In this video, learn about a radical rethinking of the core reason that teams exist, and the ways team members can collaborate most effectively.
- So what if you walked into work tomorrow and told your team, I want you to inventory all the problems you solve, individually and collectively. The team goes to huddle in a conference room, fills a whiteboard with post-it notes describing the recurring problems the team encounters. And, by the end of the day, the team has a map of all the aggregate challenges that they face on a regular basis. The next day you walk into work and you tell your team, now, I want you to figure out all the tasks you perform, individually and collectively, to solve those problems.
And be sure to write down how much time you spend on each of those tasks. Team goes back to the conference room, creates another blizzard of post-it notes and, by the end of the day, they have a map of the tasks they perform to solve all those recurring problems. By now your team members may be scratching their heads, what's the boss looking for here? Is this laying the groundwork for a reorganization? Is my job in jeopardy? And, your answer I hope would be something like, no, what's at risk is your traditional way of thinking about your job.
There are many reasons to consider this kind of shift in thinking. But for now I'm going to give you just one. Keeping the future workforce engaged with the work that they do is going to mean empowering individuals to do their own work design. So let's keep going. Day three, you tell your team, now I want you all to write down separately, what do you think are your strongest skills? What are your superpowers when it comes to your work? And, by the end of the day, each team member has a well-developed list of their top skills, including their knowledges, their transferrable skills, reinforced through discussions with their peers.
On the fourth day, you tell the team, now, I want you all to go to work together and rearrange the tasks that you do so you're each doing the work you're best at. A lot of give and take here, you might not be doing something you really like to do but your co-workers agreed you do it well. And there will be some tasks you're going to currently be doing that you're good at, but someone else might be even better at them. There will also be tasks that need to be done, nobody loves doing or feels they're especially good at, but they still need to be done.
So somebody needs to sign up for doing those tasks. Finally, you say to your team... You may discover, hey, they're some holes here. There are critical tasks that need to be performed, we don't have anybody who's great at them. That's a great result for you. We'll already have gotten a job on defining the problems and the tasks to be performed by a future hire or two. Look, I'm not suggesting you actually do this tomorrow. It's really more of a mental exercise for you. But there are two main reasons for these visualization gymnastics.
First, it's important for you to start thinking of your team as solving a pool of problems by performing a pool of related tasks and using a pool of skills. We tend to think in the traditional context of jobs. One person with a set of problems, tasks and skills. But when you go to hire a replacement on your team, it's not uncommon to simply update an existing job description without stepping back to think and rethink the entire set of problems and tasks involved.
It's by breaking down these work components, then building them back up again, that you can flexibly approach the process of understanding the work your team actually needs to perform on an ongoing basis. Reason number two for this kind of thought experiment is to envision this as a process your team members can solve themselves rather than you having to be the one to solve it. Now, that might be a little uncomfortable for you. After all, you're the manager, right? Aren't you the one who's supposed to be solving these problems? Isn't structuring the jobs of your team a core part of your task list? But what I'm suggesting is a completely different way of looking at it.
Instead of being the one who defines how the work gets done, you're the one who simply defines the problems to be solved, and then lets your team determine the best way to solve those problems, collectively and collaboratively. In a rapidly changing world, entire organizations are going to need begin seeing themselves as sets of problems to be solved and, encouraging workers to identify and solve those problems without necessarily requiring their work to be restructured by their managers. So here's your assignment, try this on yourself.
Break down your work into problems, tasks and skills. See if it gives you a different perspective on your role in the organization and makes you think differently the next time you go to hire someone.
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- Dealing with disruptive change and the new rules of work
- Establishing a new contract with workers
- Rethinking job qualifications
- Hiring for diversity and inclusion
- Identifying key skills for adaptive workers
- Helping your team become lifelong learners
- Leveraging automation for your team
- Becoming an adaptive manager
- Making human resources a partner
- Recognizing when your adaptive strategy is working