Creating and managing flexible, resilient teams

SDA Bocconi Insight - Scaffale - L. Caporarello, M. Magni

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Supporting teams and the people who lead them in achieving their objectives: this has become the keystone of the organizational life for every company.

But how can we create an effective team even if its members are located in different places? How can we structure it? How do we establish the roles of each team member? How do we build a system based on trust instead of control? How do we empower teams to make decisions in an agile and efficient way? How to we intercept and resolve tensions or conflicts?

Team Management answers all these questions and many more. Now in its third edition, and coming soon in English, this book is a practical tool to help people who work in teams, both members and leaders. The aim is to flag critical behaviors and highlight relative countermeasures that can effectively facilitate the achievement of team objectives.

With the release of this third edition, published by Egea, we contacted the authors Leonardo Caporarello and Massimo Magni, to ask about the central themes in the book.

Why is it so critical to be able to create a cohesive, well-structured team?

A team by nature is an organizational entity that can be both flexible and dynamic. But even a highly flexible team still needs guidelines and rules to follow in order to function seamlessly. These are necessary. What changes, with respect to other organizational units or mechanisms, are the methods that team members adopt to play their roles. There are two critical factors for team success that significantly shape internal rule-setting: trust and cohesion among team members. 

What are the main tensions that can arise in a team, and how can they be resolved?

To guarantee team flexibility, interaction and coordination in general inside the team have to be more frequent and more effective compared to other organizational units. Managing a team the same way you would manage a function or a department would generate serious drawbacks and the value of teamwork would be lost. Another key element, which could create tension if it’s not handled properly, is conflict dynamics. It’s only natural that disagreements and conflicts come up on a team, and in fact in some cases they can actually be triggered ad hoc so that team members are prepared to deal with them appropriately. 

One chapter of your book is dedicated to negotiation phases, describing how to correctly deal with team heterogeneity. In this context, what aspects should we be paying most attention to?

The first thing to do is a thorough analysis of the profile of everyone involved. By this we’re referring to the differences in background, previous experience, culture, and interests, among other things. A second essential aspect is figuring out what options are available to each person, and identifying which one is best. The third element is preparing talking points and arguments to use to support your proposals.

The most important addition to this third edition of your book is the chapter on how to manage geographically dispersed teams. What are the main advantages and toughest challenges of virtual teams?

One of the main advantages of virtual teams is the possibility to pool competencies that are distributed, not co-located. Second, hybrid teams can offer greater flexibility and better work-life balance for members. As far as the challenges, the biggest are building and preserving a group identity, and the fact that it takes more effort to coordinate activities among team members.

SDA Bocconi School of Management

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