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The Often Missed Team Building Activity – An Organizational Growth Strategy: Part 4

Expert Knowledge Victor Cessan

The Often Missed Team Building Activity – An Organizational Growth Strategy

In part 4 you will learn how to build new teams with new hires. I’ve written out the benefits, drawbacks, and some tips on what you can do to reduce the downsides for each approach. Because there’s no organizational growth strategy that only comes with upsides, the key, as with most things, is determining which downsides you’re able to work with.

Build New Teams With New Hires

Rounding out the list is an organizational growth strategy I haven’t seen used widely but I find quite interesting and that’s worked for me in the few instances I been a part of it.

When I was a consultant at Avanza Bank in Sweden, they ran an experiment with a different approach to team growth: building entirely new teams with new joiners and have trial runs with trainees. The trainee teams received whatever support they needed in terms of coaching, facilitation, and mentoring. To some extent, this may resemble how some tech companies run bootcamps, but there are some meaningful differences: the length of time that the team stays together, for example, which in bootcamps can change from month to month as new hires get to explore new aspects of the company.

The benefits

1. Your organizational growth strategy does not affect multiple teams’ performance, dynamics, and psychological safety. Even if you do bring in people from other teams to embed for a short period of time, they’re not a part of the new team (but are instead temporary alliances), they don’t need to be in all meetings, and they don’t affect the social dynamics as much as if they were in the team. So the new and other existing teams can evolve their team dynamics mainly unaffected by each other.

2. Knowledge sharing and collaboration happens organically because team members are new to the context and knowledge so they all have an interest in bridging knowledge gaps. This is highly visible in bootcamps in which the team members communicate and collaborate often (in the beginning).

3. Increased collaboration increases people’s sense of purpose and motivation.

4. There’s little to no pre-existing status to consider. Because the team members need each other, they’ll have to learn how to deal with their differences.

5. Other teams, thanks to increased team stability, experience high levels of psychological safety which reduces inter-team conflicts and improves the company’s ability to solve complex problems and collaborate.

The drawbacks

1. There are lots of upfront costs with this organizational growth strategy. During the first few months, it may appear as if the new team is fumbling around as they’re trying to get up to speed–it takes time until the team is able to deliver substantial value.

2. All new hires need to start within a few weeks of each other which may not be popular with HR or Management because it makes their life harder.

3. This may mean that HR needs to re-think how they evaluate themselves from speed of hiring or cycle time per hire to speed of building happy and productive teams.

4. New teams may be considered second class teams that don’t get the help they need from more established teams. You’ll need to actively work on building relationships and setting up knowledge sharing between teams to counteract that.

5. Newer teams may get the “boring stuff” from other teams or not have the mandate as a result of other teams not trusting them. Motivation and sense of purpose could therefore suffer. Again, to counteract this, you’ll need to focus on building relationships and setting up regular knowledge sharing programs or mentorships.

Countermeasures

1. Plan which other teams and team members will support this newly-formed team. It’s great if you know what the new teams mission will be so that you can find relevant support from relevant teams.

2. Assign a junior product manager to this new team. A study done at Rotterdam School of Management found that junior team members feel safer to challenge the ideas of junior managers. Read more here.

3. Focus on early wins give the team bite-sized pieces of work that they can handle. Whoever is product manager needs to be willing to direct the team early on and slowly start sharing the ownership.

4. Make your decision-making process as well as prioritization process explicit as early as possible.

5. Arrange for all team members to sit next to each other in a collaborative environment (unless they’re a remote team). If possible, create a mob programming station in their team area to help them learn things together in the beginning (they’re going to need to).

Organizational Growth Strategy Take Aways

I've walked through a lot in this post, so I want to sum up my main takeaways (or the TL;DR for those of you who may have skimmed)

1. Different organizational growth strategies have different costs associated with them. To maximize the gain and reduce the costs, you must preemptively devise strategies that counteract the downsides associated with your approach to growing teams.

2. Not paying attention to your team growth strategy has a negative impact on team dynamics, performance, and motivation.

3. By involving the team in devising strategies, you’ll get collective ownership and also increase awareness.

4. What’s common in counteracting the negative effects is facilitating building relationships, knowledge sharing, and agreeing on how to makes decisions while team composition changes.

Is your company or organization currently scaling or planning to scale? You may be interested in my public training course Mastering Team Dynamics if so. It builds upon Bruce Tuckman's and Susan Wheelans research but has been adapted for knowledge work in a complex and rapidly changing environment and you’ll learn how to faster coach teams to high performance. 

Do you want to get to know further organizational growth strategies?

Read part 1, part 2 and part 3 here. 

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