Teams – Are They a Smart or Stupid Organizational Choice?

Ed BurghardComing together is a beginning.
Keeping together is progress.
Working together is success.

Henry Ford

Have you ever tried to get a group of people together and have them operate as a high-performance team?

If yes, you’ll know that it’s difficult because a group of people does not a team make.   A team is a group of people committed to a common purpose, who use collaboration to 1) achieve superior results, 2) increase capacity and 3) improve job satisfaction.  And of course, teams can have different formal structures including, but not limited to, –

  • Leadership Teams
  • Initiative (or Project) Teams
  • Task Forces (or Steering Teams)
  • Networks

So when should you form a team? Many people have found success by using teams when –

  • Group members have a natural reason to work together or share a common goal.
  • A group, rather than an individual, should be held accountable for delivering a result.
  • The task is too large or complex for an individual effort.
  • A broad set of skills is needed to successfully complete a task.
  • The effort needs to be completed over a longer period of time.

But whenever you decide to form a Team to address a challenge, you need to remember it is a choice.  Teams are not the right organizational structure to address every challenge.  You need to be convinced that having a Team will improve the overall probability of success, and represent a more efficient use of limited resources.

If a Team is the right organizational structure, you should observe greater individual and team ownership for achieving the goals and improved overall satisfaction with the problem-solving process.

What Do Effective Teams Typically Do?

  • Ensure clarity on direction before proceeding.
  • Understand that Teams go through a predictable growth process, and proactively manage it.
  • Insist on productive behaviors from Team members that contribute to success.
  • Regularly assess status in achieving the goal.

Watch-Outs To Be Mindful Of

  • It takes more than a day to have a group of people act as a Team, let alone a high-performance Team.  Be reasonably patient.  If you don’t have time for members to coalesce as a Team, then don’t establish a Team as the organizational structure to address your challenge.  Find another way.
  • Team members need to understand what a high-performance Team looks like so they can emulate the behavior and recognize when they are off-track.
  • The Team Leader needs to understand how to assess the Team’s stage of development and plan activities that will help accelerate Team growth.
  • Be aware that structural barriers can hinder a Team.  Identify what they might be up-front and have a plan in place to minimize their negative impact.
  • Beware of, and address directly, hidden agendas, lack of trust, and unproductive behaviors (e.g. disrespect, bullying, poor listening skills, etc.).
  • Not everybody is cut out to play well on a Team.  Be willing to replace a Team member who is not delivering what is expected.  You will be doing both the Team and the individual a favor by getting them both in a position where they can maximize performance.

Now that you know the basics of high-performance Teams, you’re in a better position to determine if forming a Team is the right organizational choice to solve the problem you are facing.  Used at the appropriate time, Teams can be extremely effective in problem solving.  But, when used incorrectly Teams can cause a dramatic delay in delivering results and increase your overall cost.


What is your experience in using Teams?  We have all been on Teams, both good and bad ones.  What differentiates the experience?   What do you like most about Teams?  What do you hate most about Teams?

Leave a comment with your thoughts.

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