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Terms & Conditions
Teams and Teamwork
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As part of a world-wide change in workplace emphasis emerging in the 1980's, groups formerly known as "project groups", "sections, "departments", "the executive" and "senior management" became known as teams, though little about their working styles changed. It became fashionable to be committed to teamwork and to claim it amongst organisational values.
This is not without merit: it signalled a shift in collective and individual intentions towards greater democratic collaboration and recognition of shared effort.
In most cases however, only the terminology has changed. "We work in teams", people claim, irrespective of their ability to produce teamwork. Little clarity has been reached about the characteristics of an effective team, what constitutes teamwork, how it is best defined or achieved, distinguished from groups and group-work, or when it is necessary.
When the characteristics of teams and teamwork are understood, team members share a common understanding of them and are committed to realising them, and greater teamwork results. This may sound like fundamental common sense (it is) but it's certainly not common practice. So-called teams usually have no such understanding, lack clear criteria of team competence, do not systematically monitor team performance and are consequently team in name only. If they capture the extraordinary potential of real teamwork it is a matter of luck.
Team functioning differs from (non-team) group functioning, is capable of different outcomes and is used for different applications. Teams reach their potential most easily when these differences are understood.
Two common mistakes of group leaders are assuming that:
- All tasks need teamwork. They don't; some are best tackled individually.
- All work groups are teams. They are not, although they may work as teams on certain occasions for certain purposes.
A group is a number of persons belonging to or classed together or forming a whole. A team is something else. The differences are not subtle; they are key distnictions not widely understood.
The group's purpose is the same as the organisation's purpose.
Purpose is specific to what the team itself delivers.
Measures its effectiveness indirectly by its influence on others (e.g., financial performance of the business).
Measures performance directly by assessing collective outcomes of its collective work.
Strong, clearly focused leader.
Shared leadership roles.
Discusses, decides and delegates.
Decides and completes real work together.
Members hold individual accountability according to differing roles
Members accept individual and collective accountability for the team purpose.
Produces individual work tasks and products.
Produces collective work outcomes.
(After Katzenbach and Smith, 1993)
Our mentoring, support, assessment processes and publications can help you:
- Determine whether your need is for a team or an effective group.
- Understand how to usefully define "team" and "team effectiveness".
- Take a snapshot of current performance and identify development targets.
- Establish the desirable complementary skills mix within your team.
- Determine clear and agreed procedural guidelines for teamwork.
- Enhance team effectiveness within a methodical development plan for team functioning and success.
- Balance team business or task achievement measures with measures of team functioning.
- Establish team-management and team performance-monitoring processes.
Contact Tom Watkins to discuss your interest in this topic.
Click here to subscribe Tom's occasional blog, Thriving Matters.
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