When you think about teamwork in the workplace, traditionally we think about the dynamics of individuals placed together to accomplish a series of tasks for the organization.
This textbook definition takes into consideration the fact that there’s more than one person, different personality types and working styles, and the actions and nuances that take place in the course of working together. We generally know how teamwork works from a historical sense, right?
The new normal that turns the old definition of teamwork on its ear is rapid change. Where that previous definition was perfect in the days of telephones and fax machines, where materials were considered the key to corporate success, it’s antiquated and outdated in the Age of Information. Now, data is the key to company profitability, and the key is to act on it faster than your competitors. This points to corporate agility — the ability to receive and successfully act upon information by swiftly shifting resources — as a pivotal business strategy for surviving and thriving in the 21st century.
But what does that mean for teamwork?
If you look at that traditional definition, it means it needs a little reworking. Because normal team dynamics take into account work plans, schedules, and deliverables. What does that mean for teamwork when you could be midway through one strategy and suddenly be directed to go in an entirely different direction? How does that affect team morale?
These are the questions we must ask as we look at how cultures of innovation and the new normal of constant disruption affect the workplace. Where innovation came every year or so many years in the last century, it seems to happen on a near-daily basis now. Technological disruption and the rise of consumerism means that companies can disappear overnight if they’re not willing to get out in front or adapt. This means building a culture of innovation within the organization, one that looks to solve the problems that don’t exist yet in order to lead from the front. That culture relies upon constant idea generation, corporate flexibility, and personalities that thrive on the thrill of constant change. It requires a diligent definition of the corporate culture, a talent strategy that finds and molds minds that live and breathe that type of challenge, and a teamwork strategy that allows for quick shifts in strategy along with constant energy and passion for the end goal: winning.
In this next epoch of the world of work, we must keep an eye to building systems that maintain teamwork in high-pressure, constantly-shifting market environments. Leadership development must create strategies, the management teams must learn to embrace and reward for performance under these circumstances, and top management should learn swiftly how to engage and foster companies that are malleable in structure but rock solid in mission and execution. But it starts today with understanding that teamwork isn’t what it used to be. Indeed, the business world isn’t what it used to be. The sooner we learn to gather resources around agility, the swifter our path to profitability. But it all starts here and now.