Graphic header with article title: Improving our Practice: Making the Shift to Project-Centered Teams

As many of you may know, The Improve Group has been undergoing a thoughtful and strategic process to restructure our organization. We have experienced sustained growth over the last few years – in terms of our clients, our projects and our Powerhouse Team. As IG has grown, we have been reflecting how we can best structure the organization to accommodate growth, and also to ensure that we reflect and practice our values – including thoughtfulness, innovation and creativity, excellence, collaboration and inclusiveness, joy, and building a better world – throughout our work.

Before now, the organization was structured similarly to most other companies – with a hierarchy consisting of chief officers, directors, senior research analysts, analysts, etc. Staff were assigned to “home” teams, and those teams worked together on a portfolio of projects. Our new team structure is based on “flex teaming.” For each project we take on, we put together a unique team from throughout the company.

Graphic image of gears depicting our new project-centered team approach: The gear in the center says "project team" and it is surrounded by 5 different gears that are labeled as "coach," "team lead," "consultants," "communications support," and "administrative support."What this means in practical terms is that the team structure will be driven by the project. Each will have a high-level “coach”—a seasoned team member who can lend insight and direction to the project, a “team lead” who will drive the work forward, and other consultants, communications and administrative support. It puts the work, and the consultants, at the center.

Even though it has been a considerable undertaking for us to plan for this “flex-team” approach, this new way of working has many advantages, from my point of view, including:

  • It helps us achieve our value of having a joyfully engaged team. Basing the project teams on staff interest allows staff to tap into and use their passions and expertise at work. Before, project choice was at a team level, rather than an individual level. Now, staff have opportunities to be involved in a wider diversity of projects and we can easily match the very best of our staff expertise with the particular needs of each project.
  • It deepens our bench. Before, we had a few people directing and managing many projects. Now, more staff will have the opportunity to lead some projects, and support others, so that staff can unleash more of their leadership potential and expertise.
  • It opens the door to more creativity and innovation. We know that when we work in new teams with people with diverse skills, experiences and points of view, innovation is more likely to spark. When the same teams work together all the time, they can get too comfortable—or even fall into a rut. Flex teaming allows for fresh insights and ideas.
  • It seeds new collaboration among staff and clients. Our staff and our clients will now have more opportunities to collaborate with team members they haven’t had a chance to work with before.

In many ways, the structure we have been using has worked for us – and many organizations would decide that “if it isn’t broken, don’t fix it.” But we are The Improve Group, and we continually reflect on what is working, what isn’t, and how we can make things better. I am looking forward to working with our staff and clients in this new, more dynamic and project-centered way.