Teams at the Top

Most organizations have executive or senior leadership teams comprised of the CEO, COO, and functional and business unit heads. The members of these 6-20 person teams are generally responsible for determining organizational strategy and structure; setting performance targets and budgets; making policy; and managing the business. Top teams often determine the fate of organizations and their unique problems merit additional comment.
1. Who is on the Team? Richard Hackman reported that only ten percent of the 120 top teams he researched had agreement on team membership. Many top teams have “loose” boundaries and are not tightly aligned.
2. Top Teams are too Big. Because top teams tend to inclusive, most are too big to be effective. Top teams with more than ten members suffer from efficiency, effectiveness, and alig

nment problems.
3. Should Teams at the Top Operate as a Group or a Team? Team goals should dictate if an individual, group, or team is the most effective way to get them accomplished. Yet top teams rarely if ever have this discussion, as the CEO usually dictates what he or she is comfortable with and leads accordingly.
4. How do Top Team Members Define Their “First Team”? Because top team members run their own organizations, some C-Suite executives have their primary loyalties with the functions or business units they lead. If the CEO is managing direct reports as a group then this is not a big deal, but these divided loyalties will cause major problems if the CEO wants to build a high performing top team.
5. Artificial Harmony. Many top teams refuse to bring up controversial issues in meetings yet members complain about them to their staffs afterwards. Organizations whose top team members heap praise on peers yet suffer from silo wars usually are victims of artificial harmony.
6. The Cascade Effect. It is important to remember that top team dysfunction has a ripple effect across the rest of the organization. Open warfare between the heads of R&D and Marketing or Sales and Operations plays out in major battles between the functions.