Smart Leadership – Why You Should Leave the Most Important Tasks Up to Your Team


More than two decades of research, hundreds of studies and thousands of books: And yet, the equation for successful teamwork hasn’t been fully solved. Any project manager who is pursuing ambitious goals and is expected to instigate change knows that the rift between everyday business practices and the demand for an open work culture when it comes to projects can present a seemingly insurmountable obstacle. Especially in the context of digital transformation, the question of what makes teamwork most effective is once again gaining relevance.

Digital Transformation Is Diffusing Organizational Structures

Technological innovations change the way people work and communicate in companies. Traditional organizational structures are becoming more diffused. The concept of hierarchical levels and functional organizational units seems destined for extinction and is being replaced by flexibly organized projects that are managed with a clear vision and goal and not according to the HiPPO principle (highest paid person’s opinion). Modern leaders – let’s call them smart leaders – have long understood this challenge and are looking for viable solutions that allow them to efficiently organize projects and teamwork beyond hierarchies and that can be applied to daily business practices to achieve project and corporate goals.

But what does the interplay between smart leadership and teamwork look like? As mentioned above, the concept of teamwork has been around for more than two decades – but the changes brought on by digital transformation are making us realize that we really don’t know much about it. Google investigated this issue and took a closer look at the mechanisms responsible for successful teamwork in a long-term study.

Image: Google, teamwork isn’t an event, but a process – here’s a snapshot from Google’s office in Dublin


Avoiding the Silo Effect and Institutionalizing the Horizontal Exchange of Knowledge

Google’s leaders were quickly confirmed in their basic assumption that good teamwork is the key to better project results. Projects carried out by teams comprised of members with equal rights also achieved their objective much more quickly than projects that were organized around hierarchical and functional boundaries. A key factor is avoiding the Silo Effect: Managers who communicate a horizontal perspective to their project staff regarding upcoming project tasks are ultimately rewarded with higher-quality results. The more employees are made aware of overall corporate goals and the relevance of their project, the more precise and proactive the decisions made by the team will be.

Such a horizontal perspective promotes the exchange of knowledge and makes use of the principle of swarm intelligence: A heterogeneous team composed of members with varying areas of expertise and different strengths and weaknesses can solve a complex problem faster and better than individual experts. We addressed the potential of swarm intelligence to assess a project’s chances of success in our previous blog post.


Even If It Can Be Controversial at Times: The Open Exchange of Ideas Is Essential

When it comes to teamwork, the level of professional competence and range of experience of the project members really aren’t that significant. Or in other words: Even if you assign your most skilled employees to a project, it still doesn’t guarantee the project’s success. The way the collaboration – the team side of the project – is organized is much more important. Can team members rely on each other? Does the project sponsor trust in the team’s sense of responsibility – for example, that the team is capable of correctly assessing risks and selecting the best course of action? Do all members of the team understand the project objectives and can they personally identify with them? Is the project scope relevant to the team and is the team aware of its relevance to the company?

The core task for managers is to answer these questions together with the team and to institutionalize teamwork as an ongoing process rather than an occasional event – this calls for smart leadership! The open exchange of different opinions and suggestions that may even contradict each other at times doesn’t pose a problem, but becomes part of the process of creating the best possible solution together as a team. Smart leaders facilitate this exchange and motivate their project teams to openly share suggestions even when they’re controversial. For anyone who would like to support this process through regular online surveys among project participants ...we can offer a solution :-)

Summary: Studies such as the analysis conducted by Google on the success formula for effective teamwork confirm that openness and diversity of opinion are the basic prerequisites for successful project work. How do you organize teamwork for your projects? We look forward to your feedback – request a free live demo of Surwayne today and follow us on LinkedIn and Twitter!

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Jasmin Daneschumand

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