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September - 2007 - issue > Cover Feature
Technolgy-foundations-for-high-performance-teams
Deepak Visweswaraiah
Tuesday, September 4, 2007
In today’s complex, dynamic, and highly competitive business environment, organizations are increasingly depending on high performance teams to respond to change and significantly impact the business. Companies are also finding that building a high performance team is one thing - sustaining it and repeating its successes are bigger challenges. One thing that is common with all high performance teams is that they are never ‘one time acts.’ The hallmark of such teams is really the ability to repeat successes.

High performance teams are created with the intention of propelling a company to take successful strides. By understanding the business requirements, leveraging existing technology infrastructure, taking sound decisions, and getting the optimal return on investment high performance teams can propel companies to the next level. These teams are not created ‘after the fact’ or to react to a current problem. Instead, the key thing is to always aim at being a step ahead.

One of the key drivers to successful high performance teams is technology infrastructure. Leaders are acutely aware that technology infrastructure, properly harnessed, can lead to high performance in various areas including new market discovery and development, customer response, and even the rapid reconfiguration of fundamental business processes. These can be a company’s key differentiator in the market.

CIO’s from different organizations will tell you about the value that technology infrastructure in different forms such as tools, applications and devices can add to the performance of a team. Executives depend on enterprise systems and other infrastructure to make their teams perform at high levels. High performance teams know how to leverage the tools available and use them to get better quality products to the market quickly at lower costs and through the optimal use of resources.

The other key drivers for successful high performance teams are effective communications, encouraging a culture of self-managed teams, adaptability to change, and a robust strategy and leadership model.

Communications: High performing teams must be aligned to the organization’s goals and understand the bigger picture, the operating and governance models. Communication is therefore crucial to the overall success of the team.

Self-managed work team: The classical hierarchical structure of organizations has become passé and structures are now a lot flatter in most global organizations. Self-managed teams are typically led by an able leader who can articulate the vision, mission, objective, and goals. The team is empowered to make decisions themselves. There are several instances where self-managed teams have managed to save millions of dollars through process improvements, new products, or a disruptive technology. FORTUNE magazine calls self-directed or self-managed teams ‘the productivity breakthrough of the 90s.

Ability to accept and adapt to change: Change management is a significant part of any organization’s efforts today. High performance teams don’t wait for change to happen, but make changes happen. Take the example of Gillette that came out with their new concept of twin blade and then triple blade razors. They did not wait for the market to give up on their previous products. They introduced new products that revolutionized the market. This is all about leading, accepting, and adapting to change to stay ahead of the curve.

Strategy and leadership: Strong and effective leadership is critical for the competency level of organizations. The ability to build, lead, and sustain high performing teams is more critical in small and medium size businesses. Here people work in small teams, wear different hats, and accomplish their objectives quickly just to keep ahead of the curve. Leaders are responsible for bringing strategy to the team, and it is when the team understands the strategy and aligns its goals to it that the organization is successful. The composition of the team also contributes to the success. So, it is important to have a group of people who have complementary skills. In my experience, leadership is the most important asset of the company, while it can also be the biggest drawback. Typical failures are the result of inadequate performance by a team that is lead by an ineffective leader.

He can be reached at Visweswaraiah_Deepak@emc.com
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