Gone are the pyramidal structures leaving their place to team-based organizations. Virtual, matrix designs, multidisciplinary teams helped by freelancers are some of the forms invented by organizations to be agile and respond faster to the reduction of their product life cycle.
These new forms, however, often exacerbate old structural weaknesses:
- How information transition between one team to another
- The integration and hierarchy of goals
- The overall alignment of these teams
The multiteam systems
Multiteam Systems (MTSs) is a relatively new discipline that has focused on these problems. This organizational science focuses on a network of team which work towards at least one shared goal, in addition to their individual goals. Thus, MTS specializes on the performance and synchronizations of multiple teams, as opposed to the effectiveness of one individual team (A Temporally Based Framework and Taxonomy of Team Processes, Mathieu, Marks, & Zaccaro, 2001, pp. 290).
To illustrate the challenges faced by multiple teams when they need to coordinate and collaborate, Mathieu and al (2001) use a now famous example: In front of an emergency, how do police, firefighters, nurses, surgeons and recovery teams, work together? Although these teams carry out markedly different activities, their efforts are tied thanks to sequential goals, all linked to a greater objective, a mission, that of saving lives.
The multiteam systems in the private sector
Multiteam systems are prevalent in the private sector, often as strategic alliances between developers, freelancers and organizations, or teams that need to cooperate in complex projects. They may even exist between customers and vendors. They are today multiplying because they offer cost effective solutions.
The problem for private organizations is that objectives are sometimes more conceptual. Goals are often moving targets depending on markets, customers or stakeholders, therefore, more difficult to grab and share. Teams can have different leaders with different priorities, or motivations. They might be easier to integrate to sales teams, at the forefront of the business and measured by numbers, but not as well to operations or remote workers.
Planning Vs Execution
To prevent surprises, a strong planning is normally what prevails, but weaknesses will frequently be discovered during execution. It’s during those moments that problems come to light: no motivation, conflicting priorities, long processes, bottlenecks, budget, etc.
The Chalmers University of Technology (Visual Planning: Coordination and Collaboration of Multi-site…, Bertilsson and Wentzel, 2015). conducted a research showing that visual planning fills its purpose well for when multiple teams need collaboration and coordination. Beside delivering an instant overview of what is being executed in the case of tasks, that methodology also keep everyone informed of the general situation, thanks to other signals (for example, colors) and visual goals.
In Kantask, we also believe there is an additional benefit when using a visual “planning” board:
Execution. As cards move from one stage to another, they reflect what is being worked on and will also show problems, such as poor workflows, stuck tasks, and so on. And research do confirm focusing on tasks creates cohesion.