Provocative Propositions

In the hyperactive and challenging world in which we all live, it is becoming harder and harder for business leaders to find time to read, reflect and gain insight from the many valuable sources at our disposal.

In "Provocative Propositions", The Beacon Group attempts to fill that void by offering our opinion, often rather pointed, on a wide array of issues we believe are relevant to leading a modern organization.

The articles are catalogued into 12 categories so you can quickly and easily find a topic of particular interest. We then offer three easy steps under the heading "In Our Opinion" to help business leaders take action on the key themes.

Simply click on the category and read away.

Teams of Experts
Two hours north of the hustle and bustle of the big city, a team of young executives gathered for a two-day offsite meeting at a four-star resort set in the lush woods and the tranquil setting next to a lake.

They are the best and the brightest.

The first day of their meeting was a tremendous success. They spent time working on team dynamics, they established their decision making process, and finished off with some light-hearted teambuilding exercises. Much good wine was consumed along with a first class meal. A few people even shot pool to enhance the bonding experience.

Itís the second day that is the problem.

It turns out they have no real idea why they are there.

They have no real idea how this relates to their day jobs.

They have no real idea of what they are to work on.

The fact is - for years, organizational teams have focused on one thing - the dynamics of the team. The emphasis of their activity has been on developing the team, not on understanding how the team can benefit the organization.

The result is - a tremendous amount of time and energy have been wasted on the inward focus and mechanics of teamwork. The focus has been on making the team fit to tackle any challenge. The reality is, however, that most teams have focused so much time on themselves that they have lost their sense of perspective.

The outcome is - organizations everywhere work hard at assembling teams that are sub-optimal and destined for failure and, ultimately, these teams under-deliver on what would otherwise be outstanding ideas.

The solution is - to develop an organization that thrives not on teams, but on X-teams. In other words, teams are set up based on rigorous mandates, and ultimately focus their time and energy on delivering on their mandate.

No more X-cuses

Gone are the days of experiential, falling out of a tree, kayaking down the river, team building sessions. The fish are spoiled, the cheese is rotten and, oh yes, we are actually here to get something accomplished.

The traditional view of teamwork is no longer. No longer can organizations justify spending the time, energy and money on elaborate offsite meetings where the only outcome is the intangible glow of feeling they have created a better team.

X-tra Effort

Building an X-team involves a tremendous amount of effort. While a typical team usually has a static membership and a mandate that never really changes, an X-team differs in 3 distinct areas as authors Deborah Ancona and Henrik Bresman oiutline in their book "X-Teams".
  1. Extensive Ties - X-teams are connected and they use their expanded network regularly; they value knowledge sharing.
  2. Expandable Tiers - X-teams know that not everyone is as important, or should be as involved in the task at hand; they value the value-add.
  3. Exchangeable Membership - X-teams morph over time. Those who start, may not be needed down the road as requirements change; they value the right people in the right seats - at the right time.

X-treme Execution

Now, donít think for a second that X-teams donít spend any time at all on team process or donít believe that chemistry, trust and collaboration are not important ingredients. In fact, authors Ancona and Henrik outline three X-team principles: X-ternal Focus, Flexible Phases, and X-treme Execution. The foundation of X-treme execution is team dynamics and process. In order for an X-team to be truly effective, they must master the concepts that drive execution.

For example, X-team members must foster a "safe" environment wherein team members are able to fully utilize their creative energy without fear of being judged by other team members. Also, X-team members ensure an efficient process by fully understanding each others' areas of expertise and then putting the right person on the right part of the task. Lastly, X-teams spend time on team reflection. This "internal audit" allows the team an opportunity to highlight areas of the process that were beneficial to the outcome, and those that impeded the outcome. That way, problems can be avoided in future tasks, and the team develops a cycle of success.

In Our Opinion

The Beacon Groupís Keys to Developing X-Teams

Tear Down the Walls - Organizations looking to develop X-teams must develop an organizational layout, and a culture that promotes the process of "gathering". X-teams are self-motivating, therefore, if you give employees ways to "bump" into each other, the teams will spring up around you, on their own,

Leave Them Alone - Leaders must understand the X-team is more effective when it is left to develop its own agenda and mandate. If anything, ensure that the organizational needs and future goals are understood at all times, and the team will find ways to deliver on these challenges.

Get Them Outside - Once the teams are established, open the front door. Meeting rooms should only be occupied at the beginning of the day and at the end of the day. As X-teams succeed by focusing externally, their process begin with understanding what information they have to gather and then shift to having team members going offsite to meet with experts and other sources of knowledge. Lastly, the team members must re-group to teach each other what they've learned.

Celebrate Success - Leaders of employees who are part of X-teams must practice what author Jim Collins calls "Level 5 Leadership" - a combination of humility and fierce resolve. They should ensure that the organization knows what pace is expected in order to reach its goals, but as goals are achieved, the emphasis should shift to praising those who helped reach the goals, as X-teams.
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