Clusters: A Team Concept Worth Considering?

A new team concept in talent management
A new team concept in talent management

Picture this…You’re passionate about people, people systems, and worker engagement and development.  So, too, are some of your closest friends and colleagues.  Josh spent a decade managing leadership development programs for a Fortune 500 manufacturing company.  Jessica’s forte is instructional design; she knows the ins and outs of the latest trends and technologies in the educational arena.  Tonya spent the past six years with one of the Big Three consultancies, helping organizations align mission and vision with operational capacity.  Add in your doctoral knowledge and expertise in measurement and assessment, and you’ve got yourself a pretty powerful team!  You will take the consulting world by storm!

Unfortunately, as a team (likely set up as a traditional consulting group), you’re often constrained whims of client needs and demands.  You’re hired regularly to sweep in, make quick (but hopefully substantive) changes, and then you’re done.  Occasionally, there’s follow-up and on-going work involving coaching or developing of leaders.  You keep your foot in the door, but you own nothing, and your accountability lies solely in the delivery of a quality product or service whenever needed by your host organization.  Ahhh….the life of the consultant.

Now, imagine this….instead of the in-and-out, advisory role of most consultants, the four of you are actually hired one as a long-term permanent execution team.  No longer are you contracted to simply provide a one-time intervention (or a series of smaller interventions spread out over time).  No, your entire team is brought in to develop, design, implement, and manage a solution over a 2-5 year timeframe, at the end of which you will move on, leaving a fully functional process and program in place (with a track record of success).

It’s this notion of “clusters” that is discussed by Dave Aron in his Harvard Business Review blog this week.  And, it’s a pretty intriguing notion….

The biggest and most immediate advantage to such an approach?  Instead of needing to take the time to build a team of subject matter experts one at a time, or spend time and resources adjusting and developing a cohesive and well-tuned team, organizations can hire fully intact, developed, and trusting teams all at once!

Aligned...Purposeful...and Driven
Aligned…Purposeful…and Driven

Self-managing (and self-motivated for success due to the idea that the cluster will be hired and/or fired as a group), clusters offer the opportunity for companies to tap into the inherent benefits of a consulting team without the “temporary” aspects and lack of ownership over execution that come from traditional client-consultant relationships.  From Day One, your team is flying in formation, operating with the precision and collective drive, aligned with organizational purpose, and possessing collective buy-in to the “task at hand.”

Now, surely there are some downsides to this approach, but as an innovative concept for organizations to ponder, there is considerable intrigue with the idea of clusters.

So, what do you think?  What advantages and disadvantages can you foresee with this idea?  Have you tried this out in your organization?

One thought on “Clusters: A Team Concept Worth Considering?

  1. Hi Trevor, here are a couple of my thoughts. A team like that could do amazing things for a corporation over that period of time and be able to train up those that would continue on after their contract is up. On the other hand creating a team like this made up of professionals who are use to working independently might have hit more bumps than smooth sailing. Once a solo flier it is hard to fly in a formation all of the time. Great post, it gets you thinking. Have a nice evening 🙂

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