Thursday, 8 May 2008

Net-work, not more teamwork (2)

Following form the previous post, what can one do? For starters, don’t oppose people spending some time networking inside the firm. If you have a formal IT system for that, you are well advanced. Many organisations are just beginning to come to terms with the idea that people are connecting and will continue to connect routinely outside the boundaries of the division, team or department. But is this not something that even traditional management wanted to do?
Promote the idea that people should go ‘outside’ for questions and answers. ‘Outside’ may just mean inside the company, but in another division or affiliate. People should pick up the phone and be able to ask a colleague miles away, perhaps somebody they have never even met, how they solved problem A. Going beyond the natural boundaries should be the norm, not the exception. These are not behaviours reserved for one-off situations or annual internal company conventions, where so-called Best Practices are shared. This is not enough. We need real time sharing of those best practices or best ideas.
We simply need the ability for somebody in sales in the South of the country to be able to shout, “Houston, we have a problem” and then get help/an answer almost on the spot, because he is reaching an entire network of potential experts for solving the problem. Not just his peers, not just his immediate team, not just his boss. And frankly, if you think this can be done via email, forget it.
You need to accept that it is much messier than organisation chart management and a command-and-control style of leadership, but you can no longer afford people on the payroll who are only good at the internal dynamics of the team. Chances are you have lots of those already. You need net-working as a routine process and this is different from the standard networking: something that usually has the emphasis on the net, not the work.
Teams are predictable structures. They are very good for operational delivery, but not so good for strategy or innovation. A certain degree of ‘groupthink’ is always present. Putting the net-work before the teamwork ensures the continuous flow of new ideas. If the old saying “If you have two people who think the same, fire one of them!” were to be applied to teams, the world population of teams would shrink by 50%.

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