Task Cohesion and More Effective Leadership

In the past, I've blogged about the value of task cohesion. For those of you that missed the original post, military studies have shown that task cohesion is the most important factor in determining whether or not a difficult mission gets completed regardless of the circumstances.

Four Steps to Task Cohesion

  • Define the task in realistic and concrete terms. Make it memorable and inspiring.
  • Create a sense of significance. Allow your team to understand the “why” behind the mission.
  • Encourage communication from the bottom up and leverage heterogeneous skill sets.
  • Emphasize “getting the job done” above all else.

But, these steps aren't all equal in importance. The most important is defining the task at hand (the mountain to be overcome).

Defining a Task in Realistic and Concrete Terms

The worst thing you can do to a team is give them a task that's impossible to execute. Your objective has to be proximate. Much like the adjacent possible in the study of innovation, the proximate objective defines an objective that is actually achievable in a reasonable time frame. Dominating a local market is a proximate objective for a smaller firm. Dominating a global market isn't.

Once you know that your objective is achievable, the next step is to turn that objective into a mission that is memorable and inspiring.

Creating a Sense of Significance

Humans are funny creatures. We're motivated by a sense of significance. When our actions become disconnected from the end result we become disassociated from our work. That's why great leaders work with their teams to inspire them and help them understand the purpose of their mission. It imbues the task with greater meaning and results in a deeper level of engagement.

Encourage Communication from the Bottom Up

In order for a team to truly come together for a mission, each person must feel a sense of ownership. Their voice has to matter. This means that traditional hierarchy shouldn't be rigid. Input has to come from the bottom of the pyramid, as well as the top. Collecting input from all levels of the team creates a greater variety of viewpoints and increases the likelihood that potential problems will be identified before it's too late.

Emphasize the Mission above All Else

The Marines have a common saying: "At all costs, accomplish the mission." This means that all else is secondary beyond the goal. No excuses are acceptable, and failure is not an option. While this mindset is seen as extreme, it's also crucial for task cohesion. Accomplishing a new and difficult task isn't easy. If it were, it would've been done already. There will always be challenges, but in order to succeed, every team member must be willing to go to extra lengths to overcome the obstacles that stand in the way of success.

Written by Adam Harrell on June 8, 2012


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