Building Blocks for Effective Cross-Functional Hybrid Work

Much of the recent pontificating about hybrid work centres on trying to help team and corporate leaders build more resilient, adaptable, and flexible business models. Leading the pack is Microsoft who for the second year, surveyed some 31,000 people in 31 countries. They also analysed a boatload of productivity signals, a trillion they say, that they have been collecting through Microsoft Office 365 and labour trends visible through LinkedIn.

According to a March 2022 LI article by Andres Ortolà, General Manager at Microsoft Portugal, the study brought to light five interesting hybrid work trends that seem to be communicating some really interesting sentiments.

  • Employees have new work standards and care a lot more about health, especially mental health and well-being, than they did before the pandemic hit.
  • Managers are feeling ‘trapped’ between what may be unrealistic expectations being set by their leadership and what employees are thinking and feeling – and possibly demanding!
  • Most leaders haven’t yet figured out the ‘return-to-office’ thing and haven’t figured out how to make actually being in the office worthwhile.
  • Though significantly more time is being spent ‘online,’ in conference calls and chat forums, employees are getting better at more flexibly managing their time so that they aren’t working 24X7.
  • Leaders need to be more proactive in rebuilding relationship social capital with both hybrid and remote employees.

 As a side note, If you ask me some of this may be driven by complete exhaustion, fears for their economic future, and underlying angst as to what is going on in the outside world – such as global starvation, ravaging fires, political instability, and a pandemic that just isn’t going away.

Resolution to some of these issues I’ve already mused about in previous LinkedIn articles. For example, in “Management by Walking Around Gets a Makeover” I talked about the fact that In-Office days must be proactively organized and orchestrated as team-building special occasions, just as if they were a team offsite. I mean really, who wants to commute an hour each way to the office and then sit in a cube on conference calls all day – certainly not me.!!!

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Now, of course, all of this becomes more challenging if one is leading a cross-functional team. Though, not exactly Maslovian, I think there are a set of building blocks that cross-functional team leaders can use to map a course towards climbing the ‘Mount Olympus’ of managing in a hybrid work world. It involves answering six key questions and reinforcing the answers constantly:

Why Has This Team Been Assembled?

As I have said many times, sharing the vision, purpose, strategy, and direction of the team once is of little value. These concepts and the story behind them need to be repeated over and over and over and over. More importantly, the readiness of the team to accomplish the execution tasks involved needs to be assessed, and plans to acquire any needed new skills, capabilities, or apply learnings activated.

Do I Have a Secure Place on This Team? 

Roles, responsibilities, deliverables, and interdependencies, must be documented and shared widely. Visible collective performance metrics and dashboards focused on delivering ‘actionable intelligence’ must be the basis for agile and adaptive decision-making.

 Is the Team’s Work Aligned with the Broader Company Purpose? 

It’s amazing to me the number of teams I’ve been a part of where there has never been a discussion as to whether or not the teams’ objectives are connected to the corporate ones – let alone the values, reputation, standing, and even brand. OKR’s (Objectives and Key Results) are a great way to make sure this happens.

How do I Work Within Both the Team and the Company’s Professed and Hidden Cultural Dynamic? 

Every team has its own ‘culture’ made up of individuals that work within the constructs of their own familial and personal culture. This culture defines the work and how the common influence map gets constructed. Schein’s approach using Focused Dialogues for Cross-Cultural Learning (aka Virtual Campfires) can be a great tool to uncover hidden assumptions behind team thought processes.

Am I Heard and Valued by My Colleagues and Leaders?

This one is tough because it’s all about tapping into that elusive quality called belonging. It means ensuring that the individual feels safe, connected, and willing to use their voice based on a relatable relational narrative.  The use of the ‘Attentive Pause’© to capture what’s working, and what’s not and identify ways forward to reshape the jungle can really make a difference.

Am I Making a Meaningful Contribution?

People need to be mentored, developed, and empowered to succeed, but they also need to be recognized both individually and collectively. Often it’s the little things that matter – the public and private Thank You’s, the Kudo’s Board, the handwritten notes from senior leaders, the group virtual cocktail parties, the planning offsite, and team lunches that keep teams engaged, institutionalizes recognition and keeps individuals motivated.

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Nobody said that any of this would be easy, but as Workhuman® Chief Human Experience Officer Steve Pemberton said in a January article on the trends that will transform workplace culture. “As the majority of organizations continue to operate in a hybrid environment, business leaders will need to continue investing time, resources, and effort in programs ….. that help humans stay connected, productive, and engaged.”  I would add that corporate culture gets delivered, transmuted, and influenced through teams, especially cross-functional teams. This is where the focus needs to be!  Answer the six questions above and you’ll know the state of your teams.

Clemson is a strategic thought leader, wisdom worker, author, and storyteller. Her business books focus on Agile Strategy Execution and the history of Tandem Computers’ ground-breaking Culture. Her history books and podcast (Algonquin Defining Moments) share stories about the human history of Ontario, Canada’s Algonquin Provincial Park.  She can be reached at gclemson@globalinkage.net.

Author

  • Gaye Clemson

    Gaye Clemson is the founder and Managing Director of Globalinkage, a consultancy focused on using cross-functional team empowerment, Attentive Leadership© and Agile Strategy Execution operating models to enable effective transformational culture change. Having been around the Information Technology (IT) industry since the early 1980s, including 8 years at Tandem Computers during its formative years, Clemson has seen digital transformation and the people changes it brings ‘up close and personal’. As a thought leader on the people side of transformational and culture change, she speaks frequently at national and industry conferences including leading a Master Class in 2020 on a new leadership mindset for the Association of Strategic Planning. She is the published author of Agile Strategy Execution - Revolutionizing the HOW! (2016); Tandem Computers Unplugged - A People's History (2012) as well as multiple LinkedIn articles on a wide range of transformational change related topics. In her free time she researches and writes oral history narratives on the human history of Ontario, Canada’s world famous Algonquin Park. In this same vein, she has recently launched a new podcast entitled Algonquin Defining Moments.