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Continuing from the last post……

I borrow the name from an HBR article titled “Are Leaders Portable”.

In the last post, I mentioned the recent trend of senior management teams moving together from one company to other. It is seen more in Marketing and Sales functions. I shall discuss the probable benefits and likely problems associated with these movements.

Probable Benefits

  1. Saves Time. The leader negotiates the position. He would join and then facilitate the entry of the layer under him; his direct reports. Later, more people may be hired on various positions, such as sales team, but what matters is the top team. The team can become productive immediately because they already have chemistry together. The time thus saved will be put to more productive use.
  2. Saves Effort. In a new working relationship, both parties have to make effort to understand one another’s point of view, accept it and then bring value to relationship. Moving a pre-existing team saves this effort. The energy thus conserved will be put to better use.
  3. Comfortable Environment. Because everyone knows everyone, the work environment is likely to be comfortable for everyone. A good working environment will promote better working and productivity.
  4. High Morale. Usually, the teams come from a winning platform. In fact, that is the reason for their hiring. They would have a higher morale as compared to the existing team. High morale is infectious and will help to motivate others also. High morale is also likely to help formulate more aggressive strategies and campaigns, with likely greater chances of success.

Likely Problems

  1. Entry on a not-so-right note. The leader is hired after rigorous interviews in which he is grilled by several people on separate occasions. His professional capability, skill-set and cultural fit is determined. For the later entrants, the same rigor is not applied. They may be hired mainly on the recommendation of the team leader, the intended premise being that they have to work together anyway. What gets missed here is that they are part of the organization at large and they may choose to stay when the leader exits. The bottom line is that the hiring standards may get compromised in this process.
  2. Adjustment with the Organization. An organization is a living whole, and all inhabitants are required to develop a relation with it. When teams move together, they form a small island of their own and may take longer to relate to or adjust with the organizational whole. The delay may be due to orientation, lack of cultural fit or simply not getting out of comfort zone of ‘my own team’.
  3. Relation with co-workers. All new entrants are viewed cautiously in the beginning. The relation between co-workers develops when both sides warm up and interact. ‘Ported teams’ may face problem of acceptance by co-workers and building relations. On one hand the team members may feel contended in working together, while on the other hand the co-workers may view the ‘new group’ with suspicion and may not be forthcoming.
  4. Freshness of Thinking. Working with diverse teams brings fresh, new ideas. Working with the same team may generate ideas quickly but these may be stale. Similarity is good, but diversity is even better. Recreating the same thing over and over again is not desirable. There are many cases where the new Marketing Team insisted on launching the same product which they had been handling in the previous company.
  5. Loss of knowledge. Every organization has a wealth of knowledge which is never documented; it is transmitted from person to person. When a new leader interacts with the existing team, he can get that knowledge and use it effectively. Bringing a new team either makes the older team exit or shuts them down mentally if they still remain. This leads to loss of valuable knowledge.
  6. Career Derailment. The team leader negotiates a lucrative deal for himself and joins in. After a while, he may negotiate an even better deal and move out. What about the ‘ported team’? It is not mandatory that they will always be carried along and accommodated. Their career faces a real risk of derailment, and mostly it happens. There are fewer cases where one of them is invited to take over the leader’s place. Career stunting and derailment are real risks which are not clearly considered by the team leader and the members.
  7. Team is Not the Only Factor in Performance. Organizational performance is a sum total of several factors. Team is one; others include organization vision, resources, work ethics, commitment to growth etc. Even the best teams fail to perform adequately in the absence of supporting factors. Why count on the team alone?

In my view, the risks of porting a team from another company to your own are greater than the anticipated benefits. I have rarely seen such events ending happily ever after. The decision makers ought to think hard before embarking upon this option.

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