Inside every healthy corporation, projects are always being initiated that require the putting together of small teams. This is especially true during times of transformational change when many new projects may be taking place at once in the organization. Some of these projects may in fact require multiple small teams, each working on an aspect of the project. For example, putting on a convention may require a project management team, a marketing team, and so on. The process of transformational change itself is often facilitated through teams, with each team taking on an element of change such as company culture, IT, or talent acquisition.
The ability to assemble successful small teams is thus an essential skill for leaders, especially in times of change. Whether you’re in charge of leading your own team or are putting together a team that you or another will be supervising, the importance of diversity on small teams cannot be underestimated. At AlignOrg Solutions, we encourage leaders who are engaged in corporate team building to expand beyond traditional concepts of diversity to build teams that get better results.
The Many Faces of Diversity
From the integration of policies to launching new software, project success hinges largely on the various experiences and capabilities team members bring to the table, as well as their ability to work productively together. Diversity fosters creativity; as a rule of thumb, the more diverse the team, the stronger and more innovative the results will be. Diversity should therefore be a top priority in corporate team building.
The term “diversity” has taken on specific cultural meanings; however it can be helpful to expand on the concept of diversity when assembling a small team to accomplish a project. Seek to include diversity in as many of these areas as possible:
- Diversity of technical skills. It is essential that all of the project’s technical requirements be met. Careful thought should be taken to ensure the right subject matter experts for the task at hand are available for the project. In many cases, some skill sets may even lay outside of your particular function or possibly your organization. Take the time to recruit the best experts your organization and/or budget can support – missing a critical technical skill set on your team will likely prove disastrous.
- Diversity of intrinsic skills. Intrinsic skills and technical skills sets are not the same. There are times when certain intrinsic skills are needed to balance a team dynamic. Examples of common intrinsic skills sought after on a team are: critical thinking, self-discipline, emotional intelligence, etc.
- Diversity of identity. Much attention has been rightly given to the importance of including women, people of color, and the disabled in any type of hiring situation. While team building for project management is not hiring per se, the principle still holds. Beyond fairness, having these multiple perspectives can help a team come up with solutions that consider the needs of everyone affected by the project.
- Diversity of background. Varying cultural, geographic, work, or even hobby backgrounds can introduce fresh perspectives and also help the team avoid solutions that may not work for certain segments of the affected population.
- Diversity of thought. This is one type of diversity that is often overlooked. For example, engineers typically have very different methods of problem solving than designers do. Paying attention to how prospective team members process information and the patterns of innovation they exhibit can help you select a team whose thought styles complement each other.
Talent and skill set should be the first criteria considered when establishing a team to ensure that the technical demands of the project are well covered. It may be tempting to “stack” a particular team with managers or high-level staff; however, there will usually be talented and experienced employees (other than the usual or obvious management “regulars”) who can add the perspective of regularly dealing with the details.
You can take diversity of talent even farther by adding skill sets and talents that are not directly related to the project, for example, team members who specialize in communications. Creating a wide variance of thought, identity, and background will foster creative genius in a small team—and these are exactly the things organizations often overlook.
Keys to Successful Corporate Team Building
While building project teams is a routine task in many companies, it is not always approached as the opportunity for excellence that it is. Organizations that understand the importance and dynamics of diversity in corporate team building will benefit greatly from the innovation such teams engender. Considering all types of diversity when selecting team members will help you get the best results from your small teams.