Does your team have clearly agreed ways of working?

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In my blog post on the 7th of May 2014 titled ‘How great is your team?’, I promised to go into details of the 11 different aspects that makes a great team. The first aspects regarding ‘Burning Platforms’ and ‘Team alignment around critical goals’ have already been posted in this blog. Here is the third installment; ‘Does your team have clearly agreed way of working?’

In recent senior team strategic and leadership facilitations for a leading insurance company, I asked the question: what kind of work should you be mostly doing? The answer was: ‘Strategic Work’. Then I asked: what kind of work do you mostly do? The answer was: ‘Operational Work’. Then I asked what do you think the reason for that is?. After a short discussion it was clear to everyone that it was due to the absence of leadership that requires developing, delegating, engaging, energizing and create an environment for healthy interactions to get freed up from operational responsibilities to find the time to do the required strategic work.

There are 4 possible ways of working based on the responsibilities and roles of the team. These levels include strategic, tactical, operational and interactive. It is important for the team to have clarity and alignment regarding this and to know which other related teams operates in which way with clarity of the interface relationships.

  1. Strategic work: Strategic work involves being able to predict the future business environment in the areas of political, economic, social, technological, environmental and legal, referred by the acronym PESTAL. They need to do this by having intellectual connections to various channels of information, being able to extrapolate current happenings to the future, being able to see strategic intentions of actions, behaviours and information provided by business movers and shakes. It involves planning for the long-term taking the strategic realities in to consideration. Being able to make investments in people, technology and business relationships in the present to prepare for the future.  A large potion of senior leadership time should be allocated to strategic work. A moderate amount of next level leadership time should be allocated to strategic work. Junior team members should understand the strategic relevance of current decisions and plans and should provide information that has strategic implications to enable higher-level leaders to improve their effectiveness of their strategic work.

  1. Tactical work: Once the strategy is set based on envisaged scenarios, it is inevitable that unforeseen situations turn up. It could be an unpredicted political situation, sudden turn in economic conditions, a new social trend, a technological development that had been carefully kept under cover by a competitor, an environmental calamity or a new regulation. When this happens the organization needs to be ready to respond. All levels of employees should be tuned in to see such situations and the senior leadership needs to make quick decision and give quick approvals for tactical action. The next level leaders play a vital role in identifying such changes, making tactical response recommendations and taking action with the support of the junior team members.


  1. Operational work: Operational work is designed based on strategic and tactical work. These are more routine and process driven. While mid level manager need to get involved in decisions and designing operational work it is mostly the junior or front line team members who should be involved in operational activities. Those doing operational work see the opportunities and challenges first hand and can come up with the most practical solutions. Therefore it is important to encourage thinking, listening to ideas and recognizing and rewarding actions that add value to the business.


  1. Interactive work: Strategic, tactical and operational work gets done effectively when there is good interaction between team members, not only in working teams but across functional team and between work levels. Interactions encourage better generation of ideas, flow of ideas, better decision-making and better buy-in to decisions. Such behavior depends on the culture of the organization and it is the responsibility of the leaders to encourage conducive cultures that create synergy in the team. This requires leaders at all levels as leadership is about influencing, not about position or authority.


A team has clearly agreed ways of working when all team members know;


  1. The characteristics of strategic, tactical, operational and interactive work.
  2. The importance of all 4 types of work for the success of organization.
  3. That different teams and individuals need to focus on one or many types of work.
  4. The teams and individuals are responsible for strategic, tactical and operational work in the organization.
  5. The importance of everyone to contribute to all types of work when information, knowledge, ideas and responsibility come their way.
  6. The need for interactions within teams, cross-functional and multi-levels to create synergy.
  7. The need to communicate by listening and sharing information in an authentic, non-defensive and non-judgmental manner.
  8. That all 4 types of work is important and is allocated based on the best ability to add value and that no type of work is more or less important than another type of work.


This is an important area in creating a great team and it requires decisive and passionate leadership action to ensure all team members are aware of this important aspect and that they are encouraged to work in this backdrop.

The purpose of human beings is to grow to their fullest potential, growth requires positive energy and acting with the mindset and methodology suggested in this blog creates positive energy for growth.

Share this knowledge, use this knowledge, enhance this knowledge and keep the conversation going so that we can make our little contribution to make this world a better place.

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