Most of the companies I work with struggle to accomplish more with a smaller staff. This is a pervasive challenge for businesses in our day. There are, to be sure, several ways to approach this challenge. One approach, however, that is cost effective and successful is to build the capabilities of the organization through the creation of effective teams.
Too many businesses respond to the need for expanded capability by hiring an individual who is qualified and competent to meet the immediate challenge. Once the challenge has been met, however, they either have an underutilized employee on their hands or they let the individual go. This will never be cost-effective. First, the business incurs the cost (in dollars, time and investment) of defining the job, advertising it, and hiring. Second, the cost of training or on-ramping must be considered. Third, the cost of either retaining an underutilized employee or of arranging a separation agreement will be incurred.
A second response to the need for expanded capability is the use of outsourcing to contractors. While this approach eliminates some of the on-boarding cost and the layoff cost, it can result in additional unanticipated costs. First, an independent contractor does not know the company its business or its culture. Second, an independent contractor will not have the internal ease or connections to call upon the staff for the same level of assistance or cooperation. Third, on-ramping actually takes just as long as it does with a new hire. Fourth, an independent contractor will approach the problem or the need from a single point of view. That point of view may or may not be consonant with the corporate culture or corporate values.
The response to this challenge of expanding organizational capability I have found to be most effective in a majority of cases is the creation of effective teams to accomplish certain tasks. Consider these points:
There is no additional employee or contractor cost.
There is no loss of time or momentum to on-boarding a new person.
The corporate culture and values are shared by the members of the team because they are current employees.
Current employees have communication networks throughout the company.
Current employees are already committed to corporate goals.
Teams are flexible they can address a single issue or several issues
When done well, participation on an effective team actually increases employee capability; it can then be applied in other parts of the organization
The key to building organizational capability through teaming is creating an effective team. My definition of an effective team is one that leverages the strengths of each of its members in such a way as to create more than any of the individuals could do on their own. An effective team will bring to the table a number of points of view, a variety of experiences, skill sets and knowledge bases. An effective team will not rely upon the thinking or the experience of any single individual. Rather, bringing the team together will, by virtue of the uniqueness of each individual member, provide the strength of diversity and experiential depth. It will create the kind of enthusiastic synergy and a level of buy-in that offers the best chance of identifying or creating solutions that are creative and innovative. Further, by bringing together people from various parts of the company, the news of their work and their solutions will quickly be disseminated throughout the organization, energizing others as they anticipate creative solutions that benefit the company and all employees.
If your company is faced with a need to expand the capabilities of the organization, I encourage you to take the bold step of creating a functional team gathered from across the company for their skills, insights, knowledge and experience, as well as their openness to negotiation and innovation. Once you take that bold step, I believe you will recognize a level of accomplishment that might be surprising. I am almost certain your next challenge will be met with effective teaming.
Copyright (c) 2007 Gayla Hodges