Succeeding in complexity

Senior managers running teams virtually across both cultures and countries must have the ability to operate at ease as facilitator, improviser, manager and orchestrator, according to a study of complex teams by researchers at Ashridge Business School.

by Ashridge Business School, spring 2006
Last Updated: 23 Jul 2013

The study, based on questionnaires with 300 people working in ‘complex’ teams and 20 in-depth interviews with team leaders across various industries, also found that teams need to move towards a model of shared leadership in order to work successfully together.

Of the team players questioned, 73% were working in multidisciplinary teams, 70% were dispersed geographically, 69% were working on complex problems and 57% were working on multicultural teams.

With less opportunity to work face-to-face – 58% of the group that were identified as high-performing met up annually or less frequently – other forms of communication need to be embraced. The top peformers used telephone for a range of activities including interviewing, performance reviews and problem-solving.

The study asserts that the secret to successful non face-to-face communication is fourfold: creating a clear communication strategy, focusing on non-visual communication skills, building trust within the team and harnessing technology to its best advantage.

The high-performing leaders demonstrated excellence in managing upwards and downwards, communication, agreeing outputs, and coaching the team. And the most successful teams enjoyed far greater training and development support, as well as better performance management, human resource policies and technological support.

Source: Succeeding in complexity
By Pam Jones, programme director and Ashridge coach, and Viki Holton, senior researcher at Ashridge Business School, spring 2006

By Abi Newman

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