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Teaming for success - Leadership Team formation and alignment

During an initial discussion with the Operations Director of a large Defence company in late 2021, the complexity of the challenge was clear:

  • the business was failing to deliver its current programme commitments to its primary customer on time

  • the infrastructure and facilities were old and in dire need of refurb, or rebuild

  • people in the business have become weary of numerous failed attempts to change

  • a major new product design is underway and about to hit operations


Whilst it's a daunting challenge, he's up for it and driven to modernise the way the business works. The Board are supportive and have backed a large transformation programme.


To start with, he needed some help in getting his Ops Leadership Team aligned around what they needed to do and how they were going to work together to deliver it. Some good progress had been made on the design of a new Operations System, but the team weren't aligned or clear how they were going to deploy this new way of working to drive improved delivery.

Following the initial chat, we exchanged thoughts and scoped the outcomes we wanted. We agreed our goals were, within 6 months:

  • The Operations Leadership Team (Ops LT) has created a clear roadmap for Operations that deliver its purpose. 

  • All Projects/Workstreams have a well-defined problem they are addressing and have a clear vision, impact, delivery team and know their challenges. All stakeholders are engaged. Interdependencies are understood and delivery teams are collaborating to ensure all desired outcomes are met. Key milestones are identified, and actions are being progressed. The top 10 Priority Actions for the forthcoming month are known and tracked.

  • The Ops LT own the roadmap and are working as a high-performance team to deliver it effectively.

  • Operations and business priorities are aligned, clearly identified and being actioned. The top 4/5 strategic priorities for 2022 are agreed.

  • The Ops LT are visibly working in a way that sets the behaviours and standards desired from the rest of Operations. 

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The approach


We use our human-centred design approach and involved all those who have a stake in the problem. The approach was flexible enough to build on the work that had already been done.

The work with the Leadership Team was positioned as a development journey - over an initial six-month period, to provide a reasonable time for the team to work together and reflect on both successes and failures, and what caused them. 


In our experience, every team is different in its purpose, its make up and its context, but there are similarities in the steps we take to form and align teams. Some of these elements were already in place, but others needed to be established.

  • TEAM FORMATION: Review of team members and what they bring

  • TEAM IDENTITY: Clarity on team purpose and values

  • TEAM VISION: Strategic thinking, measures of success, value proposition

  • TEAM EXECUTION: Strategic goals, enablers, blockers, priorities

  • TEAM EFFECTIVENESS: Expectations, strengths, mindsets, behaviours, routines, feedback, learning

  • TEAM COMMITMENT: Core message, stakeholder engagement, review and renewal

This difference in teams means they develop through the process at different speeds. What some teams find easy, others will find challenging. Our approach throughout was flexible enough to adapt to the needs of the team.


We fixed time with the LT each month for them to come together to share, discuss, work through the issues, and learn. We designed different interventions to overcome some blockers that weren’t immediately visible when we started on the journey.


The methods used included: 1:1 interviews/discussions with team members and any wider influencers, diagnostic surveys/scans, facilitated team workshops/discussions, and regular reviews/check-ins with the Ops Director.


The Ops Director and the team all committed to the process. They were open and shared thoughts and feelings in 1:1 discussions and with the wider team during and outside facilitated workshops. 


The impact - Ops Leaders' mindset and behaviours


‘Our culture’ was often raised as something that needed to be addressed if Ops was to be successful. Whilst it was a known, observed blocker, very little is actually done to address it.


We discussed and agreed with the Ops LT that their purpose is: to lead by example, set the direction, create the environment that enables our teams to foster change and deliver their best safely, and be better every day. Work has started with the Ops LT to ‘set the example’ for how we want Operations to think and behave.


As we move from designing to deploying the Operations System success will require the LT to think and behave differently. Ops leaders need to work together, maximise their collective strengths and avoid or overcome blockers to progress. In early 2022 the Operations Leadership Team members completed a behaviour-based psychometric tool, Mindset Advantage, to assess their growth mindset.


Mindset Advantage provides a common language to assist building a growth mindset in individuals, teams and across the wider organisation. The LT have taken on their personal feedback and discussed their team profile to understand their strengths and potential blockers/blind-spots in how they think and behave. They have committed to ways of working that play to their strengths and avoid/overcome their potential blockers whilst leading the transformation of Ops to deliver our programmes successfully.

The Ops LT's team commitments are:

  • INVOLVE: Involve those affected by decisions in the decision. Ask questions, be curious, define the challenge

  • STAY AGILE: Be comfortable in progressing whilst staying agile to adapt if needed

  • RECOGNISE COMPLEXITY: Don't overcomplicate, but also recognise the complexity - simply wanting to go faster isn't enough

  • REMOVE BLOCKERS: Find, explore and take action to remove blockers

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As we engage and involve the wider group of Ops leaders in the transformation, we are inviting selected leaders to complete the Mindset Advantage survey to trigger the shift in attitude and behaviour needed.

Call us if you need your team to work better together to solve your complex challenges 

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