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July - 2012 - issue > Management
The Importance of Teamwork in Challenging Times
Jaswinder Ahuja
Corporate Vice President & Managing Director-Cadence India
Tuesday, July 3, 2012
Headquartered in San Jose, California, with sales offices, design centers, and research facilities around the world, Cadence Design Systems, Inc. (NASDAQ: CDNS) enables global electronic design innovation and plays an essential role in the creation of today's integrated circuits and electronics.

I have had the privilege to lead many teams in my 24 years at Cadence and I have found that irrespective their size, composition or location, winning teams tend to follow a set of principles that make them successful. Many authors have talked about the principles behind high performance teamwork; amongst them are noted experts Carl Larson and Frank LaFasto who sum up the principles into eight "characteristics" that include goal setting, a results-driven structure, recruiting the best people for the job, unified commitment, promoting collaboration, setting standards of excellence, rewarding performance, and principled leadership. (LaFasto, 1989)

Think of any team that you consider successful – whether in sports, business, academics, or any other field – and you will find these characteristics at the core. During challenging times especially, applying these principles can be critical to success. The importance of good teamwork in testing business circumstances cannot be underestimated.

In this article, I will discuss how Cadence leadership used some of Larson and LaFasto’s characteristics to steer the company through a rapidly changing business environment. The challenge was to both redirect the company and re-energize employees during a time of uncertainty.

Redirect by Communicating Clear Goals

In 2008 Cadence, along with many other technology companies, faced a challenging business environment due to recession and a dull global macroeconomic outlook.

In this kind of challenging scenario, Cadence's new CEO took several steps to articulate a new direction for the company. One of the first steps was to communicate the company's strategy and goals, so that all employees were clear about the "what, when and how" – what we needed to achieve, by when, and how we were going to do it.

Since Cadence is a technology-driven company, there were two types of goals – the business goals and the technology goals. The business goals centered on re-building financial strength, both near- and long-term.

In defining the technology goals the Cadence leadership took a bold step by presenting a new vision to the industry called EDA360. EDA360 defined the direction that the electronics and semiconductor industry was headed. The company re-aligned its strategy around the EDA360 vision, going so far as to re-organize business units to align to its tenets.

It took time and patience to get the more than 4400 employees to embrace the big picture view and understand how each one contributed to the goals, but the perseverance has paid off and now, four years later, Cadence appears stronger than ever before.

By articulating clear and elevating goals, the Cadence leadership team was able to steer the company through a rough patch and establish a strong foundation for teamwork.

Re-energizing through The Cadence Way

Apart from defining the business and technology goals for the company, the leadership team also articulated the Cadence culture in an effort to re-energize and re-focus employees. The overarching culture constituted five attributes, collectively called "The Cadence Way". The Cadence Way is the Cadence approach to how we work together to achieve our goals, and accomplish everything we do in the workplace.

The Cadence Way encompasses many of the characteristics defined by Larson and LaFasto. With its focus on customer success, "one team" collaboration and core values the Cadence Way encourages a unified commitment, a collaborative climate where an environment of honesty, openness, consistency and respect are expected, and it defines standards of excellence and appeals to emotional engagement. The Cadence rewards and recognition program is tied into the Cadence Way by acknowledging the employees who best exemplify the Cadence Way attributes.

Principled Leadership is Crucial to Success

Larson and LaFasto's eighth characteristic is Principled Leadership. Though it is the last one mentioned, this characteristic lies at the core of a company's success.

The role of the leadership team is crucial, especially in a phase of rebuilding and re-energizing. A strong team needs a strong leader, and this is even more crucial during tough times. Leaders need to trust their team with responsibility, inspire and empower their team members, encourage open and honest communication, provide stretch goals that keep the team challenged, recognize superior contribution and create an environment that fosters teamwork among the leadership and throughout the organization. They also need to demonstrate humility, leading by example in accepting success lightly while admitting mistakes and accepting faults.


A report by the Korn Ferry Institute sums up the environment needed to foster high performance teamwork as: "…Successful teams do not simply happen. They take much effort and time. They take proper guidance and support from the team leader. They require an organizational culture which enables and fosters team work." (Ken De Meuse, 2009)

In today's rapidly changing corporate environment, a strong team is the backbone of any successful enterprise, and, especially during difficult times, can be the difference between just surviving the storm and coming out of it stronger.

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