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We Don't Just Need Teams, We Need
21st-Century Tribes

I know we are in the 18th year of the 21st Century but are we really displaying the skills we need to do more than survive in the decade of disruption?

Moving to warp speed  

The need for speed in the world today means every organisation and business must work in a faster and more connected way. All sectors need to work swiftly and adapt to changing contexts. Yet our current hierarchical approach often stymies any creative thinking from the people on lower rungs of the ladder. Hefty bureaucratic processes slow things down. Default thinking and ways of working mean we waste time and energy on things that don’t matter. Lack of cultural growth and engagement in organisations creates stagnation. Low engagement brings no traction to businesses needing to speed up and stay with the wave of global transformation.  

The imperative of being able to work in a more flexible and agile way in the world today is well documented. Ever increasing technology advancement, global disruption to industries and increased consumer choice are causing both chaos and opportunity for organisations in all sectors. Technology democratisation gives everyone the world in their pocket. What’s out there is coming to me rather than me having to go out there and find it. Markets are demanding choice, high-quality service and value for money. Customers walk with their market share elsewhere to get what they need and what they want.  

Back in the workplace, we sit through meetings with repetitive agendas, listening to people drone on about tasks that don’t value add to what we need to do.

Most of us are tempted to face plant onto the table in frustration or boredom.

The important work to be done is mentioned fleetingly at the end of the meeting when we’ve run out of time. We nod to each other that we’ll get to that critical discussion next meeting. Back at our desks we hurriedly complete a siloed task before the next meeting of no consequence is due. Decisions take a torturous route on their way to being made, delayed through micromanagement and a tight control fixation. This creates frustration and lag in response to changing contexts and consumer needs.

Sound Familiar?

When teams don’t feel connected or engaged with their work or leaders, creativity and innovation fail to ignite.

People are demanding more of workplaces. We want a connection to purpose. We want to connect to what the business is doing and feel like we’re contributing. We are also craving for more connection to each other.

New employees come out of the education system familiar and savvy with technology and what technology can achieve. They have also been through an education system focused for the last decade on fostering thinking skills – critical analysis and collaborative problem- solving. Many managers and leaders are not skilled in either keeping up with technology leaps nor the facilitation of collaborative learning environments that bring out the best in people.

21st Century Tribes

The companies that are setting the standard are creating beyond high-performance teams. They understand a high-performance environment that will sustain future success needs a future-focused approach. They need 21st-Century Tribes.

21st-Century Tribes connect quickly to the higher purpose and each other. They concentrate on building strong relationships that bring about the glue of trust. They create an environment where team learning, curiosity and collaboration is in the DNA of how they work. They bring new and transient members into the team in a way that allows for time-limited projects and the ‘gig economy’ to flourish. They constantly go back to purpose and understanding why they are undertaking courses of action. They invite creativity and innovation. They value the customer and the purpose beyond all else and have outstanding ability to empathise.

If we know this, we can understand where to put our focus when we want momentum in our organisation. Not just shuffling people around, but creating real change in the way we work. Our work becomes about delighting the customer, fulfilling the needs and wants that the customer has, rather than just outputs. In the not for profit, government and human services sectors, it becomes all about the client – whether it be critical services for our most vulnerable, providing water, roads, health care or education.

Now is the Time to Move

we do this work is changing
and if we don’t

our most foundational
systems and behaviours,
we will become

outdated, outwitted, outsmarted

Companies’ relevancy will be reliant on teams being able to move in an agile and flexible way and being able to respond to context. Businesses are moving to a more project- and matrix-oriented way, where they can move people where they need them. They tap into the skills and the value that people bring, rather than proclaiming, ‘This is your role, and that’s the only role you’re going to have’. This 20th-century paradigm decrees, ‘It’s the role, not the person’. Whereas 21st-Century Tribes look at the skills the person brings, and how we utilise these skills and their attributes in the best way possible. Businesses that can move resources and people where they need to be, tap into the skills and innovations that will win the game.

A new organizational model is on the rise: a ‘network of teams’ in which companies build and empower teams to work on specific business projects and challenges. These networks are aligned and coordinated with operations and information centers similar to command centers in the military. Indeed, in some ways, businesses are becoming more like Hollywood movie production teams and less like traditional corporations, with people coming together to tackle projects, then disbanding and moving on to new assignments once the project is complete.

Global Human Capital Trends, 2016. Deloitte

How armed is your organisation for the now and for the future?

What are your thoughts? I'd love to hear from you.

If you'd like to see the indicators of a 21st Century Tribe, scroll down 



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