The use of teams has become a popular strategy for increasing productivity around the world. Organizations have reported a number of benefits gained from the use of teams. For instance, Harris (1992) linked effective teams to increased individual performance, better work quality and substantial improvements in production cycle times. When teams effectively support each other this results in greater outcomes as shown by the following case study.
The business problem
A company in the automotive industry was interested in building leadership capability for their managerial incumbents who worked within the procurement function. To build this leadership capability, managers were provided with the opportunity to participate in a personalised, self-directed online leadership development experience. Given the personalized nature of the leadership learning, each managers learning priorities were attained from competency assessments and mapped to a performance culture framework and thereafter linked to the Leadership Academy online learning platform developed by TTS.
The managers were segmented into two groups. Group 1 participated in the leadership development initiative during the first six months of the year. Leadership learning for Group 2 commenced immediately thereafter.
Following a consultant facilitated orientation to the online learning platform, each manager commenced with their individual development experience, which provided them with access to learning content specifically linked to their unique development priorities. This learning content was packaged into monthly learning blocks for each of the managers. The online learning platform provided access to content across a range of learning modalities such as podcasts, pdf documents, video and learning simulations, which could be accessed via laptop, smartphone and tablet formats.
The effectiveness of team support
At the onset of learning, the participant managers were at first apprehensive regarding the online and self-directed nature of the intervention. This resulted in a slow access of learning content and completion of modules. To counteract the low outcomes, regular debrief and knowledge sharing sessions were conducted to enable managers to report back on their development progress as well as share their respective learning experiences and recommend learning content to their peers. A particular focus during these sessions was the on-the-job application of the learning acquired.
The debriefing sessions served as internal team support for managers and resulted in a focus on the practical application of the learning, thus enabling the identification and measurement of tangible outcomes. Furthermore, managers’ confidence grew as they progressed with their individual development plans such that a number of them cascaded their learning into their own departments and shared the learning amongst their team members.
A further encouraging development was the volunteering of the Group 1 managers to serve as peer-mentors for Group 2 participants as they commenced through their leadership development experience.
The above case study demonstrates the potential that effective team support has in yielding outcomes that supersede anticipated results. As the initial objectives for the knowledge sharing sessions were to encourage and motivate managers to consistently engage with their leadership development plans, this support resulted in a more effective use of the leadership learning as members of teams under these managers were empowered by their leaders with the information. The manager initiated volunteering of Group 1 as peer-mentors for their colleagues additionally highlights the value that effective team support contributed in this company. The feedback from the client and participants were that the implementation of a peer-mentors intervention not only increased self managed learning activities, but it also increased targeted developmental discussions among the target group.