Organizational Effectiveness: Is Taco Tuesday the New Normal?

I recently warned that your team may be fragmenting in the work-from-home environment. Since then, I’ve spoken with multiple CEOs who are concerned about this. Many of them have employees who’d rather work from home with sporadic office visits, and most of these CEOs will try to accommodate them. Given this, there are three concepts that I believe CEOs need to grapple with: team, culture and alignment. They’re often used but rarely defined, so let’s start there.

The way Patrick Lencioni, author of “The Five Dysfunctions of a Team,” defines team is spot on. It’s “a small group of people (let’s say 3–8) that has common objectives, common rewards and meets frequently.” 

My definition of culture is: “the sum result of the behaviors that you allow and reward.” (There’s so much psychobabble around this word that it’s too often rendered useless!) Has your team gone from tightly knit to unwoven?

I’ll define alignment as “clarity of and commitment to the organization’s vision and strategy.”

So, your people are scattered around the globe, wearing slippers and drinking tea among the myriad interruptions of home life, and you must maintain — if not improve — team effectiveness, culture and alignment. Not just now but, as Buzz Lightyear would say, to infinity and beyond! How do you do that?

First, revisit the definitions above. Do you have common objectives and rewards? A clearly articulated vision and strategy? Clarity around the behaviors you reward and accept in your company? Is it all written down succinctly and compellingly? If you remember nothing else from this missive, please understand that you cannot build a highly functioning organization (virtual or not) without answering these questions!

Second, you cannot maintain or improve these conditions unless you communicate effectively and a lot … even more so in a remote environment. If you, as CEO or senior leader, don’t spend the bulk of your time communicating, you’re losing your grip on the organization. Regardless of how tired you are of Zoom meetings, stick with them companywide — with your team and in one on ones. 

Third, use face-to-face events as often as is reasonable. In my previous life, I managed an organization of 7,000 people, and my direct reports were mostly scatted around the country. I spent much time on the road, but my team also came to me pretty frequently. Video is a great tool, but it doesn’t compare to in-person meetings. (“Hey sweetie — we only have enough money for one of us to live on Maui, but you’ll be OK with weekly Zooms, right?” Yeah, good luck with that!)

If you’ve never experienced a “hoteling” environment with people sharing desks and coming and going on different schedules, you’ll need a registration function, rules of engagement, a plan for technology and possibly some storage lockers. A former client is already considering how to make the work environment more fun to foster a natural pull. Luckily, he’s in southern California, so food trucks and volleyball courts will come in handy. (Will Taco Tuesdays beat out the Thirsty Thursdays beer bash?)

Some of you worked with a remote team before the pandemic. You have a head start and may be worried more about optimizing team effectiveness, culture and alignment rather than avoiding a pending catastrophe. Others will take the Reed Hastings approach and get everyone back in the office as soon as possible. 

The majority of you, however, will need to adapt to a new normal. Got a plan?

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