Aug 2

We Will Win – Creating High Performance Teams

Michael Nothdurft
Michael Nothdurft is a Trainer, Consultant and Coach since 2009. With more than 37 years of leadership experience he supports organziations and people on their way.

Creating high performance teams using Open-Space and an effective model of leadership.

As soon as I am entering the old wooden building, I will feel the energy. It resonates in my body and everyone in that building seems to be totally concentrated and motivated. In that context I could enjoy and experience a new kind of leadership applying new participative elements.

As a member of a subcontractor-team I have the pleasure to join the approx. 70 people working on this huge project only from time to time. The project will be the breakthrough of a new system in the high-tech-area.

To win the contract the system contractor has hired a special Proposal Team that is famous for its capability to visualize complex technical issues and their ability to form high-performance teams to win proposals and contracts in a short time frame. The leader is coming from North-America, to work for 3 months in Germany.

How do they work? The goal is clearly set: “we want to win that competition, that big contract”. The leader behaves like a good sports-coach. He trusts everyone, underlines the strengths of the product and each team member, each expert. The team, including the subcontractors, totally agrees on the goal. The goal and the status concerning time, budget, content is permanently visualized and monitored.

The goal, the different tasks, timelines, budgets have been created by the team, including subcontractors in an Open-Space-Event. I call these events the pivot-point in an organization. The subject and some givens are defined; the rest is subject to the participants. They will work on the subject, they have real passion for or are experts in. Everyone is working towards the goal, they are burning for it.

The team itself has divided the task into many smaller projects. Then, the sub-teams formed themselves. The access to every expert they need is granted. The target of every team and each member is exactly defined and they know the relationship to the other tasks and elements.

Every morning the leader starts with a small gathering to show the progress. Each element that is finished will be posted on a wall. And at the end the complete building will be decorated with a huge amount of paper charts.

The leader is walking around, supports, and is always available for support, for clarification. His attitude is been very open. He is really interested in each member of the team. The team members can use a high degree of freedom and responsibility, but the milestones are fixed; they must be fulfilled. The goal: “We will win” is always present.

We are now 4 weeks before the closing day; most of the people do not go home at normal times. Some of them are working into the night, others very early in the morning, and some of them are even sleeping in the building. The working place turned into a living place. The energy in the building and the people is awesome. Everyone works extremely hard, but they just love it and are having fun. People like to have such flexibility. After the closing date, some of the members will have collected several weeks of holiday. And this is happening in Germany!

What is the unique part of that leadership? Everyone knows exactly what he or she is responsible for. There is a clear and fair controlling, close to real-time. Leadership grants a big deal of freedom within defined givens. These givens have been set in the Open-Space and everyone agrees on them.
Cooperation within the team and to the subcontractors is strongly supported. Everyone is treated fair and with respect. The teams are using their freedom to find new, uncommon solutions and nobody is working just for his or her personal advantage. The task and goal are clearly in the focus; all the time. A clear picture of the common future is within each member.

As leaders or consultants it is our choice to go into that direction. The people at the top, they are the only ones to decide on it.

That is where I start, after having done a kind of diagnosis with a lot of interviews. Carefully I am listening to the stories people are telling, what kind of values, they are trusting, their way of communication and leadership behavior on each level.

Using participatory elements I will include the management team and together we will outline the purpose, the vision, the leadership model, the next steps, the way how to communicate and how to manage the organization.

A steering committee, including all stakeholders and people from all hierarchy levels will prepare a “pivot event”, in most cases an Open-Space, to start the transfer of the organization. The communication to prepare the Open-Space is distinguished by a new quality of openness and trust. The participants are invited to join up voluntarily. During the event we all are equal; the room will be open, based on clearly defined givens.

“The Open-Space can turn an organization on a dime and the people involved will take responsibility and ownership to achieve the future they are aiming for.”

The Open-Space can turn an organization on a dime and the people involved will take responsibility and ownership to achieve the future they are aiming for.

The kind of energy that is created in an Open-Space is tremendous. It is hard to describe, but it will above everything you can imagine. Be prepared to be surprised.

The participants will work on subjects, they have passion for; they are willing to engage themselves; they will take responsibility. Many workshops will be defined and people can join these they have interest in. Each workshop will generate a small protocol that will be published at a news wall. At the end we will have defined actions and priorities. Open-Space can also take place online. The biggest I joined was with about 120 people from all continents.

The communication within the organization will be changed, people will have filled up ditches and cooperation based on trust and respect will become standard. Leadership will get much more freedom to work on strategies, as their employees will take over many tasks and decisions. People will help each other, will share knowledge and know-how and will grow towards personal mastery.

These participatory elements will become standard in these kinds of organizations and will foster the development of people and organization in such a way, that even external customers, as well as suppliers will recognize the change.

It is our decision, if we want to use our human creativity and capabilities to perform.

High performance teams need leadership that sets together with us meaningful goals, gives us freedom as much as possible and supports people to grow.

Let us start. NOW!

By the way, the described experience has been more than 25 years ago.

Computers had been very rare, so we had to use a lot of paper. Around that time Harrison Owen created “Open-Space” that since then has spread throughout the world. Today we have many different methods for engaging whole systems. Open-Space is one of the most popular and most powerful ones.

We didn´t win the contract, but everyone was proud of the performance. And it has been a huge learning.

The leadership went back to standard. This excellent team broke apart. Most of the good people left or went to the subcontractors. The new high-tech-system survived and finally came into service more than a decade later. The high performance team in the old days has been at least ten times faster as afterwards.
This experience has been my starting point towards a leadership-model serving the people and thus creating high-performance teams for sustainable success.

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This entry was posted on Tuesday, August 2nd, 2011 at 00:01 and is filed under Corporate Social Responsibility, Leadership, Management. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Responses are currently closed, but you can trackback from your own site.

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