Selena Hernandez
September 11, 2023
min read
Management & Governance

The Comparative Advantage of X-Teams, Observations from 2002

The current environment demands a new brand of team — one that emphasizes outreach to stakeholders and adapts easily to flatter organizational structures, changing information and increasing complexity. 

The authors of this article observed different real teams to understand the characteristics that make a team work in modern and flatter organizations. They call it the X-Team, and they are the counterparts of the high-performing teams in traditional companies. Even if this research was published in the early 2000s, it can still answer some of the issues that teams face today. According to the authors, those are the components that make an X-Team successful

  1. External Activity: Members need to be able to manage across boundaries, reaching into the political, informational and task-specific structures around them. This is not a role for the leader only, any team member can do it at some point. 
  2. Ambassadorial activity: The ability to market the project (and the team) to the organization, specially upwards. 
  3. Scouting: Gathering relevant information throughout the organization and the industry. Another important aspect is the amount of information gathered, as too many may be detrimental to the team. 
  4. Task Coordination: Task-coordinator activity involves cajoling and pushing other groups to follow through on commitments so that the team can meet its deadlines and keep work flowing. 
  5. Extensive Ties : Team members need to have both weak and strong ties with outsider. Weak but extensive ties are good, for example, when teams need to round up handy knowledge and expertise within the company. Strong ties, however, facilitate higher levels of cooperation and the transfer of complex knowledge and are forged over an extensive period of time.  
  6. Expandable Tiers: X-teams operate through three distinct tiers that create differentiated types of team membership — the core tier, operational tier and outer- net tier — and that members may perform duties within more than one tier. 
  7. Flexible Membership: The team composition is fluid, people may move in and out of the team during its life or move across its layers. 
  8. Mechanisms for Execution: Internal team processes are also important. Clarity of the roles, coordination and communication are key to the teams success. 

💡 Article pick: How Does Leadership Impact Team Performance?

Citation: Ancona, D.; Bresman, H. & Kaeufer, K. (2002). The comparative advantage of X-Teams. MIT Sloan Management Review, Spring, 33-39. 

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