Differences between Groups and Teams

Groups and teams are not the same thing. In this article, we want to define and clarify the difference between a work group and a work team.

We defined a group as two or more individuals, interacting and independent who have come together to achieve particular objectives. A work group is a group that interacts primarily to share information and to make decisions to help each member perform within his or her area of responsibility.

Work groups have no need for opportunity to engage in collective work that requires joint effort. So their performance is merely the summation of each group member’s individual contribution. There is no positive synergy that would create an overall level of performance that is greater than the sum of the inputs.

A work team generates positive synergy through coordinated effort. Their individual efforts result in a level of performance that is greater than the sum of those individual inputs.

These definitions help to clarify why so many organizations work processes around teams. Management is looking for that positive synergy that will allow their organizations to increase performance. The extensive use of teams creates the potential or an organization to generate greater outputs with no increase in inputs. There is nothing inherently magical in the creation of teams that ensures the achievement of this positive synergy. Merely calling a group team doesn’t automatically increase its performance. If management opens to gain increases in organization performance through the use of teams, it will need to ensure that its teams possess these characteristics.

Types of Teams:

Teams can do a variety of things. They can make products, provide services, negotiate deals, coordinate projects, offer advice and make decisions. In this article we will describe the four most common types of teams you are likely to find in an organization: problem solving teams, self managed work teams, cross functional teams, and virtual teams.

Problem Solving Teams:

In problem solving teams, members share ideas or offer suggestion on how work processes and methods can be improved; although, they rarely have the authority to unilaterally implement any of their suggested actions. For instance, Merrill Lynch created a problem solving team to specifically figure out ways to reduce the number of days it took to open up a new cash management account. By suggesting cuts in the number of steps in the process from 46 to 36, the team was able to reduce the average number of days from 15 to 8.

Self Managed Work Teams:

Problem solving teams were on the right track but the didn’t go far enough in getting employees involved in work related decisions and processes. This led to experimentation with truly autonomous teams that could not only solve problems but implement solutions and take responsibility for outcomes.

Self managed work teams are groups of employees (typically 10 to 15 in Number) who perform highly related or independent jobs on many of the responsibilities of their former supervisors. Typically this includes planning and scheduling of work, assigning tasks to members, collective control over the pace of work, making operating decisions, taking action on problems and working with suppliers and customers. Fully self managed work teams even select their own members and have the members evaluate each other’s performance. As a result, supervisory positions take on decreased importance and may even be eliminated.

Business periodicals have been chock-full of articles describing successful applications of self managed teams. But a word of caution needs to be offered. Some organizations have been disappointed with the results from self managed teams. For instance, they don’t seem to work well during organizational down sizing. Employees often view cooperating with team concept as an exercise in assisting one’s own executioner. The overall research on the effectiveness of self managed work teams has not been uniformly positive. Moreover, although individuals on these teams do tend to report higher levels of job satisfaction, they also sometimes have higher absenteeism and turnover rates.

  • prashanthi


    please provide more information of virtual teams(definition,characterstics,advantages,effectiveness)

  • Manas Das

    The effort is admireable. However the information is not complete. The temas are classified on different aspects on different charectristics e.g. Work Groups, Special Groups, Family Groups etc. depending on requirement of the organization and/ or for the purpose of facilitating studies.
    You may refer ‘Organization Development’ by French & Bell for further clarifications.
    Manas Das


    Can you please give more information on other types of teams.