It's more about the team than the teams


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As we know, a change defined world is the opposite of the efficiency and repetition defined world we are leaving.   That means everything else needs to change, especially organizing, to achieve our full potential.   The opposite of organizing is not organizing.   Too often Team of teams is caught up in the debate about what works better, decentralization versus centralization, or distributed management versus hierarchical management.  Better distributed management is not the purpose or outcome of ToT, nor does it always makes sense to use.  Global teams need strong leadership that cuts across multiple levels.

Only within the context of a shared purpose, vision and mission that is for the good of all, can teams be free to self-form and change to achieve the full potential for its team members, the organization and the world.   What's different then?  This only works when the Team's goals are aligned with Everyone a Changemaker vision for the good of all.   It is not that ending hierarchy, silos and extending leadership to all is the goal but rather the outcome.

So to answer the question how to make ToT easier.  Put Team and sharing common ultimate goal first.   

The idea then is to apply the ToT mindset to everything we do.   Our hiring process is a good place to start.  

In applying ToT philosophy to hiring,  design will be candidate and organization-centric, rather than team-centric.   Since people will constantly change teams, this ensures smoother transitions.  It will enable more clarity and structure to the process, and enhance a sense of higher purpose and importance to hiring. 

Therefore, the proposal is that the first interview after recruiter/sourcer screening will be randomized and focused on Ashoka criteria fit.  

Team fit, then teams/role fit, followed by leadership decision support.  

Ashoka is an entrepreneurial culture.  We are about ideas.  About mindset framework change.  Entrepreneurs should drive selection.  For expert positions, EACH alignment is at the heart.  To accomplish this, we will flip the first and second opinion interviews.   The first 2nd opinion has final say.   This puts us in the best position to ensure alignment to build this unique community defined by entrepreneurial work and values. 

This will be a big change to explore together.  


Bob Spoer

How do you define a Team of Teams (this isn’t a test!)? What is an example of one that you have experienced or seen?

Team of Teams is a new way of organizing work to improve creativity and productivity in the context of constant change and disruption. It is a philosophy that can scale through technology and a unified sense of higher purpose where all individuals exercise empathy, new leadership, collaboration and changemaking in a trusted context where control is never wrested by teams or individuals from the whole and good of all. Team of teams also supports the creation of a unifying culture that emanates from shared values within highly distributed and variable value creation models. There are for-profit, non profit, hybrid value systems, along with global and local program design and delivery systems. I've not experienced true Team of Teams at Ashoka. Partly, it is due to the organizational structure I find myself in: "shared services". Everything we do involves working through multiple teams, often in 4 dimensions -- leadership team, diamond team, program team and shared services team who can be at odds with each other about the goals, objectives and methodologies. The very concept of shared services is inconsistent with Team of Teams. It reflects more of an older paradigm where the organization tries to achieve economies of scale to lower cost of operation. Moreover, shared service projects fail (and often end up costing more than they hoped to save) because they cause a disruption to the service flow by moving the work to a central location. The search team has been driving towards an enablement model with reduced cost, increased automation, moving work to local centers, while creating value (hopefully) through new search methodologies and by leveraging the process to inspire EACH evangelists, support funding, partnership development, marketing, networking and market intelligence. We've reinvented search to go beyond just search. We are solving business and social problems through people. Our value proposition is in identification, engagement and nurturing of relationships that help Ashoka realize its Everyone a Changemaker vision. We are helping to transform the way we hire, market and fundraise. The closest thing I've seen to Team of Teams was at Linkedin. There, we had a core mission of creating economic opportunity for every member of the workforce. The organizational structure was unique for a $2B+ company. There was only one budget holder, the CEO, and each team was focused on creating organic growth. There were 4 divisions. There were no boundaries between teams due to integrated budget, and cross functional projects were the norm. It was easy to form new teams. At any given time, I was part of 4 or 5 teams. There was complete transparency with respect to work assignments, compensation and individual performance. it was a cubicle environment. The performance management process was based on self-appraisal towards goals agreed upon with leaders. There was no forced ranking, probably the biggest hurdle to collaboration and sharing. Employees moved around laterally, functionally and geographically all the time. Culture of transformation where people worked in tours of duty, and were expected to take intelligent risks every day. Start-up creation and support happened inside and out of the company. One team literally took the technology they built at Linkedin to form a new company outside without any return for Linkedin with Linkedin management support (Confluence).

TEAM COMPOSITION: Are there any specific roles and/or attributes that you believe are necessary for an effective Team of Teams?

Leaders need to focus on helping the organization move from an "us verses them" relationship to collaboration which can only work with a mindset shift is taken towards one team, while helping teams keep score and compare results. Fostering a shared mindset though it not enough. Leaders have to also create the conditions for team of teams success which include a compelling direction, tools for supporting honest, transparent self-appraisal, and strong structure that is centered on diversity and shared values. Diversity is a driver for innovation. The collaborative approach will require decisions about how to do this without traditional financial controls, lack of complete defined scope of work, and how to fairly share the cost risks. Team members need to think about good of all versus good of team. Team of teams is about creating change, not creating efficiency. Efficiency will get worse before better. Team members should be able to support a culture of risk taking that proactively enables everyone to be confident outside of their comfort zone. They should not expect to be doing the same job for more than 2 years.

TEAM COMPOSITION: Please share any challenges you've experienced related to putting together a Team of Teams. How have you overcome these challenges?

We've overcome challenges by constant innovation and testing new things that eventually get to breakthrough approaches. Changing the nature of roles in the context of taking prosocial risks -- give to give, equal value exchange, building trust. Mostly, it is by staying centered on the needs of the teams involved, rather than aiming for better results. Open, honest, direct communication.

TEAM COMPOSITION: Are there any successful approaches to creating a strong team that you would like to share?

Create a team dynamics and assessment model: who matters on a team matters less than how the team members interact, structure their work and view their contributions Everyone needs to feel a sense of safety, dependability, value for their contributions, and sense of impact of their work

GOAL SETTING: In your opinion, how should we measure success for Team of Teams projects?

Measure contribution to the whole' teams should rate each other along similar lines - safety to bring controversial issues, dependability, structure and clarity of ToT work, meaning of ToT work, impact of ToT work. Measure level of initiative taking. Eliminate individual performance agreements, and measure only team performance both among and in between teams.

GOAL SETTING: In previous Team of Teams efforts, please share any challenges in either setting or achieving project goals. How have you overcome these challenges?

Significant challenges around teams sharing costs for cross functional work. Reducing to one budget owner should work.

GOAL SETTING: Please share any successful approaches to goal setting for a Team of Teams project:

Technology is key for staying on track -- google doc, Excel, etc

FINANCIAL SUSTAINABILITY: Do you have a successful approach for ensuring financial sustainability of Team of Teams projects?

Every team member spends an hour a week building new external relationships that lead to new hires, funders, partners, nominators and/or influencers. Every team will be enabled to fund their own work through a peer to peer fundraising model.

COMMUNICATION: What communication challenges have you experienced with Team of Teams in the past? How did you overcome them?

There's confusion and disagreement about Ashoka criteria and work processes. We've attempted to streamline them constantly to ensure that every step is unique and offers equal value exchange that leads to long term relationship building. The confusion typically centers on identity. We may work on different teams which constantly change. We need to think One team.

COMMUNICATION: Please share any successful approaches to communicating across a Team of Teams:

Written communication tends to be overlooked. Email should be the last resort when asking someone to do something. It is better to call or meet when there's a request. There should be no expectation that the person read your email. When introducing new things, better to over communicate at the beginning.

DECISION-MAKING: Have you experienced any challenges related to decision-making within Team of Teams? How did you overcome them?

Decision making is best when there's data to support.

DECISION-MAKING: Do you have a successful approach related to decision-making within Team of Teams?

Constant data analysis to support, check and course correct where necessary.

FEEDBACK: Have you experienced any challenges in receiving (or giving) feedback related to a Team of Teams project? (paragraph)

Yes. Feedback is given usually in a challenge or conflict situation rather than as a regular course of action in a team of teams situation. We need to move towards a culture of constant feedback, and a spirit of intellectual curiosity.

FEEDBACK: Please share an ideal feedback process:

Focus on facts, assume good intentions is a must given world of constant change. OK to question decisions but never question motives. Most important of all, start by seeking to understand first before making statements. We should never provide feedback about a team or person that we would not say in front of the other person.

REWARDS & INCENTIVES: Please share any ideas for incentives or rewards that would compel you to participate further in Team of Teams projects:

This is the wrong question. Ask not what ToT can do for you, ask what you can do for the Team.


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