Before we can define high-performing teams or work groups, we will need to define the term team first. A team can be defined as a small number of people with complementary skills who are committed to a common purpose, set of performance goals, and approach for which they hold themselves mutually accountable. "That definition lays down the discipline that teams must share to be effective (Katzenbach, 2005). Organizations utilize teams to perform operational and project based tasks.
People working in teams have the capacity to solve complex problems that cannot be solved by individuals working alone. People working in teams bring more resources to a task, including a variety of perspectives, knowledge, skills, and experience (Capella University, 2008). This diversity of perspectives, knowledge, skills, and experience allows a team to outperform the sum of its parts and is a critical component of a team being labeled as a high-performing team.
Teams come in many forms, they can be permanent or temporary, they can be leader-led or self-managed, and they can be co-located or virtual. Regardless of their purpose and form, all teams are made up of individuals interacting interdependently to achieve common organizational goal. Furthermore, all teams share the following: clear boundaries, common tasks, differentiated member roles, autonomy, dependence on others, and collective responsibility (Capella University, 2008). Teams definitely are forms of work groups, but not all work groups are teams (Brounstein, 2011).
A work group is also a collection of individuals however; they may not have complementary skills, a common purpose or a set of shared goals. In a work group, each member is responsible for only their own individual contributions. He or she achieves outcomes or makes their contribution to the organization in (relative) isolation. Individuals need not have any concern about what other members of the group achieve. Within a work group, there is not the interconnectedness and shared responsibility you see between team members.
Each member of a group can say ‘I did my best; it is not my fault that others did not pull their weight (www. leadership-development-coaching. com, 2011). ’ To add more context to the difference between work groups and teams refer to Table 1 (Brounstein, 2011). Work Groups| Teams| Individual accountability| Individual and mutual accountability| Come together to share information and perspectives| Frequently come together for discussion, decision-making, problem solving and planning. | Focus on individual goals| Focus on team goals|
Produce individual work products| Produce collective work products| Define individual roles, responsibilities, and tasks| Define individual roles, responsibilities, and tasks to help team do its work; often share and rotate them| Concern with one's own outcome and challenges| Concern with outcomes of everyone and challenges the team faces| Purpose, goals, approach to work shaped by manager| Purpose, goals, approach to work shaped by team leader with team members| Table 1: Difference between Work Groups and Teams
High-Performing teams have deeper characteristics that separate them from any team with the ‘team’ characteristics mentioned previously. Members of high-performing teams tend to develop a collective purpose that goes beyond that which the organization has established for them (Capella University, 2008). According to Harvard researcher Richard Hickman, high-performing teams must meet three effectiveness criteria (Capella University, 2008): * The team must consistently produce high-quality output. * The team must promote the personal growth needs and well-being of team members. The team must grow and learn as a unit. The Pursuit of Organizational Strategy It is not too much of a stretch to see which scenario is preferable when it comes to pursuing alignment with your organization’s strategy. Those in a workgroup, although maybe tied in roles and responsibilities to the organization’s strategic imperatives, is not concerned about others in his group or department, and therefore has no vested interest in another succeeding. High performing teams, on the other hand, consider their team as equally or more important than themselves.
A recent study of Fortune 1000 companies conducted by the Center for Effective Organizations at the University of Southern California concluded that 68 percent of the organizations in the study use self –managed or high-performing teams…but the study also shows only 10 percent of workers were in such teams (Capella University, 2008). Therefore, as much as we can agree there is a benefit from moving those in work groups into high-performing team environments, these environments are difficult to create, lead and maintain.
A failed attempt to create a high-performing team could be more detrimental than keeping a group of individuals in the work group mode, and thus making each individual accountable for driving alignment with the organization’s strategy. Virtual teams can play an interesting twist on this strategic alignment anomaly. This author suggests that virtual teams are no different in driving alignment with organizational strategy than co-located teams, with one exception.
In the role of operational support, where, for example a help-desk or call-center can take advantage of the “follow-the-sun” support methodology, you can find significant benefit by tying a virtual team’s performance as a team to an SLA, where individuals are working together to answer phones within a certain amount of rings, meet a certain first call resolution statistic etc. This type of virtual team, if lead properly can be a very high-performing team, as their bonuses and overall performance can be tied to these SLA results of the team.
Successful Leadership Characteristics of High-Performing Teams Leadership of high-performing teams have been mentioned twice in this paper; once to summarize how difficult it is to maintain high-performing teams, the second to note how to lead a high-performing virtual team. Managing any team is not an easy task. Managing and maintaining high-performing teams is increasingly difficult. Creating and managing high-performing teams is as much an art as it is a science. There is no magic formula that will uarantee team success, nor is there one best way to lead a team (Capella University, 2008). We can define four team leadership skills that will help drive work groups and teams into high-performing teams: 1. Invest in ongoing personal development 2. Provide team direction, structure and resources 3. Help the team manage boundaries 4. Manage the type and timing of interventions The Importance of High-Performing Teams We have shown the significant benefit of creating and maintaining high-performing teams concerning an organization’s strategy and team accomplishment.
High-performing teams tend to require less management since the team assumes a purpose as a whole and not individuals. These teams tend to be self-managed, or slightly managed by a leader, more so in a facilitation role than what we know as a daily manager. The most important task of the team leader is to create a work context that inspires and enables the team to do its work rather than directly intervening in the team’s day-to-day work (Capella University, 2008).
This is increasingly important to organizations as the economic outlook continues to force reductions in departmental personnel. References Brounstein, M. (2011). Differences between Work Groups and Teams. Retrieved December 5, 2011, from Dummies. com; Making Everything Easier: http://www. dummies. com/how-to/content/differences-between-work-groups-and-teams. html Capella University. (2008). TS5160: Business Foundations (2nd Custom ed. ). Boston: Pearson Custom Publishing.
Katzenbach, J. (2005, July 1). The Discipline of Teams. Retrieved December 5, 2011, from Capella University: http://web. ebscohost. com. library. capella. edu/ehost/pdfviewer/pdfviewer? vid=3;hid=119;sid=0579d6ae-2d3d-4908-9971-cea2472130f6%40sessionmgr112 www. leadership-development-coaching. com. (2011). Team vs Group: implications for leaders. Retrieved December 5, 2011, from Leadership Development Coaching: http://www. leadership-development-coaching. com/team-vs-group. html