What makes a group of people a real team? What makes a team achieve high performance? What is team performance? Did you ever think about that?
Still today in most organizations prevails the belief that team performance is something that happens spontaneously or by Divine Providence over time. Managers just toss some people together and say “You guys are now a team, come on, do your work”. The belief that every group of people is a team is fairly widespread, and teams are used for everything, even when individual work would be much better.
Managers waste their time in meetings and discussions about performance, delivery, engagement. They define processes, and job descriptions and roles, but who takes care of the team?
We have to understand that teams are not for everything. We must see the difference between teams and groups, and how to develop teams and help them improve their performance over time. Team development needs a conscious and honest effort and a lot of energy from team members, from their coach and/or leader and from the organization supporting them.
Let’s get started by reading some definitions.
What is a Team?
- A group of people with a common goal and interdependent tasks.
- A team is a small number of people with complementary skills who are committed to a common purpose, performance goals, and approach for which they hold themselves mutually accountable. – Katzenbach and Smith, 1993, “The Wisdom of Teams”
- All teams are groups but not all groups are teams. A team has an explicit shared purpose and/or task, usually in a broader organizational context with communication patterns and a network of relationships already established. – “Group and Team Coaching”, Christine Thornton
- Real work teams in organizations have four features: a team task, clear boundaries, clearly specified authority to manage their own work processes, and membership stability over some reasonable period of time. – “Leading Teams”, Richard Hackman
- A small group of people with complementary skills committed to a common purpose, set of performance goals and shared by which they feel mutually accountable. The common approach needs to include effective ways to meet and communicate that raise moral and alignment, interfacing effectively with all key stakeholders and so that the team members and continually learn and develop.– “Leadership Team Coaching”, Peter Hawkins
- It is important to differentiate between team and group. A team is a set of interrelated people organized in order to perform a specific task, with their own identity that defines and gives coherence to it. On the other hand a group is a set of people without considering the task (target or ultimate objective). – “Configuración de un equipo de proyecto informático eficiente”, Rafael Fernández Millón
- A group of people with a full set of complementary skills required to complete a task, job, or project. Team members operate with a high degree of interdependence, share authority and responsibility for self-management, are accountable for the collective performance, and work toward a common goal and shared rewards(s). A team becomes more than just a collection of people when a strong sense of mutual commitment creates synergy, thus generating performance greater than the sum of the performance of its individual members. – Business Dictionary
What is Team Performance?
The very best work teams always serve their customers well, of course. But they also become increasingly capable performing units over time, as members gain experience and discover new and better ways of working together. And, finally, they provide settings in which each individual member can find in his or her teamwork a good measure of personal learning and fulfillment. An effective work team does all three of these things:
- Serving Clients: The productive output of a team meets or exceeds the standards of quantity, quality and timeliness of the team’s clients. Effectiveness criteria is not so straightforward for teams that perform work in organizational settings. Coach’s job is first to help the team identify the standards that are used by its real clients, and then do whatever can be done to help them meet those standards.
- Growing as a Team: The social processes the team uses in carrying out the work enhance member’s capability to work together interdependently in the future. Effective work teams operate in ways that build shared committment, collective skills, and task-appropriate coordination strategies. They become adept at detecting and correcting errors before serious damage is done, and at noticing and exploiting emerging opportunities. And they periodically review how they have been operating, milking their experiences for whatever learnings can be had from them.
- Individual Member’s Learning: The group experience, on balance, contributes positively to the learning and personal well-being of individual team members. We cannot count as effective any team for which the impact of the group experience on members’ learning and well-being is more negative than positive.
These three criteria can be used to assess the effectiveness of any team, regardless of task or setting. The relative weight of the three criteria, however, varies across times and circumstances.
Introduction to the Framework
In this framework there are four main areas which determine team performance. In later versions you will be able to click on each area to obtain an explanation, relations with other areas and tools and techniques to use:
- Organizational Context (System)
- Team Structure (System)
- Team Psychology (Individual)
- Communication (Individual)
A rule of thumb of this framework, is that anything on the left hand side has greater impact on team performance than things on the right. Another way of looking at it, is that there is no way you can improve team performance by working on the items on the right, unless you have successfully worked on the items on the left. For example, a high-level of trust is distinctive of high-performing teams, but if you coach or lead a team you won’t start by increasing trust, you’d rather start by looking at team size or information system. Building trust when team is too big is a waste of time. Or, do you think you will be able to grow cohesion and sense of belonging if roles and responsibilities are not well-defined and agreed?
Click on the links below to jump to the required topic:
- Organizational Context (System)
- Team Structure (System)
- Team Psychology (Individual)
- Peer Pressure
- Attention to Results
- Psychological Safety
- Continuous Improvement
- Teamwork Mental Scripts
This framework is evolving. Any feedback and comments will be highly appreciated.
Thanks for reading, sharing and commenting!
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