But what team do we do if there is no time? Come on, use extreme teaming.
For those operating in the Italian market, the teamwork narrative, including our de #ilteamgiusto, sometimes seems to have to do with an ideal world. Yes, yes … the team coaching …, the feedback …, the rules and the time dedicated to the team … but who has this time? The ambitious projects are launched but they are immediately under pressure, you get to the middle and stop, you start another one, and then you go back to the first one, meanwhile the prices go down but the performance requirements increase … for sure there is no it is the time to develop full flow and full team awareness.
This is not just an Italian situation: the rhythms become convulsive everywhere, the starting requirements are increasingly unstable, the long times of a project no longer can afford them, even if these ‘inefficiencies’ dilate them at times in a way difficult to control, meanwhile, the teams assemble and disassemble very quickly.
In her book Extreme Teaming, Amy Edmondson points out that in these cases it is better to focus on teaming (coined word!) As a process rather than on the team as an entity. In this sense, the role of the team leader becomes more important, indeed, precisely in those changing contexts and configurations that mix different people from different organizations and make leadership indispensable.
The most crystalline example of organizational methodology with widespread leadership, the scrum, in fact, does not allow for variations of the scheme: either the focus is on the team or the scrum is not done.
On the contrary, we increasingly experience situations in which teams are formed to solve momentary emergencies, and bring together different professionals from different branches of the organization (s). This is true in an emergency room as much as in the high maintenance processes of the engineering world.
What peculiarities, then, have the flows of processes that emerge during these fleeting collaborations and which seem so focused on the short-term result that they neglect the way in which people give life to an embryo of a team?
If we think back to team science, the challenges that these ‘extreme teamplayers’ face are of different levels.
- They are interpersonal challenges that involve emotions and relationships. Extreme teaming leads people who do not know each other to have to live together and collaborate quickly and intensely: fractures are created, subgroups, there are emotions that face each other, similarities that attract.
- They are challenges of knowledge and competence: there is little time to integrate, and therefore there are less opportunities to rely on emerging cognitive processes, on mental models and consolidated practices.
And on these aspects the teamleader must work hard.
First of all it is necessary to quickly share an engaging vision and reinforce it consistently:
- It is essential to make the values explicit, at the start of the project and at each meeting, it is advisable to quickly retrace the reasons for being together, what are the founding elements of this sharing. It is a living process: the vision adapts to the situation.
- And then, a challenging goal is essential: it must clearly emerge that the focus is so essential and the time so little that there is no space for passengers: only drivers are accepted!
Secondly, we have spoken several times about psychological safety but here in leader she must show genuine care for the people who run in step with her; project leaders must convey the desire to achieve collective success. This also means being open to discussing failures and taking the time to explore effective ways of addressing the impediments project participants face along the way.
Furthermore, leaders need to facilitate the sharing and learning process that gives rise to shared mental models. These templates in turn help the team determine the nature and structure of the required forms and identify the interfaces where thoughtful conversation and coordination are needed. Harnessing the skills of team members is essential to any innovation project, but those who practice extreme teaming typically need support to bridge the knowledge gaps between areas of expertise.
Here, again, Edmondson highlights some strategies that are more effective than others. Here are some of them.
Here, again, Edmondson highlights some strategies that are more effective than others. The most important is
• Map and manage knowledge sharing.
• If there is no time to ’emerge’ those cognitive processes (essentially mental models and transactive memory), the management of interpersonal interfaces is crucial. It is not just about information, but also about translating different interpretations and addressing individual interests to build shared meaning and understanding. To do this you need guidelines (the charter team or the playbook team are essential in these situations) and attention to the methods of communication, trying to explicitly regulate both the synchronous (in presence and on screen) and the asynchronous (indirect) , at a distance).
• It is right to regulate the meetings and, above all, to correctly size the calls; but, above all, the quality of the relationship must be high: a rich synchronous interaction (such as that allowed by face-to-face meetings or in calls with few participants) can be more useful for the most delicate information, while, for example, asynchronous communication , and therefore less rich, is sufficient for the simple transfer of information.
• The teamleader can effectively use the moments during which she brings together project participants. Her presence, in the sense of an active and dedicated presence, is important to reformulate / redirect some of the participants’ inputs so that all those involved are able to understand and apply the insights that emerge.
• Having a strategy for managing the interfaces between the group and the outside ‘world’. Here it is advisable to encourage specifically dedicated ‘border’ strategic meetings, not on the phone or on Teams, but in person, in which, possibly, the project participants can work on problems together, side by side, using tools that help them communicate between them.
• Be inspired and encourage agile execution, in particular with regard to the way in which Agile promotes and stimulates learning around the themes of the project. Instead of separating action and learning – for example in planning and execution – project participants can integrate one and the other by looking for an execution method that is learning. Not an orientation to performance but an orientation to learning. Looking at Agile means, for example,
(a) build ‘time spaces’ explicitly dedicated to the team to explore and make progress in the project, exposing innovative approaches and constructive dissent and
(b) leave room for maneuver by delegating decision-making authority on non-modular / repetitive tasks to team members with appropriate skills.
• In this way, individuals and sub-teams are given autonomy in carrying out the work, also making the participants understand their responsibilities towards the entire project in a coherent way. And then, ’empowerment stimulates learning behaviors in self-managed teams. On the contrary, when groups are denied substantial freedom, they can fall into a firefighting and flattening mode on the rules or specifications, simply as a simpler shortcut to solving problems, forgetting the original goal.
W extreme teaming! Try to practice it.