Today, most organizations believe in teamwork and the concept of teamwork. Many organizations would consider themselves to be ‘team-based. However, it is possible that the term “team” is one of today’s most misused and poorly defined corporate terms. Many people I meet tell me that, although they are part of a group, they don’t behave like one and do not feel any teamwork or cohesion. This is likely because many teams don’t know what type of team they are or how they should work together. This can lead to a lack of focus and ineffective development for the team.
What is a team?
Although there are many definitions of a team that can be found in literature or other sources, they all refer to the idea of a group working together towards a common goal. The key to a successful team is, it seems, a shared purpose. This means that all members of the team are committed to the same goal. A team is a group of people working together but with no common purpose. A team is a group that includes people who all report to the same leader but whose work does not depend on or relate to the creation of others.
However, this does not mean that people who work independently of each other cannot work together for a common goal.
Interdependent or independent?
Their book titled “Do You Really Need A-Team?” Kim Kanaga and Michael E. Kossler argue that dedicated teams need to have some interdependence. Workgroups are better than teams if there is no interdependence. Others say that there are two types of a team: one where members are independent and the other where they are interdependent.
Wikipedia uses examples from sport to distinguish the two. An example of an autonomous team is a tennis team. Each player plays matches, wins, or loses. The results of individual matches have no impact on the performance and ability of the next player. However, the team shares a common goal of winning the tournament.
This is how sales teams operate in business. Each sales manager is responsible only for the sales of their own territory. Their day-to-day performance doesn’t directly impact other sales managers. However, the team shares a common goal, such as achieving a $5 million sales target or increasing product X’s market share by 5%. Although team members can share information and best practices with each other, the goal may not be met if they don’t.
Interdependent teams are those where members depend on each other for skills, information, or any other need. Recalling examples from sports, consider a rugby team in which different players play specific roles and specialize in particular tasks. It is impossible for one player to win a match if the other members are not there.
Many business teams operate in the same way. They rely on each other to perform certain tasks and take on specific roles in order to reach their overall goals. Consider a project team where members are chosen for their strengths. For particular phases of the project, new members might join the group. The project could fail if one member of the team fails to fulfill his/her responsibility.
You can support Kanaga and Kossler’s definitions of workgroups and teams, or you may believe that there are different types of teams. The most important thing is to understand the kind of team you have and how you can develop them.
What type of team should I have?
First, determine whether or not you have a team. Then work out how to make that team function. These are some questions to consider:
Is there a clear common purpose for the group you’re thinking of? What is the purpose of this group?
Does the team need to work together in order to accomplish the goal – or can they rely on each other for information or skills?
Is it possible to achieve the same goal without all members working together? In other words, can you get results if the individual efforts are combined rather than a group effort?
Develop Your Team
Team development initiatives that build trust and strengthen relationships between members of interdependent teams will be a benefit to them. This type of team will benefit from a coaching approach to development. It allows team members to share their strengths and work together to overcome challenges. This type of approach asks the critical question, “How can we work better together as a group?”
This approach is often seen as useless by independent teams. This type of team will ask the critical question: “How can we each perform better in our jobs?” It is possible to train all team members in job-related skills so that they can contribute to the team’s success. It is essential to foster a culture that allows team members to share their knowledge and tips with each other. Some team building can also be helpful to build relationships.
Basically, not every team development initiative is suitable for everyone. You should consider the type of team you want to build and decide if training or team building is best for you. Investment in your team’s development will bring benefits long-term, but only if it is appropriate for the team.
(c) Ann Greene 2007. All Rights Reserved Worldwide
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