Digital Future

How The Network Of Teams leads to Workplace Transformation, With A Little Help From Technology

Consider this: A student at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology was so bothered by reports of the refugee crisis around the world that he got together a bunch of his mates to work on the problem. Vick Liu, a sophomore at MIT, and his team, designed a sleeping bag that can withstand temperatures as low as 15-degrees Fahrenheit, has waterproof pockets that can hold important travel documents, and even comes equipped with a shoulder-strap. Up until very recently, a student would have had to scrape together funding, often with considerable difficulty, to take an idea such as this to market. Or wait a few years until he graduated and was hired by the giant XYZ Corp. But Liu didn’t have to do any of that. He created a GoFundMe account that raised $17,000 – enough to manufacture and mail the first 250 sleeping bags to resettlement zones in Syria. Think about it: A college sophomore created a business network from his dormitory room in a matter of days – not years – and got his product to market. Granted, Liu’s story is more on the lines of a not-for-profit venture, but it illustrates the power of the network of teams. Something that for-profit enterprises are trying hard to create and leverage.

Today, successful companies are seeking to shift away from traditional organizational structures and are instead encouraging individuals to connect in an open workplace, share information transparently, and move from team to team based on their alignment to the problem that must be solved. The cause to be served can be anything ranging from innovation or delivering great customer experience to simply getting to market quickly. It’s all about teams being formed quickly and disbanded just as rapidly to move on to new projects. High-performing companies are learning to nurture and leverage this network of teams. They are quickly realizing that it takes a) free flow of information and feedback b) transparent goals and projects, and c) shared values and culture to make it work. And not surprisingly, they are turning to technology to lead this workplace transformation for them. To bring in never-before productivity by:

  • Connecting everybody: Disintermediate processes and activities to speed it all up, and thereby achieve an uninterrupted, on-demand connectedness between teams, teams and partners, teams and customers, and even teams and competitors, in some cases, to help move the entire industry forward.

  • Supporting talent mobility: With talent requiring to move in a more agile career model, the mobile enterprise must be made accessible anytime from anywhere so team members can fluidly connect to their home base or project teams in a different location – as their need may be.

  • Pervasive collaboration: Standardize and implement collaborative tools to complement the organization’s core ERP or HRMS infrastructure.

  • Transparency of organizational performance: From reward systems and career paths, to work allocation and project choices, make it fully visible to all, and chart the way for a more agile, meritocratic model for business.

  • Feedback-based performance management: Provide reliable feedback to people based on pervasive analytics and immediate input on their performance – as individuals and teams - to enable meaningful goals setting, project change, and behavioral mentoring.

But beyond the productivity gains, lies a larger intent – to direct this new-found people bandwidth towards innovation and higher value work that is more relevant for customers. Doing so will require the network of teams to learn, continuously and lifelong. The ask, then, is for technology to play a lead role in enabling the learning and teaching too. To make us not only productive but also purposeful. And it’s possible. Time and again, following my many interactions with clients, through helping them accelerate their workplace transformation and learning from their journeys, I am convinced that when we are focused and amplified by technology in our purpose, there are no limits to what we can achieve. In performance, and more importantly in progress.