This is the next installment in a weekly series in which I answer a question from a leader somewhere in the world. If you’re new to this site, you may not know I wrote a book not long ago entitled The Secret of Teams. While I’ve been working to better understand and leverage the power of teams for decades, I’ve answered one question over and over again… Today’s Challenge: How should I structure my team for maximum performance?

First, I’ve got to say there is no one right answer to this question. So, rather than try to give you one, I’ll share a few observations about team structure.

Structure matters. The right structure creates efficiency, effectiveness and superior results. The wrong structure is an impediment to all these.

Structure should enable great work. If your team or organization is struggling to produce great results, that fact alone doesn’t mean you have a structural problem. However, performance issues often have structure as a root cause.

Structure should not be static. As the organization grows and changes, the structure should change too. The best leaders understand this. Failure to change the structure with the changing needs of an organization will limit performance.

Structure alone will not make a great team. If you ask someone to tell you about their team and they begin by talking about structure, I would be reluctant to say they have a great team. How you organize matters, but being a great team is perhaps only 5 – 10% a structural issue. The other 90% is about Talent, Skills and Community.

You may be thinking, this is great – but how do I structure my team? Here are four ideas to consider:

Start with the work. What is the work to be accomplished? Structure your team around the work. This could be around product line, customer group or functions within the business (e.g., If you manufacture, market and ship products, you may want a representative from each of these functions to sit around the team table.)

Decide what you want your role to be. Do you want to be a general, a quarterback, a player-coach, or a head coach? This decision will have a profound impact on the structure you ultimately build.

Keep the team small in number. Some may question this in a conversation about structure, but the size of the team affects both the structure and the performance of the group. There is certainly a range of sizes to be found in effective teams. Yet, studies of team dynamics reveal superior performance in teams with 5 to 8 members. Teams can be successful outside this range, but it increases the difficulty factor significantly.

Engage multiple functions if possible. I’ve written about the cross-functional team advantage previously, so I’ll not repeat myself here. My encouragement is to build in cross-functional representation whenever possible. It will create diversity of thought and experience that will strengthen the team immensely.

Don’t take the decision of structure lightly. After your goals are clear, structure will be one of the key factors to determine if you’ll turn your vision into reality or not.[GLS_Shield]

Author: Mark Miller

Mark is a business leader, author, communicator, photographer, husband, and father. He spends his time helping leaders grow.