4 Steps to Creating The Network Team

December 4, 20204:00 pm1891 views
4 Steps to Creating The Network Team
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In this rapidly changing environment, business leaders and employees often need to respond with urgency, sometimes without senior executives and traditional governance lead. Waiting to decide, or waiting for approval, is the worst thing leaders can do in times of urgency. Yet, in some cases, some level of coordination across teams and activities is crucial for an organisation’s response to be effective. 

To achieve that effectiveness of organisation’s response, leaders have to create a robust network of teams that is empowered to operate outside of the current hierarchy and bureaucratic structures of the organisation. Creating a central “rapid response” group is the right first move, but leaders shouldn’t stop there. There are certain steps leaders should take to create a cohesive and adaptable network of teams, united by a common purpose, that gathers information, devises solutions, puts them into practice, refines outcomes, and does it all fast. 

Launch teams fast and build as you go  

Create teams that will tackle current strategic priorities and key challenges facing your organisation. 

Leaders should understand that mistakes are inevitable. The team you have just created might not be the right ones a month down the road, but the model is built to be flexible and to shift when that happens. Teams have to make the best decisions they can with the information that is available. The key is to stand up for the teams and let them course-correct quickly.  

The network team itself must be built to learn, using information to update actions and strategies. In a crisis of uncertainty, the network spurs experimentation, innovation, and learning simultaneously among many teams. It is important to launch two groups in particular: an intelligence team, which makes sure the network has a high level of situational awareness, and a planning-ahead team, which thinks through scenarios for the recovery and beyond. Each team should be small and contain a mix of individuals with cross-functional skills, acting with a clear mandate but also within guard rails that empower it to act. 

As soon as the teams are set, leaders should empower them to make decisions quickly. This will work only if they have what military leaders refer to as a “commander’s intent”, a clear goal that allows them to make decisions within a set of parameters. This improves both the speed and quality of decision making. It also allows teams to respond to the dynamic demands of the external environment and is one of the strengths of the network approach. 

See also: The Changing Paradigm of Organisational Network Analysis 

Get out of the way but stay connected  

As the network forms and the number of teams increases and the teams make their own connections, the leader is pushing authority down and out but also staying tightly engaged.

After creating the initial set of network team, a leader must shift toward ensuring that multidirectional communication is taking place. To do this, there should be steady coordination with the central team hub, perhaps in daily standup meetings. The central hub can check in on progress being made and find ways to support teams and make sure they are using first-order problem-solving principles. At this point, it’s time for the leader to step into the roles of catalyst and coach. 

As catalysts, leaders should identify opportunities, make connections across teams, spark ideas for the teams to consider, and provide resources to fuel those efforts. As coaches, leaders should regularly engage with team leaders and members, resolving roadblocks and helping them work through challenges. 

Champion radical transparency and authenticity  

In the network of team context, a leader’s approach to communication will foster an environment of collaboration, transparency, and psychological safety that is crucial to its success. 

Collaboration and transparency take hold when individuals in an organisation feel psychologically safe. Leaders should recognise people who are taking smart risks, be authentic in their communications and empathetic toward those who are anxious, and acknowledge their mistakes to others. 

What leaders should not do is punish people for failing when they have taken risks, or exclude those with relevant information or expertise from the conversation. The teams need to feel invited to share their ideas by the group for peak performance to occur. In a crisis of uncertainty, it can be easy for leaders to embrace the role of sole authority figure. For a while, people will feel comforted that a leader is taking charge. But if that is at the expense of allowing diverse views to assess the situation, anticipate what might be coming, and land on creative solutions to novel problems, then the teams’ performance will be suboptimal. 

Turbochange self-organisation  

Once the initial network of teams is established and after support from leadership early in the journey, the network should become self-sustaining and self-managing. 

In the fourth panel, the network begins to work together to mobilise at the edges, where the crisis is being fought most intensively. As problems are solved, some teams might go away which is good to avoid too many connections per person (too many emails, meetings, communications, and touchpoints). Yet, make sure the right network structure stays within a “small world network,” which might be large with many teams, but it feels much smaller because of the degree of separation between people. 

It’s important to note that the empowered network of teams will not encompass all of the organisation’s activities. There is still a core set of functions operating in the more traditional way, where the normal organisational structures are still operating and performing their typical duties in a more or less traditional way. Hence,  it’s still crucial that leaders do their part to keep it going. 

In sum, a network can help by infusing an organisation with a common purpose that allows it to respond more quickly to the challenges unleashed by the pandemic or any other challenges in the future. It can also highlight important behaviours like empathy, communication, and clear decision making, and point the way to becoming a more dynamic, agile organisation down the road. 

Read also: Mentorship Networks at Work Could Give Women a Career Boost 

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