The Adaptable Organization Series

Part 3: The Team

Posted by Don Miller and Tiffany McDowellon August 20, 2019.

In “Part 2: The Leader” of this five-part blog series, we examined how leaders energize, empower, and connect individuals to form purpose-driven teams. Here, we look at how these high-performing teams deliver work.

While conventional wisdom believes that high-performing individuals alone deliver organizational performance, Adaptable Organizations place greater emphasis on the team and help unlock individual performance through team composition and new ways of collaborative work. With each member bringing diverse perspectives, unique skill sets, and broad experiences, an organization’s potential grows. A high-performing team radiates strength, adaptability, and resilience, which resonate throughout the organization and the ecosystem.

Our research shows ideas developed by teams with three or more members have 156 percent greater appeal with customers, than teams with one or two key contributors.1

Three distinct components mark a diverse, high‑performing team: (1) a shared outcome, (2) iterative and empowered execution, and (3) a climate or culture promoting fairness, constructive conflict and psychological safety


Source: Deloitte Consulting LLP, 2019.

Clear focus unites the team to the organization’s purpose. In an Adaptable Organization, a network of teams centers upon a clear purpose and a set of core values. While this common purpose provides guidance and direction for individuals and teams, each team has its own clear focus on one mission or outcome. The number of desired outcomes sets the number of teams, and as outcomes change, teams shift to meet the new demands.

Iterative and empowered execution with transparent decision rights is critical. The principles of agile software development and agile management have succeeded in many business contexts. Such principles put the customer and outcomes at the center of every decision. They are able to achieve adaptability by failing fast and delivering work frequently, stressing collaboration over individual contribution, promoting frequent real time meetings to identify issues and make decisions, and reflecting at regular intervals on how to be a more effective team. All of these elements are key factors in adaptability.

The adaptable environment helps create a safe place for collaboration and connected ways of working. Many organizations believe that their teams already practice effective collaboration, but most do not. What teams label “collaboration” usually is not collaboration at all; instead many people work with who and what they know, taking a rather “low risk” approach to getting work done. What is needed is a high level of trust between team members and high level of ownership and accountability enabling individuals to be authentic selves, freely sharing their ideas and ready to experiment without the fear of negative consequences for failure.

No single, prescribed methodology makes teams great, but effective organizations always take time to build collective understanding to work in this new way. As organizations embark on the adaptability journey, it is important to consider what tends to hold most teams back from true collaboration:

  • No universal understanding or definition of collaboration
  • Confusing collaboration with consensus building, where consensus can be used to avoid accountability
  • Preference for face time, even where video conferencing exists
  • Formality. When people resist showing their “human” side, it can take longer to build a safe space for team rapport
  • Too much focus on the immediate team, in lieu of a deeper understanding of how the broader organization works

In this post, we covered the importance of a team in an adaptable organization model and how teams that deliberately move into the rhythm of trust, clear mutual accountability, and transparency can construct a safe climate that celebrates diversity of thought and anchors team members in the social purpose of the organization. In “Part 4: The Organization,” we’ll examine how teams within an organization should be positioned thoughtfully to unlock their true potential.

Don Miller is a managing director in Human Capital Practice of Deloitte Consulting LLP. He serves as the US Analytics leader for Deloitte’s Human Capital Organization Transformation & Talent practice and also serves on Deloitte’s Global Organization Design and Decision Solutions leadership team.

Tiffany McDowell is an Organization Transformation principal in Deloitte Consulting LLP’s Human Capital practice and leads Deloitte’s Organization Strategies Market Offering. She focuses on delivering operating model, organization design, talent strategies, and global change management solutions for large-scale transformation projects.


1 Digital collaboration: Delivering innovation, productivity, and happiness, Deloitte, 2013.

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