The client was the transaction service line of a large, global professional services firm. We were tasked with working with them on teaming. Specifically, they wanted APS to work with their top 150 people globally, who for various, nebulous reasons were not producing results that aligned with their collective expertise and talent.
There were multiple key challenges brought to APS for resolution.
A lack of ‘connective sentiment’: The key people facilitated and experienced no authentic connection to each other, seeing themselves as separate revenue generation engines who communicated perfunctorily and only for informational purposes.
A zero-sum game mentality: Success for any individual or project group was invariably viewed by anyone not directly connected to – and directly rewarded by – the project or deal, as a personal loss. They called this their drive to “eat what they killed,” and it all but eliminated the chance of collaboration without a guaranteed share of the individual reward.
Protective-silo functioning: Projects with the potential for business outside of the scope of the original project unit, especially when expanding to the wider firm, were proactively suppressed to avoid gain for others from which the original unit would not directly benefit.
Size & complexity paralysis: Even for those who wanted to change the levels of collaboration, the internal narrative was the organisation was “too big,” “too complex” and “too traditional” to ever be changed. While most accepted they were part of the organisation, few embraced the idea of steering it beyond their individual contributions to the bottom line.
Present good blocking future greatness: TAS is the most profitable aspect of the business, and the key partners believed that “the way it’s always been done” in terms of leadership roles and skills, technical tools and internal and external communications channels would “always get the job done.”
No internal ‘personality’ audit: The senior and regional leadership was unclear where the vast majority stood in terms of their perspective on engaging with opportunities to become part of a more collaborative, unified, resilient and ever more high-performing unit.
Direct entry attrition: HR was seeing a trend for direct-entry hires, no matter their level of seniority, voicing a desire to leave within six months and indeed planning an exit strategy for within 18 months.
Open disinterest in collaboration: Numerous factors above combined to create disinterest in attaining an ‘optimal team’ status.
We combined two of our services for this client:
The Anatomy of a Team workshop
To assess the true nature of team functioning, APS began with cognitive interviews with a cross-section of senior leaders as well as team members who report directly or indirectly to these people. We did a review of engagement and staff survey, along with absence and churn data to determine a baseline unit operational level.
Armed with this data, we facilitated a greater understanding of the leadership about the status quo regarding collaboration and how policy, procedure, processes, interpersonal and office interactions and leadership behaviour maintained and indeed encouraged the anti-teaming culture. We picked what we considered the most easily influenced aspects of teaming behaviour and created a performance-related narrative for teaming as opposed to one that relied on a pro-social behaviour appeal.
The interviews gave us an insight into the drivers and motivational cues for the group as well as some of their basic likes and dislikes. We used these insights to create bespoke elements for our ‘Anatomy of a Team’ session to be delivered over two days as an intensive primer, and then an exploration of ways each participant can change their own practice, mindsets and behaviours to change the status quo.
There were outcomes from both the Anatomy of A Team workshop and the Organisational Diagnostic: