The Future of Work: An Agile Network of Teams

Earlier this month, I touched on the importance of employee engagement and how it leads to meaningful organizational results. I’ve seen many organizations try to fake their way to creating meaningful engagement.  Not due to mal-intent, but because leaders simply did not understand how to design an organization that naturally allows for engagement to exist and thrive.

At the core of this challenge is an outdated paradigm of thinking.  Our management beliefs around command and control structures keep us stuck.  In order to change the outcome, leaders need to consider the system in which they are working.  As Stephen Covey, author of 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, explains, “Management works in the system; Leadership works on the system.”

Not until we question our own experiences and beliefs, will we be able to act in a way that create differential results in our organizations and teams.

Think about this question for a moment.  How would you describe most teams today?  Maybe something along the lines of slow, indecisive, death by meetings, lack of execution, and frankly a bit depressing.

Thankfully, times are changing and leaders are implementing new models that infuse life and meaning into teams through decentralized decision-making, teaming, and creating purpose.

Decentralized Decision-Making

More organizations are moving to a decentralized process where authority is distributed to a higher degree throughout the organization and teams. AES Corporation provides a great example of this approach.

The key differentiators in this process, which is also referred to as the “advice process”, is that the leaders at any level in the organization are expected to identify problems and opportunities for the business and seek advice from peers to create action plans.   After gathering the needed advice and determining the best next step, the individual has the unquestioned right and responsibility to take action.  For more specific information on this process, take a look at this article from Enlivening Edge or check out the Commonwealth Funds’ case study, Buurtzorg: Home Care by Self-Governing Nurses.


Teaming involves fluid, collaborative, interdependent work across shifting projects and with a shifting mix of partners, often across organizational boundaries. Think of it as teamwork on the fly.

A recent study by Deloitte University Press highlights the growing trend of agile teams and the benefits to organizations that employ small project-based teams to execute strategies.  As Deloitte found, the businesses that succeed at moving quickly are those that operate as networks of teams working to execute specific goals with the expectation that these teams will be reorganized once the goal is achieved.

Designing a model of networks is a process of trial-and-error.  Read the full Deloitte study here.

Creating Purpose

Decentralized decision-making and teaming efforts only work if all actors are working towards a common purpose.  In fact, an inspiring yet concrete purpose is now regarded as the next big disruptor in business.

We must answer the question of “Why?” both at the individual as well as for the organizational level.  Simon Sinek’s website,, offers extensive resources to identify and communicate this key ingredient for organizational success, and for those looking to distinguish  purpose from vision and values, here is a great read from the Harvard Business Review.

The future of work is full of exciting strategies to infuse organizations with greater meaning, soul, and results.  The topics here are just a few to spur your thinking as you consider how to reinvent your team or organization.

For more information on how to shift your beliefs to achieve better results, check out the following book that I’ve found valuable – Change the culture, change the game.