Improving your organisation’s results through Thriving Teams
The strategic imperative of continuous improvement
All organisations regardless of purpose are interested in improving their results. Private sector organisations focus their collective energies on their bottom-line or the triple bottom line depending on their social value maturity. Whereas public sector is concerned with the levels of expenditure and responsiveness to citizens’ needs. Regardless of sector, organisations exist to create some output from people working together and they need to constantly work to improve that output in various ways i.e., continuously improve on their results.
A systems thinking approach to success
According to Peter Senge, organizational change strategist and human systems expert, systems thinking is a key discipline of a learning organisation that continuously and successfully expands their capacity to improve on their results. Taking a systems approach to organisational effectiveness focuses on:
The organisation as a whole
Interactions between parts
The way systems affect other systems
Recurring patterns not just individual events
Change over time
How feedback affects the parts
With a non-systems, traditional approach, organisations describe the ability to successfully achieve satisfactory results as their critical success factors – the key areas or high-level goals that must be met for the organisation to succeed. But these individual critical success factors encourage organisations to pursue a prioritised, list-based approach to meeting these goals, missing out on the opportunity to see the importance of the interactions between these factors. Taking the systems view, Daniel Kim suggests that the complex world we operate in, demands focusing more on the interrelationships that lead to success. Applying positive feedback loops to organisations extends the critical success factors from individual stand-alone items to identifying how each factor is connected to and creates a key success loop.
Kim introduced what a key success loop – a core theory of success – might look like for a learning organisation:
Figure 1: Daniel Kim’s Core Theory of Success for Learning Organisations.
“One such core theory of success would be based on the premise that as the quality of the relationships among people who work together increases high team spirit, mutual respect, and trust), the quality of thinking improves (consider more facets of an issue and share a greater number of different perspectives)…When the level of thinking is heightened, the quality of actions is also likely to improve (better planning, greater coordination, and higher commitment). In turn, the quality of results increases as well. Achieving high-quality results as a team generally has a positive effect on the quality of relationships, thus creating a virtuous cycle of better and better results.”
– Daniel Kim, What is your organization’s core theory of success?
This theory offers organisations a way of thinking about how their culture actually impacts results and how to create their own theory of success to identify what their engine of success looks like based on their operations.
Thriving Teams drive organisational success
In this Thriving Teams series of posts, I will be applying Kim’s core theory of success for learning organisations, focusing on how organisations might improve on the Quality of Relationships within teams. We look at connectedness on three levels. Part 1 addresses how connecting to self is the first step to building healthy relationships with others and the world we participate in. Part 2 looks at how we can improve interpersonal relationships in our teams i.e., connecting with others. We conclude with Part 3 considering our connection to the collective, and the role that purpose plays in creating Thriving Teams.
As a leadership coach, I know how essential social connection is to our individual wellbeing, and the role it plays in galvanising people towards a shared vision. I have also observed how leaders struggle with creating those authentic personal connections with people in their teams, preferring instead to fixate more on deadlines, goals, and targets.
Successful and effective leaders create a sense of purpose and high connectedness in their teams, resulting in the ideal conditions for a team to thrive. Teams that have a clear sense of purpose and high-quality relationships know how best to think together, learn together, and deliver together. This does not diminish individual effort, but rather underlines Peter Senge’s assertion that the interactions between the parts matter more if you care about operating effectively in a VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex, ambiguous) context. It is about creating that alignment of strengths to achieve shared goals.
In Humble Leadership, Edgar H. Schein and Peter A Schein define these high-quality relationships in the workplace as Level 2 Relationships that acknowledge the whole person:
“The essence of Level 2 is that the other person, whether boss, employee, peer, or partner, moves from being seen as a ‘role’ – partial or undifferentiated person who must be kept ‘professionally distant’ – to being seen as a whole person with whom we can develop a more personal relationship around shared goals and experiences.”
Thriving Teams are bound together by what I call resonant purpose: a shared-values frequency, that intensifies and enriches as teams deliver on their collective mission. This resonant purpose creates cohesion, focus, and collective understanding within the team and activates movement towards shared goals. The more successes towards the collective mission that the team enjoys, the stronger their connection grows, the more effective they become at working together, the more satisfied and engaged team members become, contributing positively to wellbeing at work.
From quality relationships to quality results
The intention with this series is to provide you with practical tools to improve the quality of relationships in your teams, creating a virtuous upward spiral of better quality results…and wellbeing. Leadership, after all is ultimately about relationships. But as with all matters that pertains to how we show up in the world, the work starts with our inner world and with our own self-awareness. And that’s where we will begin in Part 1.
If you can’t wait for each part to be published and you would like help with creating your own Thriving Team to make a headstart on improving your organization’s results, email me on firstname.lastname@example.org.
Fredrickson, B. L. (2004). The broaden–and–build theory of positive emotions. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London. Series B: Biological Sciences, 359(1449), 1367-1377.
Kim, D. H., & Senge, P. M. (1994). Putting systems thinking into practice. System Dynamics Review, 10, 277-290. Retrieved 8 16, 2021, from https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1002/sdr.4260100213
Kim, D. (n.d.). What is your organisation’s core theory of success. The System’s Thinker.
Schein, E. H., & Schein, P. A. (2018). Humble Leadership: the powers of relationships, openness, and trust. Oakland, CA: Berrett-Koehler Publishers.
Senge, P. (2006). The fifth discipline: The art and practice of the learning organization. Currency.