By Janice Deringer
NEW YORK (
) -- Workplaces centered on teams are more important than ever. For those building businesses, it pays to recognize this often-overlooked truth.
We are in an era of virtual offices, changing job structures, job sharing and other forms of personal flexibility. This doesn't mean teams are a thing of the past. Businesses are likely to continue to find ways to use team contributions. Not using teams may leave companies less competitive.
Don't assume that throwing people together or just calling a business "team-oriented" can create success. You need to account for cultural and structural factors and manage the team appropriately. Do this and the sum of a team can be better for your business than its parts.
Team rules and the future.
Many organizations these days seek to innovate and increase flexibility to meet competitive challenges. That's why strict hierarchical business structures are less prevalent lately -- they can't adapt easily to new business models. Result: Businesses need to shift even more toward using teams of knowledgeable, talented staff to meet rapidly shifting needs.
A business must respond quickly to changing conditions, and a collaborative group of peers are best at solving problems ranging from customer relations to business operations.
Technology brings teams together even though they are not all in the same place. Once, getting everyone together meant costly, time-consuming travel. But today's digital connections allow organizations to be more productive through virtual teams.
As firms grow and build teams across groups and geographies, they benefit by staying on top of technology. We now have platforms that give team members in different cities equal access to the same resources and information. Video conferencing, chats, desktops sharing and of course mobile email break down barriers within geographically disparate teams.
Businesses that simply assign individuals to a team without much thought do not always get the results that they want. Teams, and specifically team leaders, should choose members who can make a unique and significant contribution. All members should demonstrate leadership, not just the designated team leader. Then teams need to establish a system of accountability that covers how everyone on the team performs.
A good idea is creating teams with a diverse group of members from a variety of roles, locations and backgrounds. Assigning all front-line people to an issue without bringing in operations specialists who can figure out the logistics is a bad approach to problem solving. Diverse teams also require stronger leadership to ensure every team member's voice is appropriately heard.
Resources and speed.
Good teams can innovate more quickly in response to a challenge. They should also gather the resources to develop solutions to keep the organization competitive. But managers have to empower them to do so.
No geographic hiring limits.
If a business is adept at managing teams, it can hire the best people, regardless of location. This means a New York-based business no longer has to recruit only in New York. It might find that the perfect person for the position is in Florida.
The team is greater than the sum of its parts.
As costs constrain companies, they must become leaner. Teams can improve performance with collaboration that surpasses what a group of individual contributors can produce.
Indeed, teams aren't just here to stay, they are a key to growth and innovation.
-- By Janice Deringer, senior consultant and an investment committee member at Hewins Financial Advisors in San Mateo, Calif.
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