The more dependent a team is on knowledge and resources in its external environment, the more critical is the organizational context. Companies that want highperforming X-teams can create a supportive organizational context—with three-
Figure 13.2: Creating an X-Team
The story that emerged seemed almost implausibly black-and-white: All the central steps the three Alpha teams took seemed to contribute to positive performance, whereas the
Organizational structure has a profound effect on team behavior. All Alpha-unit teams used a mandated three-tier structure that gave core members oversight of the activities of operational and outer-net team
Having the core team tied to the outer net was particularly helpful when much external technical knowledge was needed quickly. With links already established, a core member could get information from an outer-net member at short notice. The brief time commitment for serving on the outer net gave X-teams access to some of the company's most sought-after and overbooked functional experts.
The Omega-unit teams, however, used a traditional one-tier structure. In X-team terminology, the Omega teams had only core members. Although that worked well for coordination, it hampered team members' ability to adapt to changing external demands.
X-teams favor decision rules that adapt to new circumstances. The Alpha unit's X-teams, like most product-development teams, used traditional flow charts, but they constantly updated them. Also, they complemented flow charts with decision rules that allowed the
Another rule mandated that whenever important expertise was not available in the time allotted, a team member would be free to bring in additional outer-net members. Such rules allowed for flexibility but spared team members any ambiguity about what to do at important
The Omega unit's teams, by contrast, used process flow charts quite rigidly and without complementary decision rules. Team members had to stick to the planned process and were allowed little latitude for tweaking the process even when they saw the need. There was no mechanism for making adjustments.
Access to valid, up-to-date information is always critical, but when knowledge is widely dispersed, the information infrastructure becomes even more important. The Alpha unit had processes that supported teams' need for accessible data. After every project, a report was written detailing important issues and the lessons learned. The store of
Unfortunately, at Omega, project reports were written only occasionally and contained
A useful information infrastructure cannot be established instantly. It has to be nurtured. That's why Alpha insisted on project reports whether or not the project was
Strong recognition from top management at the Alpha unit reinforced the information infrastructure. The relentlessly communicated learning culture not only generated positive performance for any given team, but helped make every team perform better than the previous one.
The Omega unit had no such practices. As a consequence, new teams in that unit generally had to reinvent the wheel.