the necessary correction and guidance to the top management!
At times, new senior management staff is put to handle new ventures in unrelated areas of company’s acquired strengths. No adequate information is provided & the objectives are not even clearly spelt out while expecting a quick success. In conflicting situations, the staff is left to handle things independently without any direction or the needed empowerment.
If things work out well then it’s fine, otherwise a full blame is easily passed on. HR Heads need to intervene and the right justice needs to prevail in the long-term organization interest.
Absolutely on the money here. Too many ‘Leaders’ in influential positions propagate a win at all costs within their teams, when this becomes troublesome they promote friend or clones into important decision making positions and the theme continues. a better approach would be a bigger picture view of how do we fix this so everyone’s concerns are discussed and a plan is formulated(Who, What, When).
The old Silo mentality and cronyism is alive and well.
Where organizational structure hinders staff? The support staff at my firm are all controlled by 2 people (within a group of 30) who control who works on what. It’s been task-by-task support only for my projects that run 12-30 months. When I get project-level support, it’s always the newest hire (since the 2 keep the tenured employees plenty busy on their own files).
It’s a professional services company…which is where I am sitting right now, typing for the 15th straight hour today because I don’t have a reliable, steady, always-there support to help me out. I’m doing everything (at $175/hr to my clients).
Dan, I have a question for you about Conflicts of Interest. Couldn’t innovation be a means of making things run smoother? As a manager of a team I find it helpful from time to time to take a step back and see how I can “make it better”.
Thanks Ken. All innovation disrupts something. Whether it’s painful or not depends on the nature of the disruption and the people involved. Could it be to make things run smoother? Yes. But, in that case something is going away. The not so smooth.
Implementing well-designed organizational structures requires commitment from leadership and HR, all focused on driving success measured in terms of customer satisfaction, financial goal attainment and team member engagement.
And still we try to change people before we recognize the need to change structure. When you have people who are passionate about their work and run into the same problems over and over, it’s the structure, not the people.
This is good Dan. I have seen organizations hindered by many of the things that you listed. Oftentimes a lack of structure will leave folks with an “every man for himself” attitude even if they would otherwise be a team player. There’s only so much you can do to organize and structure your team if there is no structure above and around you.