How well are your teams operating, and are teams still relevant in today’s workplace?

Longtime organizational management scholars Constance Hadley and Mark Mortensen tackle these questions in their latest co-authored Harvard Business Review article, “Do We Still Need Teams?”

In light of the pandemic-driven surge in hybrid and remote work, the co-authors – who specialize in helping leaders build collaborative, resilient organizations, particularly in remote and hybrid work environments – examine the sustainability of teamwork in a post-pandemic future where they foresee coordination-related stressors continuing to mount.

“Teams have always had to expend a significant amount of time, energy and attention on coordination tasks like disseminating and directing information, resources and work; establishing healthy norms and resolving conflicts; aligning motivations and efforts; integrating disparate personalities; and putting together combined deliverables,” the co-authors explain. “Working globally adds time zone, cultural and linguistic differences to the mix as the basis for subgroups or misunderstandings. For these reasons, collaboration overload has been a risk for some time. The widespread increase in hybrid work has massively multiplied that complexity.”

Based on new research, they offer up solutions for reducing some of those costs and creating more bonded, close-knit teams across remote/office boundaries. Their bolder recommendations include empowering smaller groups to make decisions and fostering psychological safety, disbanding or significantly reducing teams in favor of a higher proportion of individual contributors, and reducing jobs down to tasks. Their less radical proposition involves transitioning from “true teams” to the use of “co-acting groups,” and they go on to highlight the nature of these groups, as well as the upside and downsides of implementing them.

“To repeat, we are not anti-team. In their full glory, teams are worth the investment, even today,” the co-authors conclude. “Yet we know as well as anyone how challenging it can be to execute them successfully. All too often, teams fall below their potential. If this is the case in your organization, it’s time to think more seriously about new ways of working.”

The Future of Leadership in Remote and Hybrid Workplaces

Leaders looking for guidance on how to successfully manage remote and hybrid teams can greatly benefit from the interactive workshops and executive education programs offered by Constance Hadley and Mark Mortensen. They also provide confidential advisory services to individuals and small groups. Contact us to learn more.