Cloud, Collaboration Stir Up Talent Cluster
By Marie Lingblom
Collaboration in the cloud is simplifying communications everywhere and that is sparking more creative, and perhaps even more effective, ways of working together.
Popular cloud collaboration tools such as business chat, video conferencing, project, team or client workspaces have already delivered benefits ranging from better teamwork and creativity, increased in productivity and efficiency, and a more competitive atmosphere.
The evolution of cloud and collaboration suites, however, is also evolving to make some radical alternatives to the traditional notion of enterprise teams more workable, says Dave Aron, a Gartner Fellow in the Gartner CIO Research Group.
Aron penned an article this month in the Harvard Business Review, “The Future of Talent is in Clusters,” that has generated a lot of discussion. He defines a cluster as consisting of five to eight people, hired by a business with a clear scope of work and paid based on results.
The idea, he says, is that the cluster manages itself by finding, hiring and firing members; governing itself and resolving conflicts; and creating and sustaining work practices and tools. The cluster also manages its own engagement with other clusters, teams, people and organizations to fulfill its direct business goals and nurture itself. An extreme version of a self-managed team, says Aron.
Some comments to the article note that clusters sound a lot like contracting or outsourcing. Aron counters by pointing out the difference. He describes a cluster as a permanent part of the company; a valued asset of the company; deeply knowledgeable about the company; committed to the company for the long-term—just like an employee. But the company, he explains, has a relationship with the cluster, not the individual members. This model, he says, doesn’t quite exist today.
Aron says while there are close equivalents of clusters in the working world, such as elite military teams, medical units and film crews, this newer model should pervade much further into the working world. Possibly, for instance, for all operational and project work, and sometimes even for leadership teams.
Aron outlines four main benefits of clusters: higher levels of business performance through higher motivation; higher levels of business performance through a customer work environment; talent management in the right place; and higher levels of personal happiness.
A reader who ID’d himself or herself only as Nravenscroft commented that he or she is working on implementing a similar (not to the full extent of clustering outlined in the article), concept around technology development teams.
Thrashing created by tearing down and reestablishing new project teams, says Nravenscroft, tends to slow the overall movement toward business initiatives. The goal is to create small pods of excellence that move from initiative to initiative as a unit. The unit is rewarded as a team, instead of the typical individualistic approach.
Aron responded and noted one concern would be to make sure pods don’t become mini-silos, but remain connected. Therein lies one of the challenges and risks Aron mentions. For the cluster model to work well, he says, big changes are needed in the macro work environment, to HR and payroll, recruitment agencies, legal, financial and real estate.
Even with the macro changes, the formation of such mini silos or the inability to retain clusters or their loyalty, presents the two main risks with the cluster model. The key to success, says Aron, is ensuring the cluster’s agreed-on scope of work includes appropriate levels of commitment to, and multiple interfaces with, broader corporate goals and initiatives.
That means businesses will need to work hard, says Aron, at managing and leading them well, just as they have always done for emerging talent assets. That ensures the “best are motivated to stay, the worst are inclined to go, and those in the middle are motivated to improve.”