From an island to an archipelago: building teams
Teams can be like islands, for best and for worst. At best, they develop a strong identity and support the people within the team to work together to help the team grow — identify its best resources (skills & networks) and use them to export to other countries or in the case of teams — other services & organisations and develop themselves (team development).
However, being an island, a team can’t be 100% self-sufficient, it needs to build strong relationships not just to others it is providing a service to, but to help develop a strong supply chain — with other teams who bring skills that complement theirs.
What does this mean for corporate teams?
Often corporate teams will be focused on function and transactional expertise, economies of scale through centralised services and be relatively hierarchical and stable. At their leanest, they will focus on the bare minimum mandatory activities needed to meet regulatory reporting (i.e. performance, audit, treasury) and at their most transactional, they will focus on functions that provide economies of scale (IT, procurement, HR, facilities management). Even where they focus on added value, it can be done in an ivory tower kind of way (i.e. strategic & financial planning, OD, communications & marketing)
Instead, there’s a need for those corporate teams to focus on developing strategic insight to support the organisation and work together in more multi-disciplinary ways to tackle the organisation’s strategic priorities, where authority is distributed where it’s closest to solving the problem with a resident or partner.
That’s why it’s important to balance the focus on the delivery of current activity with more outward-facing work which is about scanning the horizon, sense-making and exploring innovations — creating the collective intelligence or insight that helps your team anticipate, adapt & scale.
To do that best, I’ve found it helpful to have a mix of core team members and a wider network of people you can bring it either in a structured way like secondments, fellowships or job shadowing who bring their specialist skills but most importantly their connections and their view from the “outside” and the ability to then transfer the knowledge they’ve gained in your team back into theirs to amplify the change or the impact your project has had.