By Rob Starr, Big4.com Content Manager.
On the surface, teamwork sounds easy like a normal offshoot of our gregarious natures and almost something we should expect is instinctual. While that might have been true as our ancestors worked together to thrive and survive, Neanderthals knew nothing of deadlines and chaotic, stressful workdays and high pressure environments in glass and steel skyscrapers or in front of computer screens with co workers a world away.
Enter three modern day experts from the prestigious Wharton School of Business and Executive Education who understand what business needs to do to work together .
Mario Moussa teaches in the Executive Programs there while Madeline Boyer is a lecturer and a Senior Consultant at Percipient Partners. Derek Newberry is also a Lecturer at the Wharton School of Business and teaches in its Executive Programs. He is also a Senior Consultant at Percipient Partners. Together, they’ve put together an insightful book : Committed Teams: Three Steps to Inspiring Passion and Performance, due out next month that’s about the process they’ve researched for creating and maintaining a committed team for today’s contemporary work environment.
We start our conversation talking about one of the critical findings arising from the Executive Development Program at Wharton. What’s called the 3×3 Framework combines three foundations with three steps for successful teamwork. Mario Moussa explains.
“The program has given us the ability to observe 100 teams competing with each other over 100 simulated years and what we found was the most effective teams implemented this pretty simple framework,” he says adding the first part consists of establishing goals, roles and norms. High performing teams tend to define these three metrics right from the start.
The bottom end of the framework involves ongoing conversations, checking in periodically with each other, and finding ways to close the gap between the current ways the team is functioning and the ideals that are used as benchmarks. At the heart of the process for these high performing teams is a dedication to constant improvement.
Given the changing nature of the people and the expectations around work that are common in today’s offices, it’s no surprise the concept of shifting norms was picked up on by Derek Newberry, who also advises senior leaders at the world’s top companies and organizations.
“Collaboration in general and norm setting in particular has gotten even more important with trends we’re seeing globally ,” he said. “ We like to say that we’re entering a new world of work that we describe as flatter, looser, wider and faster.” He explains that companies are flattening their hierarchies in favor of adaptability and flexibility, becoming looser in the sense there’s more contract work than ever before. Wider refers to virtual possibilities and faster where loose teams come together for quick projects informally.
“Paradoxically as we work more and more independently and not under the same organizational umbrella, cooperation skills become even more important. Teams need to have really explicit discussions about how they’re going to work together,” he says. “Things like norms become more important as we have less and less ways to build rapport.”
Madeline Boyer has done extensive research on these issues as they relate to the move toward virtual teams and generational differences therein since there’s a wide swath of age groups in today’s workforce. She starts out by stressing how much the fundamentals have changed.
“You can’t just have assumption about how you’re going to be working together anymore. The need to be explicit about your norms and goals is very important when you have these generational gaps and people are coming from different perspectives.”
She furthers the trick to making virtual teams successful is being more deliberate in creating rapport and trust since these modern versions lack the more personal contact of other more traditional models.
“ In the book we talk about creating a virtual water cooler,” she says. “That can be creating email threads that are outside of work or even a chat app or some other form of communication that creates a third space for your team.”