Nick, from my experience of leading a high performing and geographically dispersed team I found a clear unambiguous goal / vision was critical. This was purposely designed to give a clear and tangible strategic vision for everyone to pull together and work toward. This included standing objectives, as well as key milestones / gate reviews, supported by periodic meetings with representation across the group, to build mutual situational awareness, pool ideas and expertise, thus strengthening the organisation through time and progress. Having a significant project and goal, namely our support to the 2012 Olympic Games, only served to strengthen the sense of teamwork and camaraderie.
I'd echo that - I don't think anything beats a shared vision in uniting human beings, regardless of geography. I'd add the importance of shared values and also a more subtle one of building a sense of identity - ie what's constant in who we are regardless of where we're based.
In my experience, engaging people around a shared purpose in geographically dispersed organisations is the same as engaging people without that challenge - you just have to work a lot harder for it - including working hard at getting line managers engaged in the shared purpose & values to support them to go back to their bases in a more unified way.
Agree with John and Jo. The critical first step is the vision. The 'meaning' question must be answered up front and reinforced at every opportunity and through organizational processes. Everything else flows from that in terms of connecting and driving collaboration across the business. BUT...leaders within the business must lead the vision by example-walking the talk consistently. The vision must be translated and filtered exceedingly well so prioritizing work with leaders is a must to ensure a 'one team' mentality.
It helps if you have an inspirational leader who is passionate about building a high performing georgraphically dispersed team.
I'd agree with what has already been said although no amount of vision and values (important as they are) will create a high performing team, whether geographically dispersed or not, unless the local managers and leaders role model it in practice. If 'one team' is your aim then everything that is done, every decision that is made, and the way managers manage, needs to be seen through a 'one team filter'. In other words make sure what you say you want plays out in what you do day in day out, then people will believe it and do the same.
I would also add that "how" you create or co-create your vision will be important in sending a "one team" meassge. Visions are aspirational dreams of a future state and everyome can have a dream. Asking people via focus groups 1-1 meetings, team meetings, public forums etc, from across locations and functions : What is your dream for the future of this organisation that will help secure a sucessful future? What would success look and feel like? What would you like to change to help secure this future? What do we need to keep doing or do more of to secure that future? How should people behave and in what ways can we ensure this happens? A key element of a good vision statement is that it is understood and shared by team members. Therefore how team members contribute and what happens to those contributions is a key step along the way.
The process of how the words are produced is as important as the actual words on paper if it is to be believable. To paraphrase Sarah it ain't what you do its the way that you do it!
Yep @Paul Heaton I have used that phrase many times (even used the Fun Boy Three song at an event once - cheesy but it was effective!)
I can only agree with all these valuable comments. It seems to be rather straithforward and we all agree. Then, why does it not happen as described above? I think that most leaders will also agree with what we say, but they just seem to underestimate the amount of effort and authenticity that this requires. For this, you need to have a very strong tandem approach between the top leader and the OD expert. There has to be a very strong agreement, trust and bond between these two. To me, this is the secret. Without this, the top leader will tend to take shortcuts ("I have explained it once, and that should be enough; they all understand now").
Great question, and excellent responses!
I agree that getting team members oriented toward a shared goal, vision, purpose, and strategy is critical--and it sounds deceptively. I believe the Drexler/Sibbett team performance model could be a valuable resource in staging the transformation of a high performance team.
The STRENGTH of functional and geographical diversity ultimately will lend itself well to delivering robust solutions. However, getting there could benefit from trusted and respected functional and geographical "champions" who can carry the messages deeper into the organization.
I've done a few studies on the role of inclusive leadership styles in diverse teams and the findings indicate that this style of leadership has potential to encourage team identity as well as individual contributions.
Nick, may seem a bit simple but bread and games have worked since Roman times.
Not suggesting you build a virtual arena and have some bloody entertainment, but get them to share their values and beliefs, provide a open platform to discuss stuff which is not work related as such.
As to bread, share interests, favorites and specialities.
The trick is that you create a platform on which you drive questions and spark interests which will bond beyond functionalities.
You then could also share more background on projects, about the organization, whatever..
Referring to "one team" I will deduced that you are talking about the organization coming together with vision, mission and goals?
If yes, Eric is correct that team building and communication has to take place, and cannot be a secondary function of meetings. Open communication, where people can share ideas without fear of retribution or ideas being sent to a division or department where they die.
Embrace Diversity, with cultural respect and geographical understanding .
Lead with energy and CARE .
Try and follow any Indian Successful Corporate. You will find team with members from diverse culture and geographically dispersed regions. If I am not wrong India has people from 56 different cultures speaking more than 106 languages. Yet they come together, adapt and adjust to achieve a common goal.
Agree with the above comments regarding the importance of shared vision, leadership and values and, in particular, the importance of trust. In terms of building trust, I have found open discussions between leader and team members around needs and expectations of each other can assist in this regard. I have also found that open discussions and agreement about how team members are going to communicate and collaborative can help to develop a feeling of 'one team'.
Yes, I agree with the above and would add: keep it simple. That is, get everyone's contribution to the 3 W's:
WHY we exist as a team- the context of the larger organisation and how we matter
WHO we are--our culture as a team, how we want to be perceived by others, etc.
WHAT do we want to accomplish- .what can we do that's important and unique
(I like to avoid the sometimes confusing terms of vision, mission, strategies, etc., at the beginning, especially when diverse cultures are involved).
Of course, a lot more detail can follow, such as how we work together, what our brand will be, our ethics, etc... for which a living team charter is very useful.
Finally, developing a true appreciation for cultural differences and how to exploit them to the fullest.
Team Leader has to provide a vision and have all team members get on board by deriving and developing a consensus on a common mission. A positive environment has to be provided where no team member feels threatened by his/her colleague. Communication channels have to be kept clear and open. It is important for the team leader to be in touch with all team members and as soon as any possible disagreement is seen to be brewing he/she ensures that it is nipped in the bud immediately.
All is,"easier said than done", but then there is no other choice.
I agree with the above comments. I also think you need a way to share documents and information; like a wiki or something - to allow people to collaborate on ideas and 'the work' together.
It is an interesting topic especially in today's world where the nature of jobs is highly diversified and international mobility is on high.
While making such a team it is necessary to assess each and every member on the parameters of their capability to work in multi-ethnic environment without offending the colleagues' ways of life.
As per my perspective, Shared Vision is the Most important aspect in bringing the Geographically distributed work force as "One team" . Having said that Most of the organisations built the shared vision in the beginning, but this is not alive in the entire organisation in different life cycles of the organisation / Leadership transitions. Leaders needs to keep this on top of the agenda so that petty things or individual agenda does't come as obstacles for team work.
In addition to that, having an internal social networking sites, short term projects delivered by geographically distributed teams,live video chatting technology & CSR (Charity) initiatives can help bring the "One team " bonding in the distributed team.
I would suggest bench marking the desired values of the team as you recruit or select them and only select those who conform to the right broad business value set.
I take a somewhat contrary view in the aspect of the "one team" aspect within business and say that "one organisation" with "geographic teams" pursuing a "common and local goals". The idea of teams are great and productive as they provide outcomes that are typically derived from consensus. However consensus outcomes tend to be dominated by robust personalities and therefore skewed.
With geographically and culturally diverse "Teams" you will get different outcomes; and a whole new way of seeing that a one team approach may miss out from.
Viva la difference. Don't get pigeon holed with ideas.
Taking up Trevors point (I see it as complementing rather than offering a contrary view to what has been said before). The "one team" approach should provide a framework in which differences in skills and perspectives can be appreciated and tolerated rather than suppressed and dominated by one view of the world. " Buy in" to any vision is more important than the words on paper. I find visions that work more effectively tend to connect people emotionally to what needs to be done to ensure longer term sustainability in a challenging and competative marketplace. They also manage to tread the delicate balance between what differences can/should be encouraged and those that may be counterproductive (usually in values, behaviours and attitudes rather than knoweledge and skills)
This visioning proces can harness the functional specialism as contributing something unique to that vision and in a way that is appreciated by other functions in the organisation. If this is not done well competition is often focused internally rather than externally and energy is often deployed doing the "wrong" things, not only having a detrimental impact for the wider organisation but in the longer term for the very functions that feel they are working well.
Geographical diversity can also offer a positive take on the "one team" idea. In what ways the same and in what ways different? As Monica said "developing a true appreciation for cultural differences and how to exploit them to the fullest. " For the benefit of the wider organisation and it's constituent parts. It's both rather than one or the other!
I also agree with all the comments above and would add a suggestion to look at your processes and systems to enable / drive cross team working rather that unwittingly encourage the possibly competitive - "MY team, MY budget, MY building" thinking.
Skype is an additional tool, especially with the internet. If not all members can attend a meeting then finding a solution for all members to attend, along with posting the minutes from the meeting in an online forum is important.
If you are talking doing this without coming together only periodically (and not often), here are some suggestions: (1) Ensure you have meetings with all of them, with an agenda. The agenda should clarify expectations and get feedback. If there are so geographically dispersed that they cannot be on Skype, ensure someone either represents each area, or you have someone who takes notes of main comments and gets them out to everyone. (2) The leader should be on the majority of the meetings. If it's delegated very often, soon people will think it's not important; (3) Have a shared drive on the company computer where everyone can "meet" for informal chats and "fun" stuff--just like Eric suggested. This is apart from "official" discussions; (4) When you talk to each group, ensure they know you are talking to the others, and have managers/team members of smaller, cross-functional groups talk. Finally, don't assume they all have YOUR shared vision.....it's hard for the leader to clarify that too often.
Talking about positive environment, communication or Vision...I think every organization might be working on these lines but still fail to get the results.
How does one motivate soldiers to work as team for the Nation...?
Unification can only happen by using Emotions as the driving force. Or else as an individual, everyone would have their own dreams, aspirations and demands...and it would not be possible to satisfy every one at the same time keeping them together...
So how to surface the emotions in this materially driven environment...?
I think One Team one Mission with one Vision always work.
Every organization has a vision and mission which is common through out the organization. Every business has different functions which are undertaken within the business.
With this premise it makes making a team so simple. Does not matter how diversified, geographically and culturally apart the business is. Organization is the bond and fulfilling of the vision the common objective.
Lots of people talk about shared vision / mission / purpose - which is absolutely right, but as others have pointed out, easy to say much harder to do.
Look up "Well formed Outcomes". It is a great NLP technique that I use a lot in empowerment coaching to help the leader articulate the vision in a way that makes it more meaningful to implement
There are a number of virtual platforms for online meetings My favourite is Zoom, which is cheaper and better than Webex. You can record the sessions and then play them back to pick up some of the nuances which can be lost from audio calls. You can then follow up with individual discussions for people who are not verbalising dissent, but their body language shows that they are not bought in.
Diversity lies at the heart of innovation. Respecting different inputs brings some really pragmatic solutions to the challenges that businesses / teams face - much better than groupthink.
Good luck. it is an increasing challenge for the way business is going.
As per my experience, just to add few more points - Increased means for communication, No one in the team (irrespective of their geography) should feel left out, Regular virtual meetings, Respecting the individuals and their culture & nativity, Leveraging the time zone differences to team advantage, taking into account that the same Organization might have different policies at different geographic locations (law of land)- just to name a few, Team outing at least once in a year, developing culture of appreciating each other and volunteer to help each other.
Interesting question Nick and some good points - Managing different people or small teams across a large (or even sometime small) geograhical area can be difficult & hard work.
I've found 'communication' is a great bringer together or team builder.
A newsletter can help - giving up dates about the team - make it regular or it loses it's appeal. With the wonders of technology it's easy to stay in touch (but how many actually do it - ask yourself when did I last speak to x,y or z). By calling the people directly you can pass on news - spread the message - live the vision and give feedback from others under your wing. Easy (well no it's hard work but worth it).
If the geographic variant sets you in front off a multicultural climat, reduce this effect by shoosing supperconnected profils according to their interst it helps you to find similar profile types insurring by this a minimum of group cohesion. the other criterias can come After to insure the fine tuning between the job descritions and skills of employees.
We find the creation of a Leadership Message incorporating purpose, vision, mission, pillars of operation, values and leadership behaviours all on one page is a great way to take the 'one team' approach out via multiple engagement sessions across the organisation which enable people to make sense of the overall message in tehir own areas and thus bring to life the words and intent.
I'd be delighted to let you have further details if required.
Examples can be developed to fit the context. The key is to build a compelling reason(s) for teams to collaborate and become a high performing team. Motivation to become a great team is the first step and this requires each team member feeling they own the solution. Building ownership and commitment is the first step. Building this 'bridge' across the globe and several cultural perspectives is the challenging part. Models and tools can then be provided to facilitate the changes and convert intent into content e.g., team coaching, team roles, assessment models and frameworks. Seems like you have an exciting challenge!!
Understanding culture and motivation factors for everyone is critical in building one team in diverse and geographically organization. Whenever management uses single yard stick for everyone then one team remains distant dream.
Providing real goals and objectives for the team to achieve: if they are really motivated to achieve the goal, and it makes sense to them, they will find a way to get over the geographical and functional barriers.
Nick is a freelance coach, trainer and OD consultant specialising in reflective practice.
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