8 Vital Steps for Executive Teamwork and Organization DevelopmentWe’d just finished facilitating a two-day offsite retreat with an international resources company when I came back to my office to find the June issue of Harvard Business Review with a feature article on “The Secrets of Great Teamwork.” The authors — two management and organization behavior professors at Wharton and INSEAD — were reporting on their 15 years of research involving 300 interviews and 4,200 surveys of team leaders and managers.

Martine Haas and Mark Mortensen find that “teams are more diverse, dispersed, digital, and dynamic than ever before. These qualities make collaboration especially challenging.” Their research shows four enabling conditions create the most effective teams:

  • Compelling direction
  • Strong structure
  • Supportive context
  • Shared mindset

Our highly productive retreat exceeded participant’s objectives. Many executives — who’d been through numerous planning sessions and retreats before — deemed this one the best they’d ever experienced.

After reading the teamwork article and then editing and finalizing the extensive set of flipchart notes and plans we’d generated at the retreat, I reflected on the key elements that led to such a successful session and how these overlapped with Haas and Mortensen’s findings:

  1. Starting with foundational models/frameworks
  2. Visioning the ideal culture
  3. Clarifying and agreeing on four core values
  4. Identifying leadership behaviors/actions that most clearly live each of the core values
  5. An anonymous/safe process to name the biggest moose-on-the-table (or elephant-in-the-room) that need to be addressed
  6. Prioritizing the “moose issues” and having “courageous conversations” to deal with them
  7. Establishing three Strategic Imperatives to move all this idealizing and planning from vision to execution
  8. Setting up implementation teams and process with timeframes and follow up dates

Option #1 at Leadership Team Retreats describes this methodology a bit further. My recent webinar on Executive Team Building and Culture Development provides a deeper look at these approaches.

As Haas and Mortensen conclude, “teamwork has never been easy — but in recent years it has become much more complex. And the trends that make it more difficult seem likely to continue, as teams become increasingly global, virtual, and project-driven.”