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Special purpose teams can help in innovating, improving outcomes, and increasing your agility by many notches!

Special Purpose Teams in the Future of Work

In 2004, I missed the opportunity to join the Indian Air Force by 0.5 on medical terms (long story), despite being one of the top 3 selected candidates. But my interest in learning more about defense forces, and their strategies did not fade. 

There are two key characteristics defense forces exhibit, which corporates can learn from – the first is agility by design and second, mission-based approach. These two traits make them resilient and help in handling disruptions effectively. 

I recently spoke with my army veteran friend to understand more.

Agility by design and mission-based approach makes the organization resilient and helps in handling disruptions effectively. 

In the defense environment

For any defense mission, tasks, resources, and success guarantee are critical, and it is the same for corporate projects too. Each mission begins with a small team that follows three high-level steps. 

The first step is intelligence gathering, also known as probing. The team is relatively small and may have only three or four cross-functional experts.

Information gathered during probing is converted to wisdom, and they now start to gather actionable intelligence. They often use SWOT analysis to direct their efforts. By now, although the core team is still the same, it starts to deploy more members on a need basis, so the functional team grows slightly. Typically, seven to ten members may be involved.

Once intelligence is available, it is action time. That is when the command is handed over to someone who will see through the whole mission. Mission head is empowered to choose teams and define strategy. They start with small battles to gain a foothold. It later morphs into several break-outs, which then may result in a full-fledged war.

Nonetheless, all the missions have a high reliance on the use of composite units - a competent team with all the resources necessary for its operation.

In the corporate environment

If we were to learn anything from defense here, it is how they operate with minimal resources, speed, and agility. If your mission is to explore a new market or launch a new product, then it is a good idea to use a small team for scouting. Startups usually have two co-founders, and it works quite well for them.

Once things start to take shape, the team can get more hands to help to generate actionable insights. When I worked with LG Electronics, we regularly used a concept of the TDR teams (Tear Down Reengineering) for such projects. These teams functioned much like composite units. 

As you get more comfortable with the outcomes, you can align all the necessary resources and commission a full project.

I previously said that organizations must master the art of experimentation to master the art of the future of work! Special purpose teams can make this experimentation feasible.

Organizations must master the art of experimentation to master the art of the future of work!

Small, focused project teams need cross-functional members, autonomy, latitude, and access to resources as well as decision-makers. They are corporate equivalents of a composite unit.

Why should you try it

Having the ability to change directions quickly (agility) and reorganize in the time of disruption is a must-have. Adaptability is a crucial trait in a highly volatile and uncertain world. You can improve it significantly when you have resizable and modular teams.

Special purpose teams can help in innovating and improving outcomes, and increase your agility by many notches. They will enable you to imbibe startup culture easily that most businesses struggle doing.

Special purpose teams can help in innovating, improving outcomes, and increasing your agility by many notches.

More and more organizations now have at least three different generations in their employee mix. New team structures and management principles are becoming a necessity. 

None of it can work until you take intentional steps.

I invite you to test these proven strategies in your domain and make the future of work, work for you!

This article was first published by ET Insights, here:

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