There is no shortage of efforts at trying to identify factors related to team effectiveness.
However, recent studies have taken what was once a “veritable laundry list of characteristics” and organized them into a relatively focused model.
The figure summarizes what we currently know about what makes teams effective. The following discussion is based on the model in the exhibit. Keep in mind two caveats before we proceed.
First, the team differs in form and structure.
Since the model we present attempts to generalize across all varieties of teams, you need to be careful not to rigidly apply the model’s predictions to all teams. The model should be used as a guide, not as an inflexible prescription.
Second, the model assumes that it’s already been determined that teamwork is preferable over individual work. Creating “effective” teams in situations in which individuals can do the job better is equivalent to solving the wrong problem perfectly.
The key components making up effective teams can be subsumed into 4 general categories:
- Work Design: The first category is work design.
- Composition: The second relates to the team’s composition.
- Context: Third Is the resources and other contextual influences that make teams effective.
- Process: Finally, process variables reflect those things that go on in the team that influences the effectiveness.
What does team effectiveness mean in this model?
Typically this has included objective measures of the team’s productivity, managers’ ratings of the team’s performance, and aggregate measures of member satisfaction.
Effective teams need to work together and take collective responsibility to complete significant tasks. They must be more than a “team-in-name-only.
The work design category includes variables like freedom and autonomy, the opportunity to use different skills and talents, the ability to complete a whole and identifiable task or product, and working on a task that has a substantial impact on others. The evidence indicates that these characteristics enhance member motivation and increase their effectiveness.
These work design characteristics motivate because they increase members’ sense of responsibility and ownership over the work and because they make the work more interesting to perform.
This category includes variables relate to how teams should be staffed. In this section, we will address the ability and personality of team members, allocating roles and diversity, size of the team, member flexibility, and members’ preference for teamwork.
Abilities of members
To perform effectively, a team requires three different types of skills.
First, it needs people with technical expertise.
Second, it needs people with problem-solving and decision-making skills to be able to identify problems, generate alternatives, evaluate those alternatives, and make competent choices and other interpersonal skills.
Personality has a significant influence on individual employee behavior. This can also be extended to team behavior.
Many of the dimensions identified in the Big Five personality model Specifically, teams that rate higher in means levels of extroversion, agreeableness, consciousness, and emotional stability tend to receive higher managerial ratings for team performance.
Allocating roles and diversity
Teams have different needs, and people should be selected for a team to ensure that there is diversity and that all various roles are filled. Successful work teams have people to fill all these roles and have selected people to play in these roles based on their skills and preferences.
Size of teams
A president of a certain technology company says the secret to a great team is: ‘Think small. Ideally, your team should have seven to nine people”. His advice is supported by evidence.
Generally speaking, the most effective teams have fewer than 10 members. And experts suggest using the smallest number of people who can do the task.
Teams made up of flexible individuals have members who can complete each others’ tasks. This is an obvious plus to a team because it greatly improves its adaptability and makes it less reliant on any single member.
So selecting members who themselves value flexibility, then cross-training them to be able to do each other’s jobs, should lead to higher team performance over time.
Not every employee is a team player.
Given the option, many employees will select themselves out of team participation.
When people who would prefer to work alone are required to team-up, there is a direct threat to the team’s morale and to individual member satisfaction.
This suggests that, when selecting team members, individual preferences should be considered as well as abilities, personalities, and skills. High-performing teams are likely to be composed of people who prefer working as part of a group.
The four contextual factors that appear to be most significantly related to team performance are the presence of adequate resources, effective leadership, a climate of trust, and a performance evaluation and reward system that reflects team contributions.
All work teams rely on resources outside the group to sustain it. And the scarcity of resources directly reduces the ability of the team to perform its job effectively.
As one set of researchers concluded, after looking many factors potentially related to group performance, “perhaps one of the most important characteristics of an effective workgroup is the support the group receives from the organization”. This support from management and the larger organization if they are going to succeed in achieving their goals.
Leadership and Structure
Team members must agree on who is to do what and ensure that all members contribute equally to sharing the workload. In addition, the team needs to determine how schedules will be set, what Skills need to be developed, how the group will resolve conflict, and how the group will make and modify decisions.
Agreeing on the specifics of work and how they fit together to integrate individual skills requires team leadership and structure.
Climate of Trust
Members of effective teams trust each other. And they also exhibit trust in their leader’s Interpersonal trust among team members facilitates cooperation, reduces the need to monitor each others’ behavior, and bonds members around the belief that others on the team won’t take advantage of them.
Performance Evaluation and Reward Systems
How do you get team members to be both individually and jointly accountable?
The traditional, individually oriented evaluation and reward system must be modified to reflect team performance.
Individual performance evaluations, fixed hourly wages, individual incentives, and the like are not consistent with the development of high-performance teams.
So, in addition to evaluating and rewarding employees for their individual contributions, management should consider group-based appraisals, profit sharing, gain sharing, small group incentives, and other system modifications that will reinforce team effort and commitment.
The final category related to team effectiveness is processed variables. These include member commitment to a common purpose, the establishment of specific team goals, team efficacy, a managed level of conflict, and minimizing social loafing.
A common purpose
Effective teams have a common and meaningful purpose that provides direction, momentum, and commitment for members. This purpose is vision. It’s broader than specific goals.
Successful teams translate their common purpose into specific, measurable, and realistic performance goals. Goals lead individuals to higher performance, goals also energize teams.
These specific goals facilitate clear communication. They also help teams maintain their focus on getting results.
Effective teams have confidence in themselves. They believe they can succeed. We call this team efficacy.
Success breeds success. Teams that have been successful raise their beliefs about future success which in turn motivates them to work harder.
Conflict on a team is not necessarily bad. Teams that are completely void of conflict are likely to become apathetic and stagnant. So conflict can actually improve team effectiveness. But not all types of conflict.
It is common that individuals can hide inside a group. They car engage in social loafing and coast on the group’s effort because their individual contributions can’t be identified. Effective teams undermine this tendency by holding themselves accountable at both individual and team level.
Successful teams make members individually and jointly accountable for the team’s purpose, goals, and approach. They are clear on what they are individually responsible for and what they are jointly responsible for.