Today's highly competitive electronics market sector is defined by the global supply chain. And, not that we need any more acronyms in our industry, for the rest of this article I am going to refer to the global supply chain as the GSC. It's not just anticipated that companies in this sector utilize the GSC as part of their business methodologies; in many ways, they are defined by it.
But, other than indentifying the individual elements that comprise any company's place within the GSC, we don't go much beyond that. We define the “what” but we don't always define the “who.” The GSC is characterized as functions but little is taken into account regarding the individuals within any given company's GSC. And, as the importance of role of the GSC continues to grow, ignoring the individuals within any GSC becomes short-sighted at best and very detrimental at worst.
As part of a GSC, we are disparate individuals working for disparate companies across disparate geographic locations and in disparate time zones so we can become oblivious to the existence of a common goal. A contributing factor can be due to the common goal not being clearly articulated, recognized, or acknowledged. We are pieces of the same puzzle but are aware as such only because we have contact, in some manner and in some places, with the other pieces.
In the foregoing scenario, how important is the “team player” concept? Can it exist? Is it necessary? And, if it can and should exist, how can it be created and utilized?
If you research almost any information resource regarding how to run a successful business, it's nearly impossible to find one that does not highlight the importance of team building as an essential element for success.
And, increasingly, it's being noted that not just any type of team dynamic will suffice. Recent studies have shown that truly successful teams are comprised of people who feel their contributions are important and valued. Further, teams that are characterized by shared values with like-minded individuals who see their work as being important are noted as being more motivated, more focused and, ultimately, more successful.
Being part of any type of team is no longer sufficient. It's important to be part of a team that is qualified along a number of performance matrices. These matrices include, but are not limited to the following elements:
- A well defined and well implemented communications structure. In order to keep everyone on the same track, team leaders need to be sure that they are communicating with the individuals that comprise the team. A couple of important items to note.
- It's important to develop and maintain a management structure that is effective and efficient. You don't want people to blindly stumble along but you also don't want to micromanage them or their efforts.
- Communication must consist of not only sharing information but listening and “hearing the message” when team members need assistance, clarification as to product development efforts, project milestones, etc. In many instances, team leaders serve as negotiators among the various GSC members
- Another goal is to keep projects on track and make sure that team members communicate any “glitches” or “hiccups” they may encounter during the process. This is where effective listening skills come into play. Team members have to feel secure enough within the GSC team framework to apprise team leaders and other team members of any issues that may affect any milestone dates or tasks. This is especially important within the GSC wherein you have disparate individuals working in disparate companies, etc.
- When glitches or hiccups are encountered, encourage input from team members. Remember that not all team members will be comfortable in providing this input due to the structure and work culture within their own organizations.
- Establishing and implementing an environment wherein all product development goals are clearly and succinctly stated and ensuring that all of the team members have the same level of understanding of these goals not just from the standpoint of their contributions but from the standpoint of the overall product development process. We can easily become isolated in our own worlds of tasks and agendas but when working within the GSC, we need to remember that we are part of an overall product development system. And, in order for that system to function properly, we need to be sure that, in some manner, we are all marching to the same drummer.
- Realizing the difference between being a project manager and being a project leader. To paraphrase Captain “Sully” Sullenberger who was one of the keynote speakers at the Semico Impact Conference, “Boards, Chips and Packages, Designing to Maximize Results” held in October of this year at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, CA, there's a difference between being a good manager and being a good leader. If all you are is a good manager, you will probably fail.
If performance matrices are clearly defined and understood, what is it that makes some teams more successful than others? On the surface, the differences can seem subtle such as recognition and allegiance to a common goal and team building beliefs and actions that are truly team centric. But, perhaps the most important element is the recognition and appreciation that team members have for one another. In theory, this can seem to be the big “Duh!” but, in reality, actually practicing this process of recognition and appreciation can make the difference between a group of individuals that comprise a “team” and one that comprises a truly “great team.”
And, while sports references may be overused at times, their currently exists an organization that does highlight the difference between an organization that is a “team” and one that is a really “great team.” And, that example is California's Golden State Warriors NBA team. I have never really been that interested in basketball. Neither my husband nor I have followed basketball in the past. We don't know much about the rules of the game, the finer points of finesse and strategy and between the two of us, before this year, we probably couldn't name five known NBA players.
But, beginning with the NBA playoffs of this year, we found ourselves not only interested but also enthralled by the Golden State Warriors. They epitomize a truly “great team.” And, as a result of being a truly great team, they have accomplished what no other NBA franchise has ever done. More so, with each game that they win, they establish a new record. So, what makes the Warriors so great? Star athletes? The burning desire to win at all costs? The answers to these questions are somewhat subtle.
It's true that the Warriors have some star athletes such as Klay Thompson and Steph Curry. And, it is true that they are out there to win every game if they can. But, it goes deeper than that. At the heart of the answer is the fact that the Warriors embody all of the elements that make any one team great. For instance, in a recent game, Steph Curry had the clear opportunity to make a two-point shot. Instead, he passed the ball to his team member so that he could make the shot.
For Curry, the game is not just about being a star it's about enabling other team members to be recognized and valued as well. And, it's not just about the players. Interim coach Luke Walton has not been credited with the Warriors recent wins because these wins have come at a time when The Warriors head coach, Steve Kerr, has been recovering from back surgery. When questioned about the wins not being attributable to him, Walton states that he is a functionary carrying out Kerr's well developed plans. He has said that adding wins to Kerr's total is just part of the payback that he owes to Kerr for all that Kerr has done for him. Kerr is equally humble as he states that Walton deserves the credit for the wins that have occurred under his watch. It's this complete embracing of team spirit and dynamics that have made the Warriors an unparalleled success story.
So, the question becomes, what can be learned from the team dynamics as embodied within the Warriors? Are there companies in the GSC that can come to display the same kind of like-mindedness? If so, which companies are they and can your company become one of them?