High-performance teams begin at the top. When the senior management team senses a gap between the "should be" and the "as is," its first task is to ask itself, "How can we move to new levels of performance?" The answer to that question should be: "You need to become aligned in the four areas of the pyramid: goals/business priorities/focus, individual roles/accountability, protocols/rules of engagement, and business relationships/mutual expectations." This alignment enables the senior team to speak with one voice to those outside and to manage conflict within itself.
In the alignment process, the top executive plays a pivotal role. For example, when Lew Frankfort, CEO and chairman of Coach, saw that his company's sales were beginning to slow in the mid-1990s, he realized that a major overhaul of the company was required. Determined to broaden and modernize his product line, Frankfort made the decision to transform his existing senior team, which he did not believe was up to the challenge. He created a new position, executive creative director, and he replaced several other team members who did not have the skill set required to move the company ahead.
Once Frankfort had the new players on board, they went through an alignment to get them functioning as a high-performance team that could quickly and completely translate his vision into reality. It worked. Coach made the transition from a manufacturing to a marketing company ”four years ago it made 80 percent of the accessories it sold; today it makes only 10 percent ”and in the process jettisoned its stodgy image. Sales went back up; the company went public; and Coach entered a new era of prosperity .
The high-performance senior-management team is the energizing principle for an organization as it moves toward becoming a more potent competitive force. But not even a perfectly aligned senior team, made of up Goliaths who excel at managing conflict, can deliver results when teams of Davids on whom they depend are riddled with strife. Aligning itself is merely the first step a senior team must take to achieve excellence.
In organizations committed to leveraging their human resources to achieve increasingly demanding levels of performance at every level, high-performance teams do the heavy lifting on key projects. To the extent that high-performance teams permeate the work environment, an organization will likely remain a strong competitive force over the long haul. Chapter 4 discusses in detail how the transformation to high-performance teams can be accomplished.
The platform teams pioneered by Chrysler Corporation in the 1980s are an excellent example of cascading high-performance teams. Created to do away with the compartmentalized engineering group that worked in a vacuum , the platform teams brought together all the departments involved in the development of a new vehicle, such as design, engineering, manufacturing, and sales. Robert Lutz, who, along with Franois Castaing, created these breakthrough teams, describes their power in his book, Guts: The Seven Laws of Business That Made Chrysler the World's Hottest Car Company :
Before long, the chimneys that once characterized the company had started to metamorphose...Where Chrysler had once been highly compartmentalized and focused mainly on functions, the whole company was now moving toward a cross-functional "platform" setup ”centered, not around individual disciplines, but around our major product types: the small-car team, the large-car team, the minivan team, the Jeep team, the (pickup) truck team. The focus was holistic (bye-bye suboptimization!), and the information flows were concurrent and two-way (bye-bye re-do loops !). 
Of course, each member of the platform team remained a part of his or her function. The marketing person continued to work with that department to develop a marketing plan; the manufacturing representative continued to be responsible for coordinating production schedules; and the intra functional team that each served on needed to be as equally high-performing as the cross-functional one.
 Robert A. Lutz, Guts: The Seven Laws of Business That Made Chrysler the World's Hottest Car Company (New York: John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 1998), p. 40.