May 9, 2022

The world of work has changed. We all know it, and the fact is, it changed long before Covid and lockdown worked their way into our everyday language.  You need your teams to be nimble, agile and innovative. Instead, you’re bogged down in silos, communication breakdowns and slow decision making.

We know that the traditional hierarchical structure isn’t fit for purpose. Matrix and cross-functional teams have taken us so far down the line, but we believe organisations need to push even further in that direction if they’re going to survive and thrive in this complex world.

Watch our head of design and research Andy Chevis, talking about how Teams of Teams and learning mindset might just be the answer.

We need leaders and their teams to learn, innovate and work freely together

Creating an organisation used to mean building a machine and then tweaking with the mechanics. Adding cogs, changing structures in the hope that it would bring success whilst not paying nearly enough attention to the behaviours and mindset that would unlock the considerable knowledge and expertise sitting amongst employees.

But you knew this already?

How can Teams of Teams energise your people and improve performance?

Back in March, our Head of Design & Research, Andy Chevis asked a room full of leaders, ‘what would you like to inject into your organisation to improve performance?’ The answers were unanimous:

  • Great communication – no more blockages, instant access to knowledge, insights, data and ways of working
  • Empowerment – people and teams empowered and united behind a common vision and purpose
  • Autonomy – no more hesitancy and waiting to be told what to do

How can leaders get the most out of their teams?

How can you bring products and services to market quicker and keep your team motivated, energised and engaged ? The answer is surely a culture and organisational approach that empowers your people to learn, innovate and have better conversations – within and across the teams they work in as well as with clients and other stakeholders.

Teams of Teams enables you to do just that, but it means a total shift in mindset both in the way you think about your teams and leadership. And we say teams plural because a key part of this is leaders moving from having responsibility for one team, to being custodians to multiple teams. It’s a fluid way of working, with leaders and teams freed from the constraints of a traditional, hierarchical structure.

Are you leading teams of teams already?

There’s a good chance some of you are leading multiple teams already. Have a think about the different teams you currently lead. Is your focus on clearing communication blockages, sharing ideas, data and expertise, making sure you’re all working towards the same goal? But it might not be formally recognised as Teams of Teams, or maybe you need support from other senior leaders and HR to really spread the word and bring more teams into the fold so that more of you can make a difference?

‘It’s a mistake to put in place a new structure and hope that it’ll fix the problems created by a hierarchical system and not help people to change the way they behave.’
Andy Chevis, Head of design and research

A key component of this learning mindset is psychological safety. Creating a safe space for people to speak freely, share feedback, successes and failures. Leaders need to ensure that the experience of speaking up, asking for help or saying when something isn’t working is met with a positive response.

This organic approach might feel uncomfortable and leave you feeling vulnerable. That might be scary, but it doesn’t mean it’s wrong. We know from experience that it’s worth persevering through this uncomfortable stage, opening up to your team, asking them what they think the next steps or answer should be. It might feel counter-intuitive against old, out-dated views of leaders having all the answers, but stick with it because the conversations you have on the other side are worth it.

‘The aim is to release people from the controls of a silo or hierarchical structure, not to impose new controls. Think about how you can empower people to share and spread knowledge and understanding.’ Dan Meek, CEO

What can leaders do today to start building Teams of Teams?

There are three things on Andy’s list when it comes to laying the foundations of Teams of Teams:

  1. Clarity of vision and purposea shared vision and purpose that’s meaningful enough for individuals in their teams, but broad enough to encompass a number of teams.
  2. A sense of belonging – if your team is actively involved in creating the collective purpose and vision, team members will be much more open to working with colleagues cross-functionally.
  3. Underpin with a culture of psychological safetya learning organisation starts with a learning leader who responds positively when someone asks for help, shares that something isn’t working, a success or a failure.


Teams of Teams or Multi Teams System (MTS). We carried out some research into it with the London School of Economics in 2021 and it’s a subject we feel strongly about. Because the Teams of Teams way of working dials into our belief that teams lie at the heart of an organisation’s success and to get the most out of them, we need to rethink how we organise them and what that means for leaders and leadership.

Contact us to chat about energising your organisation with Teams of Teams.

Share this story: