Are your teams chaos-compatible? Premium

To read the article in full, become Privileged Subscriber or log in

How has teamwork changed over the past two decades? Today’s teams encounter ongoing uncertainty, complexity, and the need to collaborate across geographic, functional, and hierarchical divisions — work situations that call for flexible leadership conducive to improvisation.

Increasing organizational agility in the face of ongoing complexity and uncertainty requires developing the capacity of teams to improvise when necessary

Amy Edmondson invites teams to go from blind obedience to the rules to a more flexible style of execution— what she calls teaming — by practicing the following four behaviors:

1) Experimentation: adopt an iterative approach, continually proposing new ideas to see what others think and test out different strategies and tactics
2) Reflection: reflect daily or during natural breaks in the work on what is succeeding or not and the lessons that can be taken from recent experiences
3) Collaboration: sharing information, coordinating actions and plans, discussing progress and setbacks.
4) Speaking up: engaging in frank, honest communications — discussing problems, asking questions and for help when necessary — without worrying about seeming ignorant, incompetent, or overly negative

Business leader testimony

Improvisation, diversity, and flexibility within teams creates more opportunity for better results but also means having to cope with less controlled, more unpredictable processes, says Tristram Carfrae, the Arup senior structural engineer who led his company’s team in the design of the Beijing Olympics aquatics facility, known informally as the Water Cube.

Read our dossier
Are your teams chaos-compatible?

Business Digest no. 229, September 2012.
Based on Teaming, by Amy C. Edmondson (Jossey-Bass, April 2012) and the interview with Tristram Carfrae, Royal Designer for Industry and senior structural engineer, Arup.

Watch our video
Dr Mark de Rond on teamwork lessons learned from Camp Bastion’s military hospital

One of the greatest risks to team stability, explains Dr Mark de Rond, recently returned from fieldwork with the high-performance surgical teams at Britain’s Camp Bastion military hospital in Afghanistan, is boredom.