Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Three Steps to a Better Top Team

Virgil Carter

Does your top executive team function as well as it could?  Few teams do, according to authors Michiel Kruyt, Judy Malan and Rachel Tuffield, writing in a recent McKinsey Quarterly article.  “In our work with top teams at more than 100 leading multinational companies…we’ve identified three crucial priorities for constructing and managing effective top teams”, the authors write.  Here are the author’s findings:

·          Get the right people on the team…and the wrong ones off:  More than one-third of the executives surveyed said their top teams did not have the right people and capabilities—surprising since the membership of a top team is the CEO’s responsibility.  The key to getting a top team’s composition right is “deciding what contributions the team as a whole, and its members as individuals, must make to achieve an organization’s performance aspirations…”  Achieving this “typically requires conscious attention and courage from the CEO; otherwise the top team can under deliver for an extended period of time.

·          Make sure the top team does just the work only it can do:  Many top teams struggle to find purpose and focus.  “Only 38 percent of the executives we surveyed said their teams focused on work that truly benefited from a top-team perspective”, according to the researchers.  Top teams often fail to distinguish between topics they must act on collectively and those they should merely monitor.  The result can be jam-packed agendas and energy-sapping meetings that drag on far too long and don’t engage the team.  CEOs need to act when such dysfunctions arise, since “it’s unlikely that the senior team members will be able to sort out a coherent set of collective top-team priorities without a concerted effort”.

·          Address team dynamics and processes:  “Among the top teams we studied, members reported that only about 30 percent of their time was spent in “productive collaboration” –a figure that dropped even more when teams dealt with high-stakes topics where members had differing, entrenched interests”.  CEOs may take several steps to remedy problems with team dynamics.  The first is to develop a common, objective understanding of why its members aren’t collaborating effectively.  Another step is “for the top team to take ownership of the changes in the company’s performance and culture and to hold one another accountable for living up to this commitment”.  Finally, most “teams need to change their support systems or processes to catalyze and embed change”.  Correcting dysfunctional dynamics requires focused attention and interventions by the CEO.  Often more than a single intervention is needed.

Each top team is different and “every CEO will need to address a unique combination of challenges” to develop and sustain a highly effective top team.  For the full article, go here:  https://www.mckinseyquarterly.com/Organization/Talent/Three_steps_to_building_a_better_top_team_2743

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