The word and the idea of “team” has become a panacea for all that ails the organization. The idea is that a group of people, whose sole objective is to accomplish a task, will surely succeed, due to its single focus. This is great in sports, where the idea originated but unfortunately, it is not the case, particularly in change management and in Business Transformation.

Dedicated Team Pathologies

  • The Velcro Effect:  Velcro is very useful. You can apply something to something else and it will adhere firmly, until you peel it off. Many dedicated teams were “velcroed” to the side of the organization at one time and because they had no real home, were peeled off just as soon as the organization suffered financial hardship.
  • Goal Fixation:  It seems normal to think that if a team has a goal to achieve, then they will do so with a high degree of efficiency. But change management and Business Transformation are not goals; they are an endless journey or process. If the organization can afford to have a full-time team dedicated to what is essentially a process, then so be it. But an ongoing journey doesn’t sustain a focus, which is what the dedicated team needs to thrive (“I need to score enough goals to win the game”)
  • I’ve Lost My Home:  The functional hierarchy is based on the notion that everyone has his or her place in the power triangle of the organization. Dedicated team members need to relinquish their place in this structure and identify with the team. If the organization perceives that the team is not providing value, then every member is tarred with the same brush. And when the team gets disbanded, it is very rare that the team member returns to his or her former function. More often than not, they are released from the organization and/or go somewhere else.
  • What Was It Again?  Very often, in change management, there is lack of clarity on what the end goal actually is, especially when the idea of goal and journey are confused. Any semblance of a lack of focus causes the team to falter and start performing accessory and non-value added tasks. This gives the team the reputation of being a group of drones, causing the organization more grief than good. Shortly afterwards, the end comes…
  • Who’s the Boss?  Human beings do not behave any better in teams than they do normally. They compete, they jockey for position and they try to get their ideas heard at the expense of others. If the organization’s leadership imposes “a party line,” this contravenes the idea of a team, i.e. a group of people working cooperatively. If the leadership doesn’t, then there is an excellent chance for internal chaos to reign supreme in the team.

What’s the alternative?

The alternative is simple: by all means, form a team, e.g. a change management or business transformation team, but leave people where they are and have them dedicate 20% of their working day to implementation activity. Then, charge each team member with specific tasks related to the change process. By the way, this won’t work if they organization simply states that the team members will devote 20% of their time. It needs to be enshrined in the job description, the time needs to be tracked and performance needs to be measured. Also, there is no need for the same people to be part of the team on an ongoing basis – team members can change, as long as the process of change doesn’t.