Almost every successful business I know is struggling to focus on its core outputs.  I don’t suppose this is a particularly new phenomenon, but there does seem to be a new trend emerging. 

In traditional organisations, high quality people were almost automatically promoted out of their successful specialist roles and into the hierarchy of general management.  There was an assumption that quality manpower sat most properly in the central stream. 

The consequence was that, all too often, quality was stripped from the very heart of a business’s value chain. 

Out-Sourcing Managerial Capability

Progressive organisations increasingly outsource as much non-core business as they can: training, accountancy, data management and, often, much of their non-core production as well.  Central management is thinned to the minimum and specialist suppliers fill the gaps with better efficiency and a greater inclination to innovate in their particular areas of expertise.

The consequence is to make the best people in the organisation available for its mission critical areas; the very place where they can best contribute value.  There will always, of course, be a demand for high quality people in central management roles, but those are becoming fewer in number and will no longer be manned at the expense of core activity.

Team Performance and Senior Leadership in the New World

This trend has fascinating implications.  In my role as an individual and team coach I spend a lot of time working to improve the corporate effectiveness of people collaborating in groups. 

The dynamics of leading a team and making it work have always been fundamentally about the management of human relations.  Of course, our workplaces face unprecedented rates of change and the environment in which we operate is constantly altering around us.  On the other hand, even if the cultures from which our people are drawn change constantly, the essential nature of human beings doesn’t alter much.  Leaders have to reflect these conflicting dynamic and static demands on their role with care and sensitivity.

As businesses increasingly outsource non-core activity and tighten their teams down to the most focused and mission directed forms that they can, what effect will this have on the way we lead our teams, and what will that mean for the way we manage and prepare individuals?

The Effect on Individuals

It may mean that the route to the top no longer passes through general management roles in the centre of the organisation.  The successful store manager of a retail business, previously liable to find herself moved to Group HQ as a marketing manager or for a spell in procurement, is more likely to be moved to a larger store or a group of stores.  The brilliant engineer in medical technology, massively effective in developing new designs for complex equipment, will not be pushed into strategic planning and marketing, but will be encouraged and rewarded for developing his expertise in new and improved engineering solutions.  The young book-keeper in a car company may face some tough career choices; such specialist knowledge will have more value to an out-sourcer who deals in such work. 

The Effect on Teams

For teams, the consequences are equally dramatic.  At the top level of the business, organisations need to learn to rely on personnel drawn both from their own resources and from those of specialist suppliers.  This may mean making teams out of working groups and managing people from different suppliers, let alone divisions of the same business.

Meanwhile, an organisation’s own internal teams can be expected to become more specialised and more focused.  The trend for increasing autonomy will allow them much greater flexibility and freedom to manage the means by which they achieve their Mission and their Tasks.  Developing, leading and managing such teams will require a different approach to the people, the corporate dynamics and the organisation, as well as the technology and processes that support them.

Senior Leaders and how to Adapt

At the most senior level this trend will also have its implications for those who run a business’s most powerful teams at Divisional and Board level.  Over time, there must be an expectation that these groups will consist of internal personnel with much greater specialist knowledge and much less general knowledge.  Those members representing functions that are routinely outsourced will increasingly also be recruited from the outside.  The dynamics will change significantly and the need for careful career planning, leadership and management will become more critical than ever.

Improving the Performance of Senior Teams

Dialogue International offers both individual and team coaching  services that reflect these new realities.  The unchanging nature of human-beings is matched with the ever-changing environment in which they work.  In particular, our formal UpAGear programme, itself the most recent product of decades of refinement by our partners at Maximum Performance International, seeks to embed lasting improvements in people, teams and coaches and is a proven means of upgrading effectiveness and output. 

The sum capability of a team should always be greater than that of its individual parts.  In this changing world, are you sure your teams are really working for you?

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