The Secrets of Teamwork

Creating a team in the contemporary world is dramatically different from what it used to be in the past. Unity as its fundamental base obviously hasn’t changed, but the main difference lies in the fact that today it is more diversified, multifaceted, digital and dynamic. But what is it that doesn’t change over time and how do successful teams adapt to it?

Identifying the effectiveness of teamwork academically was first pursued by J. Richard Hackman, an American scientist who studied organizational behavior. It was he who decided to study TeamWork as a subject in 1970. After 40 years of research he came up with an insight that teamwork is determined not by people or behavioral styles, but with simple “activating conditions”. Today, three of Hackman’s factors are as critical for successful teams than ever before. The conceptual model of Hackman’s factors is known as 4-D Teams and is about leading teamwork according to four set factors.

Compelling Direction

Direction is the irreplaceable foundation of any team as it orients its members, fully drifting them into the process and feeding them with energy. You can’t inspire a team without them knowing what is that they are trying to achieve. To keep the team inspired and the vision of their goals vivid, these should be challenging, but not unattainable. Moreover, consistency is very important as people like achieving goals which give the extrinsic award, added values like recognition, salary or opportunities for development. Many scientific works reveal that in the process of pursuing a goal intravenous factors like emotions and satisfaction become secondary.

Generally speaking, every company has a goal to serve their clients, but how it is perceived varies around the globe, not only at the level of geography, but also at that of government. For instance, in Norway, quality determines the best type of service despite the costs, while a 75% offered solution is enough for the product to be perceived as that of quality by the client in the UK, where the price tag gains more weight.

Strong Structure

Teams need a specific number of members and the right mix of optimally determined objectives and processes, and norms which correctly determine the area of their activities. As a rule, a high performance group is created by the correct balance of various skills. Each member does not have to own the highest technical or social skills individually, but the mix of both is principally important for any team. Diversity in age, race, gender, religion, knowledge, skills and perspectives guarantee successful performance. Members from various backgrounds see the future differently, thus their leader always has the luxury to make the right decision.

Researchers Martine Haas and Mark Mortensen have been researching the World Bank and its regional branches in various countries. While “cosmopolite” members of a team usually manage issues considering multiculturalism that they have acquired during their work in different countries around the world, the remainder perceive things locally. And the best decision is made by blending these two. In which case an additional responsibility of communication arises: if a company or an organization has a network, the risk of uncontrollability is raised higher. Strong institutions solve this with the right structure, where first of all ethnocentric factors are considered. Ethnocentrism is the tendency of placing one culture over others. The barrier it creates can be overcome with a SRC (Self Reference Criterion), which is often determined by subconscious hints about one’s cultural values, knowledge and experience during decision-making process. This is why a company might take a different decision to solve the same problem abroad than it would take in its home country.

Supporting Context

The right support is the third crucial factor for successful teamwork, which includes maintaining a reward system; technical facilities and working conditions; accessibility to data that is vital for creative process and transparency.

Global institutions and companies creating digital products face additional barriers, as accessibility to resources and technical assistance are cardinally varied according to location. Let’s compare product delivery from an online shop in New York with that in Tbilisi or Tbilisi and Kutaisi. Keep in mind that in this case not only technical facilities should be considered but perception also matters. Numerous studies show that the development of technologies requires development of the customer as well, as the latter should be able to overcome the behavioral stereotypes in the process of decision-making and purchasing. The supportive context in a team means adding relevant information and offering trainings for every member.

Shared mindset

A company or an organization operating a network at a country or international level has a concept of “us vs. them” – meaning “our team and their team”. At a first glance this is competitiveness is healthy, but on the other hand, it carries the risk of violating heterogeneity. Marriott can’t be of “one” sort in Tbilisi and of “other” in Washington. Heterogeneity in branding (especially in the service sector) is fundamental. Many studies reveal that it is resources that determine the increase of risk factors rather than cultural variations. Also human capital is one of such resources and in which case fixated mindset is unacceptable.

Candidates during job interviews in leading companies and institutions often receive questions that seem hardly connected with their future work or experience. In reality, HR specialists are trying to figure out if the person has a fixated mindset or a developing one. The first type of person believes that knowledge and skills are most important and their behavior is based on these things. While the other is in constant development and doesn’t fear challenges. The leader of a strong team always tries to reach a shared homogenous mindset, where most importantly everyone is tuned in for development.

These principles are analyzed very well by Sean Fitzpatrick. A rugby legend and former Captain of New Zealand’s National Team All Blacks, who was made an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit In 1997. He is also author of best-selling book - the Winning Matter. On May 22-23rd, Mr. Fitzpatrick will visit the Euphoria Hotel in Batumi for a two-day international business forum hosting 6 world-class speakers and 800 delegates. He will be sharing his unique experience with the audience and talking about winning strategies.

Otar Kiria

15 May 2017 18:02