5/3/2012 8:36 AM
If you watched the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, you may remember the extraordinary water cube where all swimming and diving competitions were held. This cube won prestigious engineering and design awards and cost and estimated 10.2 billion yuan. It could accommodate up to 17,000 spectators and was covered with semitransparent eco-efficient blue bubbles.
The Beijing National Aquatics Center was the joint effort of many engineering companies, consultants, and construction corporations. To execute the success of a unique and state-of-the-art structure, the best and brightest from many disciplines and different areas of the world were brought together to be the masterminds behind such a feat.
Amy C. Edmondson explained this strategy of forming the best team for a project/assignment in a recent Harvard Business Review article, “How to Master the new Art of Teaming.” To build the water cube, Edmondson wrote, dozens of people from 20 disciplines and four countries collaborated to win the competition and deliver the building. This required more than traditional project management: “Success depended on bridging dramatically different national, organizational, and occupational cultures to collaborate in fluid groupings that emerged and dissolved in response to needs that were identified as the work progressed.”
According to Edmondson, teaming epitomizes a new era of business. It’s “teamwork on the fly: a pickup basketball game rather than plays run by a team that has trained as a unit for years.” We see this in commercial real estate as well. Our clients are often trying to accomplish something that hasn’t been done before and might not be done again. This may not be practical for traditional team structures, so teaming becomes a very viable and intentional practice among many organizations.
For our firm, this has become vital, as we join different teams in order to execute the best solutions and transactions for our clients and prospects. Companies are asking for more of a teaming approach as they search for solutions to problems within their portfolio. The state of our economy has dictated bringing experts to the table to be more creative in solving issues never faced before. Teaming allows more opportunity for all of us to do business, while helping companies realize greater solvency during a difficult time.
The speed of change, the increase of market competition, and the unpredictability of customer’s needs require organizations to bring together “far-flung employees from various disciplines and divisions, but also external specialists and stakeholders, only to disband them when they’ve achieved their goal or when a new opportunity arises,” Edmondson writes.
There are some challenges in teaming on the fly. Conflicts can arise among people with differing values, norms, jargon, and expertise; people may not have time to build trust and mutual understanding; individuals must get up to speed on new topics quickly, again and again; and, lastly, fluid situations require constant communication and coordination.
But the benefits outweigh the challenges. They include innovation from combining skills and perspectives, the ability to solve cross-disciplinary problems, a greater alignment across divisions, a better diffusion of the company’s culture, a deeper understanding of different cultures and of the organization’s operations, an ability to meet changing customer needs, flexibility and agility, and the opportunity to import ideas from one context to another. Additional benefits include the ability to manage unexpected events and enhance project management and experimentation skills.
Teaming is here to stay—as long as we are faced with the challenges of hurried change and intense competition. A team of diverse experiences, cultures, geographic influences, and disciplines creates excellence. This is truth!
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