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Teams in Action

The Future of Teamwork with Covid

Future workplaces will be both physical in the sense of people working from actual offices distributed across space & locations, and virtual in the sense that the whole team is rarely altogether in the same single physical space. The question now is; ‘how do we ‘physically’ equip the team, as a team, and its individual members, to be able to fulfil its purpose, self-organise, and stay focused on the task at hand?’ The workplace of the future clearly will not just be an office nor a virtual office but some strange hybrid of actual offices, neighbourhood offices and home offices virtually connected.

These raise some profound questions: Can you still operate as ‘one team’ while working in mixed modes of team participation with some in office, some at home; and face to face (but socially distanced) key meetings/encounters in otherwise almost empty offices. Hybrid workplaces are tricky and challenging – in groups and out groups, perceptions of exclusion emerging, differential access to informal networks, video conferences becoming more tiring and “Zoom fatigue” setting in. It’s not hard to imagine the detrimental impact that this might have on belonging, on trust, on information flow, on collaboration. Yet we know the outcomes we need in terms of teamwork and we know what it is we need to replicate. We also know that the small team model is the most suitable organisation work structure, especially for the conditions of today.

How do we ensure all remote team members truly have a sense of belonging, understand what to accomplish, and have direction? Several things seem to be pertinent here, namely, creating conducive conditions for equality of participation, of access, of contribution and of innovative collaboration.

Equality of Participation; it is about paying careful attention to finding ways, fora and formats, where the team meets as a team on equal ground (perhaps all virtual or together) to collectively determine the team’s key deliverables. Collective group thinking breeds individual commitment and ownership of team goals.

Equality of Access; it requires leaders and people managers to refocus their calendars around many more short informal time-spaces for ‘casual’ one-to-one and very small group interaction – 5 to 10 minute chats, pre or post meeting reviews, check ins and check outs etc.- and to require such as a norm for others as well.

Equality of Contribution; this requires performance and roles to be visible to all, a line of sight, and for creating more time-spaces for appreciation, reflection, co-learning and feedforward. The individual is the most basic performance producing unit in a team. Each team member contributes to a larger or lesser extent in three distinct areas all the time; Personal to team climate; Interpersonal to relationships; Task to results of the team. Individual contribution therefore needs to be measured for providing doable corrective action tailored uniquely for each person, on a regular basis to maintain and manage continuous improvement.

Agility of Performance; it demands for a team to learn together faster than things are changing around them. The ability to think & draw conclusions quickly, intellectual acuity. Understanding the personality differences in the team makes this possible. That is engaging the right person for the right action, by employing a relay process between members versus expecting the wrong thing from the wrong person.

Innovative Virtual Collaboration; virtual conversations with technological tools can easily lose the importance of our deeper psychological and social needs for teamwork and working in groups. Keeping the human touch alive is therefore the bedrock of effective collaboration. Innovative collaboration is about person-to-person, not role-to-role, interaction. Listening to connect with the other person/s is the most powerful way to effectively collaborate in order to bring about transformation of the status quo.

A Virtual Solution; to be found in online processes. An advantage of a new open source software package integrates all the various components called ‘Teaming Excellence’, launched by Intégro Learning SA. Teaming is a new concept of teamwork for fast tracking the processes of traditional teamwork more suitable for the quick changing business environments of today. What is different is it is team specific that reduces operational process loss within a team. It creates specific practical processes for immediate implementation enabling a manageable performance infrastructure that is sustainable.

Sources: Johan Cronjé, Specialist Team Performance Coach, Intégro Learning SA; Dr. Tasha Eurich, Organisation Psychologist; Dr. Alex Pentland’s Human Dynamics Laboratory and Professor at MIT USA;