Team effectiveness

A Team or Just a Group?

First thing first. Before discussing the team effectiveness or even team coaching, let's understand what a team is and how it differs from a group of people. Many groups function like teams, following all the principles of teamwork, even if they don't explicitly identify as a team. They may not even have a leader - each person takes on that role at different times.

However, if there's no real task to bring them together, there won't be a team. Once such task or goal arises—team can get formed naturally. That is exactly the main distinction between a group and a team. A group of people is united by a common interest, but a common interest is not a goal. We all participate in multiple different groups simultaneously, but that does not make us a team.

A team consists of individuals united by a shared goal. Moreover, such goal should allow team members to achieve their personal objectives and should align with their personal values, or at least not contradict them. The stronger the personal connection to this shared goal, the more motivated individuals are to work within the team. The desire for meaningful work is far more important to team members than good leadership or material incentives.

According to the model of team effectiveness by John Katzenbach and Douglas Smith, there are 6 fundamental characteristics of a team:

  1. Team size: typically, this indicates a small number of members, with teams of up to 8 people considered the most effective.
  2. Complementary skills: skills should be mutually complementary, giving the team a reason to work together rather than individually.
  3. Common goal, significant and compelling: “common” is mandatory but "compelling" is particularly important as it forms the emotional component of team effectiveness.
  4. Joint KPIs / common specific tasks : this represents the rational aspect of effectiveness.
  5. Common approach to work - it's about coherence in working methods, timelines, schedules, and decision-making mechanisms.
  6. Mutual responsibility: is a collection of promises that people make to the team and to themselves, where team members can call upon each other's responsibility, and each assumes responsibility before other team members

In order to convert a group into a team or improve the dynamics within an established team, it's essential to analyze all six indicators and identify needs and possibilities for improvement.

The choice between a team and a workgroup led by a leader depends on the nature of the tasks at hand. Teamwork is necessary only when:

  • Success requires collective effort, as individuals alone cannot achieve the desired outcome.
  • Collective responsibility for outcomes is crucial.
  • Successful task completion requires shared leadership, with different team members assuming leadership roles at different times.

If the task is easily resolved individually, and the leader can make all decisions, and group accountability is unnecessary, teamwork may be seen as an annoying disruption and a waste of time.

And how do you evaluate your team against these 6 parameters, is it a team? And do you feel the need for a real team, not just a group of people?