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Beyond Performance: Today’s Volatile, Complex World Demands — High Value-Creating Teams

Are your teams busily working to solve yesterday’s problems?

Most business leaders would likely respond, “of course not!” But the answer isn’t so simple. In today’s volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous (VUCA) world, leaders are challenged to run the company effectively today, while simultaneously transforming the business for a tomorrow filled with unknowns. If they’re not looking ahead, they’re already behind. And if they’re only defining success through the narrow lens of “improved performance,” they’re missing the bigger picture.

To thrive in a complex, fast-changing world, organizations need to move beyond outdated definitions of performance and focus on creating value in a more holistic way, for all the stakeholders they serve—including customers/clients, suppliers, peers in other departments, the board, investors, and the community. This demands a shift from High- Performing Teams to High Value-Creating Teams. 

Part 1 of this article series explores why businesses are making this shift and the key disciplines required to get it right. Part 2 will review one of the most effective ways to support and guide High Value-Creating Teams: the process of Systemic Team Coaching.

Why a “High-Performing Team” is Limiting

The traditional, well-entrenched concept of High-Performing Teams originated in the manufacturing sector, where processes tend to be linear and an increase in efficiency was often the team’s chief mandate. However, as renowned thought leader Peter Hawkins has pointed out, this approach is fraught with limitations that make it inadequate now, especially for organizations expected to create value that goes beyond operational efficiencies.

The reasons are many:

  • High-Performing Teams weren’t designed for today’s highly matrixed organizations, where teams must navigate competing priorities, negotiate for shared resources, and work with broader, unfamiliar groups of employees without effective rules of engagement.
  • Focusing on a single goal sets up a High-Performing Team to reach a specific destination. Once there, most teams continue to do more of the same, creating a steady state that hinders innovation—the perfect way to be left behind by the competition.
  • Teams that focus on solving internal problems ignore the broader, interconnected environment they operate within. Creating value in a VUCA world demands awareness of everything happening outside the organization that directly affects it, and vice versa.
  • As the pandemic underscored, change can be unanticipated, severe, and wide-reaching at the same time. Incessant disruptions are common, and they come from many sources: economic and geopolitical forces; climate risks that demand a focus on sustainability; societal forces driving a need for more diversity and inclusion; and internal shifts like changing workforce demographics. In this environment, charging teams with “improving performance” is akin to a doctor telling a patient to take a pain reliever for an agonizing headache, without gathering any context for the symptom.
  • Most organizations now recognize a higher-order purpose beyond the bottom line—a mission to operate as good citizens in the world, creating an impact far beyond their own walls. High-Performing Teams don’t have the purview to tackle this broader goal.

Businesses that want to innovate today to be prepared for tomorrow need to adopt new mindsets and new ways of working together, so they can create long-term, sustainable value for all their stakeholders and the world at large. High Value-Creating Teams provide the necessary foundation and structure.

The Disciplines That Drive High Value-Creating Team

As the name suggests, a High Value-Creating Team focuses on value creation, taking a systemic and holistic approach that considers the needs of the full spectrum of stakeholders the organization serves. It’s not that a High Value-Creating Team doesn’t work to solve specific problems; it simply does so within a larger context, through a wider lens, and with a more forward-thinking perspective.

Evolving to a new way of working always requires a roadmap, and in this case, Hawkins’

Five Disciplines of High Value-Creating Teams serves as an effective framework. The model considers the internal and external context in which teams operate, along with the processes and tasks they undertake in serving their mission. It is both a progression of steps and a continuous loop, recognizing that a team’s work is rarely done.

Each discipline supports a High Value-Creating Team by guiding the team through every phase of its lifecycle.

  • Commissioning: A team exists for a purpose, which must be clear and aligned with specific metrics of success. With its purpose defined, the organization then chooses the best executives for the team.
  • Clarifying: The team clarifies its collective endeavor—a compelling challenge the group will work to address. This is the point where mission, vision, values, and goals are established, ensuring everyone feels a sense of ownership and accountability.
  • Co-Creating: Team members learn how to work together creatively and generatively, to become more than the sum of their parts, and to notice and interrupt patterns, beliefs, and assumptions that limit or hinder their collaboration—all in the quest to create value.
  • Connecting: The team engages with all the stakeholders its work impacts, for their mutual benefit, using strategies like serving as ambassadors for the team’s work, scouting how conditions are changing, and partnering outside to create more value than they could on their own.
  • Core Learning: Team members reflect on what they’ve learned, collectively and individually, and identify ways to apply those learnings to perform better as they continue to engage with each other and their stakeholders.

As they progress through the model, High Value-Creating Teams will be challenged to work in new and different ways, requiring new and better forms of support. This need is one of the drivers behind the move toward Systemic Team Coaching: a process that helps teams work toward their shared purpose and goals more effectively, both when they are together and when they are apart.

Watch for Part 2 of this series, which explores what Systemic Team Coaching involves and how it helps High Value-Creating Teams succeed.

The Leadership Advisory Practice at Odgers Berndtson helps organizations discover and develop leaders, strengthen value-creating teams, and prepare for what’s next. Learn how our highly experienced team of assessors and coaches use a holistic approach to help your organization achieve more.


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