You’re working with a global project team that’s struggling to meet its goals.

The project leader and team are experienced, but you’re not sure how much support they’re receiving from the rest of the organization.

The senior team is concerned and is considering a leadership change. They’ve asked you to assess the situation.

When a team needs to improve its performance, leadership is always an important consideration: Does the leader have the right skills? How’s their leadership style impacting the team?

But leadership is not always the problem.

Global teams are systems, and a systems perspective can help you assess and improve team performance.

As described by Amy C. Edmondson in Teaming: How Organizations Learn, Innovate, and Compete in the Knowledge Economy, teams share many characteristics of complex adaptive systems found in nature.

Teams are dynamic, interactive, use feedback loops, and are unpredictable.

To use a systems perspective to improve team performance:

  • See the big picture. A team is part of a broader system. What internal and external factors may be affecting the team’s performance? How can the team mitigate risks and maximize opportunities, related to these factors?

  • Identify connections. Cross-functional global teams are inherently complex. What other departments does the team rely on to do its work? How do formal and informal organizational structures affect these interdependencies?

  • Recognize patterns. Patterns can provide valuable insights that help you design more effective interventions. Are other teams experiencing similar issues? Can you adjust something in the overall system, to help the team be more successful?

  • Focus on learning. Learning requires teams to act and reflect. Do you have a learning culture? Is the team suffering from “analysis paralysis” (e.g. spending too much time assessing vs. taking action)? What can you do to help the team learn more effectively?  

To improve team performance, try using a systems perspective.

If you could use some help developing a high performance team, give ECC a call at +1.847.920.0190.