Business Models for Teams: A book review by Bob Morris

Business Models for Teams: See How Your Organization Really Works and How Each Person Fits In
Tim Clark and Bruce Hazen
Portfolio/PenguinRandom House (June 2017)

Working together, we can usually do more — and do it better was well as faster – than any one of us could.

One of Tim Clark and Bruce Hazen’s most valuable insights is the “Me to We” approach that guides and informs the adoption of what they characterize as a “Bigger Theory of Work.”  Case in point: They wrote this book in collaboration with 225 contributors from 38 countries. It is no coincidence that most of the companies that are annually ranked among those most highly admired and best to work for are also annually ranked among those most profitable with the greatest cap value in their industry segment. This is no coincidence. However different these companies are in most respects, all of them are governed by a mindset based on third-person PLURAL pronouns.

The “Me-to-We” approach accelerates a transition from asking “What’s in it for me?” to asking “What’s best for us and our company?” More specifically, here’s what the approach involves:

  1. Participants design personal business models.
  2. They then design their team model.
  3. Next, they integrate individual contributions within their team model.

Clark and Hazen explain HOW. (Check out the presentation of “The Business Model Canvas” on Page 27.) With regard to the aforementioned ““Bigger Theory of Work,” it does not define work to be done in terms of jobs; rather, in terms of roles.

Moreover, this theory views work not in terms of organizational structure but in terms of business models that  “describe what an organization actually does, for whom, and how its elements are related.” These elements may be separate but they are also interdependent.

One of the most substantial benefits of “The Business Model Canvas” is that it can be used to create a “systems view” of organizations at three levels: enterprise, team, and individual. “An [begin italics] enterprise business model [end italics] shows how an entire organization creates and delivers value to customers outside the organization. A [begin italics] team business model [end italics] shows how a group creates and delivers value. A [begin italics] personal business model [end italics] shows how an individual creates and delivers value…Think of the three levels as a stacked tier with the enterprise model on top. Viewing an organization this way reveals workplace interdependencies and begins imparting a sense of relatedness to people who may be accustomed to thinking of work in terms of proscribed ‘jobs’ that rarely transcend group or functional boundaries. This is where people begin discovering how an organization really works – and how they fit in.”

That’s terrific advice for business leaders who now struggle to avoid or dismantle so-called “silos”…most of which are usually disguised as human beings…as well as for business leaders within organizations that are increasingly more multicultural and/or more international in nature and scope.

I presume to suggest that the information, insights, and counsel that Tim Clark and Bruce Hazen provide in collaboration with 225 contributors from 38 countries – and the brilliant way in which this material is organized and presented  — can accommodate teams that consists of people in the same company, of course, but also teams with members from outside the given company such as customers, strategic allies, and even (yes) competitors.

Also, Perhaps most important of all, this material can also be relevant, indeed invaluable to all manner of teams that consist of people in collaboration with machines.

I offer a hearty “Bravo!” to Keiko Onodera whose contribution of design skills is of the very highest quality and value.

Most human limits are usually self-imposed so it would be a serious mistake, perhaps a fatal mistake, to limit the nature and extent of the “We” when adopting a “Bigger Theory of Work.”

Those who share my high regard for this book are urged to check out Enterprise Architecture As Strategy: Creating a Foundation for Business Execution, co-authored by Jeanne W. Ross, Peter Weill, David Robertson and published by Harvard Business Review Press.

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