High-Performance Teams

In general, most teams possess the following characteristics:

  1. They are united by priorities and goals that align with organizational priorities.
  2. Communication within the team is clear, streamlined, and collaborative. Conflict, when it does occur, is always seen as a way to improve.
  3. The most important tasks are completed first, with the team able to distinguish between urgency and impact.
  4. There is a strong culture of trust where members are respected for their unique skills and are encouraged to be themselves or take risks. 
  5. All high-performance management teams have a growth mindset. They look for opportunities to improve and have the ability to accept and use feedback to their advantage.

Any organization can recognize the importance of high-performance management teams, but how are they defined, exactly?

With the above points in mind, let’s take a look at some real-world examples of high-performance teams and how they are used. 

General Electric

When General Electric set a goal to produce the largest commercial jet engine in the world, the stakes were high. The engine, dubbed the GE90, was the first such engine GE had designed from scratch in more than twenty years. What’s more, the development of the GE90 had cost $1.5 billion before it had even progressed to the manufacturing stage.

Then-CEO Jack Welch recognized that factory manager Robert Henderson could not accomplish this gargantuan task on his own: “We know where productivity comes from. It comes from challenged, empowered, excited, rewarded teams of people.” Despite this realization, both Henderson and Welch understood that factories were mostly unempowered workplaces where individuals felt like small cogs in a vast machine.

To develop high-performance teams within a factory environment, Henderson visited other establishments with high employee autonomy for inspiration. He then hired employees with Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) mechanic’s licenses instead of simply hiring general mechanics. This resulted in a far superior team that was capable of making crucial decisions on their own, which increased productivity and morale.

Henderson also stressed the importance of decluttering and contracted out non-job-related tasks such as bathroom and breakroom cleaning. The goal of this initiative was to allow factory employees to focus their skills and expertise where it mattered most.

Apple

As a company operating in the dynamic and disruptive consumer electronics industry, Apple relies on high-performance teams to innovate and maintain the company’s market dominance.

Apple’s research and development arm consists of a high-functioning and a largely self-managed team of designers, quality control experts, and professional engineers. To attract the best talent, the company relies on a rigorous recruitment process that was instituted by Steve Jobs.

In the early days of the company, candidates would start at 9 in the morning and spend the whole day meeting everyone in the building at least once. The hiring team would then convene and decide whether the candidate would progress to the next stage. This involved showing them a Macintosh prototype, with Jobs only hiring those who were genuinely excited and enthusiastic about the new piece of technology before them.

Boeing

Boeing uses high-performance teams to make the company a better place to work via employee involvement. In a 2004 interview for the company magazine, Chief People and Administration Officer Laurette Koellner noted that “Competitors can duplicate our technologies and processes; however, they can’t duplicate our people. Our people are our competitive advantage.

At its core, employee involvement at Boeing means staff can influence decisions that affect their work. Instead of the top-down, hierarchical approach, high-performance teams take responsibility for managing their workspaces and making process or workflow improvements. This means teams are afforded more autonomy and free access to important data and technology that makes their life easier.

One example of this process at work is the self-managed team that used to manufacture the struts for a Boeing 757. Based far away from company headquarters in Wichita, Kansas, teams at the strut factory were given the training, resources, and responsibility to manage the factory as if it were a standalone business

Key takeaways:

  • High-performance teams are characterized by collaborative communication and goals that align with organizational objectives. Team members also trust and respect one another and adopt a growth mindset.
  • General Electric relied on high-performance teams to build the world’s largest commercial jet engine. Apple, on the other hand, relies on high-performance teams to maintain a competitive advantage.
  • At Boeing, teams can influence decisions that affect their work and are given more autonomy and control over their areas of expertise.

Read Next: High-Performance Management.

Read Also: Eisenhower MatrixBCG MatrixKepner-Tregoe MatrixDecision MatrixRACI MatrixSWOT AnalysisPersonal SWOT AnalysisTOWS MatrixPESTEL AnalysisPorter’s Five Forces.

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