FRIENDLY CO-EXISTENCE IS NOT THE SAME AS FRUITFUL COOPERATION

FOUR COMPANY CASE STUDIES

Several companies use the Team Culture® Test as a development tool, and it has proved to be highly valuable in many situations. The following four cases from different companies will demonstrate the potential of this tool, and you may be able to recognize these challenges:

  1. An experienced project team needs to significantly increase their collaboration to achieve an important deadline
  2. A management team needs to think more strategically
  3. A development team misses a potential for achieving higher quality
  4. A merger affected the quality of a team's work.

CASE 1 - COORDINATION IS NOT THE WAY TO INNOVATION

The interdisciplinary project team must get a product ready for the market, but they have unresolved issues with the product, and the deadline is approaching.

Their Team Culture® Test indicates that the self-sufficient team culture dominates, which comes as a surprise among the members who think of their team culture as boundary spanning. They often meet in the team and coordinate their tasks, and they thought they had good cooperation and friendly relations.

To the project manager the test results hit the bull's-eye. “You hold on to your own professional responsibilities and leave it to me to coordinate the work across the boundaries. I don’t think you take responsibility for our shared tasks or that you are curious and helpful enough towards each other". They coordinate a lot, but they do not cross borders or question each others assumptions; so knowledge sharing is limited to the simple information.

Teams with a self-sufficient team culture believe that 'friendly co-existence' is the same as ‘fruitful collaboration', because they are blind to the great potential that lies in bringing differences into play. The members do not get sufficiently close and enter into difficult debate because it can generate friction that can be uncomfortable but is also a precondition for innovation because it stimulates debate and challenges the old patterns.

The project team will not meet their deadline if they fail to make a genuine breakthrough in the unresolved problems with the product. As a consequence, the company will lose income, and furthermore other important development projects will be delayed, which might be even more expensive for the company.

The test result is an eye-opener for the members, leading to new ways of collaboration. The team discusses how they can make a more boundary spanning team culture with more trust so they dare to be more curious and courageous and less complacent. Reshaped professional relationships helped them to produce new complex knowledge, so they solved their problems and met the deadline with a high quality product.

 

CASE 2 - WHEN THE MAGAGEMENT TEAM FALLS INTO THE OPERATIONS TRAP

There is a good atmosphere and high energy in the management team, but they realize that they spend their time on operational matters.

Their Team Culture® Tests indicate that they are dominated by a self-sufficient team culture, and they are not happy with this, particularly the boss. "We have repeatedly agreed that it is necessary to get more reflection into the group, so we can develop our domain, but we haven’t done anything active".

The management team spends almost all their time on operations and very little on how their domain should develop and what trends they need to anticipate. It inhibits their room for manoeuvre and their influence in the company, and it will have a negative impact on their results.

The test also indicates that their cooperation can be characterized by the separating team culture, which is problematic. They explain the tendency to separate when there is high pressure, which gets them to stick stubbornly to their own points of view and to follow their own interests rather than the common goal. This threatens their performance, since it is the duty of the management team to coordinate and develop new ideas for the entire domain.

The management team agrees to allocate ‘time to span out boundaries' on their monthly meetings so that together they raise their eyes and think more strategically. They usually take a round where they report what has happened in their field. But now they will change this round and tell each other what they plan to do. In this way they can involve each other from the very beginning and start thinking across boundaries so that they not only solve the operational problems but also are able to anticipate problems before they arise.

CASE 3 - WE ARE GOOD, BUT WE CAN BE EVEN BETTER

The development department thinks they do a great job, and the company praises them, but they fail to see the potential for even higher quality.

Their Team Culture® Test indicates that the boundary spanning team culture is dominant, which is good because their main task is business development, and this culture nurtures the production of new complex knowledge. They cooperate in all directions across their professional skills and tasks, and they also collaborate a lot with other departments.

The test indicates some traits of the equalizing team culture and it turns out that certain topics cause the team members to seek refuge in a quick consensus. This hampers their development work, and they agree to be more careful in creating trust and common ground when difficult issues arise.

In addition, they are not sure how strong their boundary spanning team culture is. "We're not so good at getting involved and make suggestions on each other's domains. We are cautious when we span boundaries. Perhaps we are afraid to annoy or hurt each other".

They agree to have a more free exchange of viewpoints and interference across the boundaries of expertise. "Let's cross boundaries" will be the signal to change the team culture during a meeting to allow each other to ask 'naughty' questions and interfere. This will give access to hidden qualities so the team can reach a higher level in their development work.

CASE 4 - THE MERGER AFFECTED THE QUALITY

The team was created two years ago as part of a merger between different business units, but the team culture is still strongly affected by this big change process.

Their Team Culture® Test indicates that the equalizing team culture is dominant, and that the self-sufficient team culture also is evident. Most of the operational tasks are distributed so that the employees have their own field of responsibility, and the self-sufficient team culture is suitable for that kind of organisation.

But why is the equalizing team culture so strong in this team since it is not helpful for their performance? Some of their tasks require knowledge sharing and development of ideas and solutions across their boundaries and that is very difficult in a culture with a strong urge for consensus and a group pressure towards avoiding certain topics.

The team is pleased that the test indicates an equalizing team culture. "If we had taken the test a year ago, you would see what a separating team culture we had at that time. It is a new thing that we can talk about our relations. It is nice that the test shows that we have built trust and moved on after a negative and exhausting period.” So their current equalizing team culture should be seen as a positive development.

They should not, however, conserve the equalizing team culture, but now proceed to develop their abilities to span boundaries, because that is a prerequisite when they need to share knowledge and develop new solutions.