Interconnected Teams Are Shaping the Future of Organizations

Source image: NASA/Flickr.
How NASA’s Mission Control is a model for operational excellence

In Deloitte’s Global Human Trends 2016 report, their research revealed a startling chief concern among the 7,000 business leaders surveyed: 92 percent of companies believe “redesigning the organization is very important or important.” Gone are the days of top-down hierarchies. If businesses want to thrive in the 21st century, they must make interconnected teams an essential part of their structure and culture.

The Mission — Not the Medium — Is the Message

While the organizational concept of interconnected teams is nothing new; Rensis Likert first proposed the idea in 1961, calling it a “participatory management system” — the 2016 Deloitte report reaffirms the growing prominence of interconnected teams within modern organizations. Functional organizations aren’t dead yet by any means, but the rise of interconnected teams necessitates that businesses must adapt to this new model — and soon.

Graphic: Bersin by Deloitte.

They identify two areas of management: administrative and operational. Administrative or talent managers work within the “old” functional model of organization: Their focus is on the individual and his or her function. Operational managers, which Deloitte classifies as project or “mission” managers, keep teams focused on mission objectives and give their teams the autonomy to accomplish their tasks. While both co-exist in modern organizations, interconnected teams can only thrive when operating with strategic alignment.

Ground Control to Major Tom

Astronaut Chris Hadfield has called the Mission Control Center at the Johnson Space Center “one of the most formidable and intellectually stimulating classrooms in the world.” Of its team, Hadfield continued:

“Everyone in the room has hard-won expertise in a particular technical area, and they are like spiders, exquisitely sensitive to any vibration in their webs, ready to pounce on problems and efficiently dispose of them.”
Source image: NASA/Unsplash.

At NASA, the Mission Control team carries the burden of making decisions that could impact astronauts’ lives — but they also have the opportunity of making discoveries that could impact humankind, possibilities that only space exploration can provide. It’s their interconnected web of expertise that has afforded Mission Control some of its greatest triumphs. In times of crisis, their lightning-fast response has not only saved missions, but millions of dollars, and human lives.

Interconnected teams are the only way to achieve quality in complex endeavors. Because they can act quickly, they avoid delays from a cascade of decision-making that degrades quality along the way. For companies, these delays result in poor product. For NASA, delays in critical decision-making can cost astronauts their lives.

Strategic Alignment Launches the Rocket

Just as Mission Control utilizes a comprehensive pre-launch checklist of steps, so too can companies begin undertaking their own checklist of organizational redesign — which, as Deloitte noted in this year’s report, is the No. 1 priority among professionals. Deloitte identified seven ways companies can foster and encourage the growth of interconnected teams. They can be grouped into three basic directives: focus on goals, share information, and de-emphasize organizational structure.

Image: SpaceX/Unsplash.

Empowered interconnected teams can only function when organizational layers are eliminated. Not all hierarchies are bad, but the fewer layers between teams, the more efficient they can be. If your organization is still working within a mostly functional paradigm, it might be time to rethink your organizational design.

As Deloitte has revealed, organizational redesign will shape companies for the foreseeable future as systems of superfluous hierarchies are retired in favor of interconnected teams — and strategic alignment of those teams is mission critical for success.


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