Sep 27, 2013

The business world has changed dramatically, and leaders can no longer rely on old management assumptions or paradigms to succeed.

Generating the next level of breakthrough performance will require building essential skills, better managing new work processes, and finding ways to enable higher productivity. This is the conclusion of the Corporate Executive Board’s (CEB) report entitled Breakthrough Performance in the New Work Environment.

Work is now done through a web of collaborating knowledge workers where employees have more ambiguous objectives, and their work is interconnected with a growing, more dispersed network. As companies have become more matrixed, employees across organizations share formal responsibilities, authority, and accountability for more work outcomes than ever before.

Needed: a shift to more “enterprise contributions”

Employees are routinely asked to navigate across different structures, cultures, and processes to perform. While informal working relationships and networks have always been important, getting work done today requires more collaboration among a broader and more diverse set of people who may also be working across geographic locations.

This requires organizations to take an extensive, enterprise-wide view of performance — redefining roles to emphasize collaboration and wider organizational impact. Ultimately, leaders and employees need to shift from focusing on individual contributions to greater “enterprise contributions.”

This shift also recognizes the added importance of building an employee’s “network performance” — their contributions to the performance of others across the company (beyond individual or team accomplishments) and leads to stronger overall business results.

CEB’s analysis shows those organizations able to move beyond maximizing individual performance to achieve higher levels of enterprise contribution significantly outperform their peers. Firms that were able to move more employees to high levels of enterprise performance realized a 10 percent improvement in profitability, compared to a 5 percent improvement for those who emphasized and achieved high levels of individual performance alone.

Unfortunately, 64 percent of employees do not feel their current role truly reflects how they do, or should, work with others to get their jobs done, and only 40 percent report their manager is able to effectively connect them with their co-workers, so many are uncertain about whom to work with and how to do it successfully.

3 steps to make employees more productive

To improve their employees’ enterprise contribution, leaders need to actively provide support and encourage collaboration as a key element of the new work environment and take specific steps to help employees be more productive in new, expanded roles.

  • Invest time in building complementary teams. Evaluate staff available for key projects on extended teams and create connections that complement strengths and weaknesses. Avoid disrupting effective teams, ensure team stability, and keep key elements of collaborative teams intact from project to project.
  • Emphasize “network management” alongside knowledge management. Leaders should map key relationships within and between working teams. Actively reflecting on and documenting connections essential to collaborative projects will help in transferring network knowledge.
  • Encourage and enable collaboration with external partners. With more outsourcing and strategic partnerships, it’s more important than ever to establish strong working relationships in other organizations. Encourage informal communication, and use simple rules to guide these interactions and to protect proprietary information.

This was originally published on the OC Tanner blog.