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Can you build a winning team without creating a sense of purpose?

Written by:
August 2014
Categories: For the Business Leader, For the IT Leader

We’ve been working with a client recently to review one of their IT teams, and to help design an organisational structure that ensures success.

One of the main challenges has been the importance that the client attributes to the team’s organisational structure. There is a strong view within the client that the best way to make a successful team is to come up with a winning structure first.

That’s a bit like saying, “Get me the best sports team”, without identifying which sport you’re playing!

Not only do we need to determine the game, but also the rules. If we want to play Rugby, is it the RFL or the RFU? And what’s our vision? Do we want to win the Challenge Cup, or can we only afford players that might mean we set our sights somewhat lower?

Diving headlong into an org chart is a common mistake. This may be because it seems a lot less effort to simply layout an org chart first, or that the importance placed on organizational design is underrated

If you want to build a sustainable, winning team, you need to start with a Vision. But what happens if you don’t have a vision? The work still gets done, right? The organization doesn’t come to a standstill, does it?

Well, maybe not immediately, but we’ve seen the following symptoms in organisations and teams without a clear vision:

  • Loss of control: Teams, sub-teams and individuals will develop their own opinion of the vision and mission. As the teams and individuals pull in different directions mavericks rise, factions develop, and there is general dissent
  • Tensions rise, motivation wanes: There are very few people in organisations that have ill intentions as most people simply want to do what’s right for the organisation. But with no vision or mission, how do you know what is right?
  • Lack of accountability: With no defined vision, mission or strategy it becomes very easy to change direction – frequently! A team or organization with no direction ends up with demotivated staff, high attrition, and high costs.

How do we go about developing a vision?

A common approach in which to do so is the VMOST. Vision – Mission – Objectives – Strategy – Tactics.

1. Vision

This is the organisation’s highest aim. It should inspire staff, and help customers understand why they would want to use the organization’s or team’s products or services.

Let’s look at some examples:

  • Oxfam: A just world without poverty
  • BBC: To be the most creative organisation in the world
  • Hilton Worldwide: To fill the earth with the light and warmth of hospitality.

2. Mission

This is also your organization’s purpose, but expressed in terms of key measures that must be reached to achieve your vision.

Let’s take a look at some more examples:

  • Oxfam: To help create lasting solutions to the injustice of poverty. We are part of a global movement for change, one that empowers people to create a future that is secure, just, and free from poverty.
  • BBC: To enrich people’s lives with programmes and services that inform, educate and entertain.
  • Adidas Group: Strive to be the global leader in the sporting goods industry with brands built on a passion for sports and a sporting lifestyle. Committed to continuously strengthening our brands and products to improve our competitive position.
  • Hilton Worldwide: To be the preeminent global hospitality company – the first choice of guests, team members, and owners alike.

There are some compelling visions here and I could certainly be motivated to work at these organisations. The final 3 elements of VMOST are:

3. Objectives – The specific goals that you must meet to achieve the mission.

4. Strategy – The plan as to how you will meet your objectives.

5. Tactics – Specific sets of actions needed to execute your strategy.

Is a VMOST necessary at team level?

The purpose of the VMOST analysis is to ensure the organisation’s teams are moving in the right direction, with everyone working to the same objectives, which can be easily mapped to the organisation’s vision, and that the teams daily tasks help the company achieve that vision.

It may be likely, particularly in IT departments, that the organization-wide VMOST is difficult to contextualize at team level. We recommend you always consider the sense of purpose at a team level. The process can be simplified by keeping to the organisation’s Vision, but then developing the team’s unique MOST.


If your team isn’t performing well, before you shake the tree and restructure, start by ensuring there is a shared sense of a purpose, a vision and mission, and clear objectives, strategy and tactics as to how it will be delivered.

The correct place to consider the team’s structure is during the Strategy stage, and ideally not before.


Recommended reading:

Will It Make The Boat Go Faster? – Ben Hunt Davies and Harriet Beveridge

Organisation Design: A Guide To Building Effective Organisations – Christine Irwin and Patricia Cichoki


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