January 18, 2021
Mark Whitson, a member of DPR's management committee, shares lessons learned coming off an unprecedented year and how leveraging a team of teams approach supports the next leg of DPR’s journey.
What has been the single most important factor in keeping the company moving forward when so many challenges have seemingly come one after another?
One of the things we did early on, in the wake of the pandemic, is to really focus on staying true to who we are: A builder of great things, on a mission to be one of the most admired companies by the end of the decade. Mission 2030, as we refer to it, helps us be strategic around how to take care of our people, customers, partners and projects. Even though uncertainty lingers and will continue to be a part of life for the foreseeable future, we’ve proven what we can do when we stay true to who we are.
What are some of the lessons DPR is taking forward?
There are so many but a few that come to mind are…Data differentiates us; we proved that if we have consistency in our data we can increase efficiency and keep people safe. Cascading our communications throughout the company in real-time keeps the company feel smaller, more intimate and connected. Realizing a whole other gear in our flywheel that we can operate in if we increase the connectedness and strength of our matrix organization—by truly leveraging a team of teams approach.
What does a team of teams approach mean? What does it look like?
DPR’s strength has always come from immense focus on our culture and shared leadership throughout all of our teams; from leadership teams to our project teams. Several years ago, we embraced several of the key principles from General Stanley McChrystal’s book, Team of Teams, around creating shared awareness and understanding throughout the company along with empowerment in execution. It truly fits our culture and allows us to ensure our teams are not only empowered but connected in a way that ensures consistency while maintaining individualization.
What did we try differently in 2020 and how does this approach support us on our way to Mission 2030?
Like everyone, we were faced with a variety of new challenges. To help address them we implemented a series of “tiger teams,” teams put together for specific purpose for a limited duration of time. This is really an extension of the Team of Teams concept that allowed us to streamline our efforts to solve specific challenges, take advantage of different opportunities, provide unique developmental experiences to our leaders, and connect our teams in a way that helped integrate key leaders from across the company. This approach builds on the foundation of our culture while leveraging smaller, diverse groups of people to innovate, implement and improve the way we plan, work, communicate and make decisions—and will be transformative on our journey.