Creating Effective teams

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 if characteristics and organized them into a relatively focused model.

First, teams differ 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 prediction to all teams. The model should be used as a guide, not as an inflexible prescription. Second, the model assumes that its’ 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 likely components making up effective teams can be subsumed into four general categories. First are the resources and other contextual influences that make teams effective. The second relates to the team’s composition. The third category is work design. Finally, process variables reflect those things that go in the team that influences effectiveness. What does team effectiveness means 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.


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.

Adequate Resources:

Tams are part of larger organization system. A research team in Dow’s plastic products division, for instance must live within the budgets, policies, and practices set by Dow’s corporate offices. As such, all work teams rely on resources outside the group to sustain it. And a scarcity of resources directly reduces the ability of the team to perform its job effectively. As one set of researchers concluded, after looking at 13 factors potentially related to group performance, perhaps one of the most important characteristics of an effective work group is the support the group receives from the organization. This support includes timely information, proper equipment adequate staffing, encouragement, and administrative assistance. Teams must receive the necessary support from management and the larger organization if they are going to succeed in achieving tier goals.

Leadership and Structure:

All members must agree on who is to do what and ensure that all members contribute equally in sharing the work load. In addition, the team needs to determine how schedules will be set, what skills need to be developed, how the group will resolve conflicts 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. This can be provided directly by management or by the team members themselves. Leadership, of course, isn’t always needed. For instance, the evidence indicates that self managed work teams often better than teams with formally appointed leaders. And leaders can obstruct high performance when they interfere with self managing teams. On self managed teams, team members absorb many of the duties typically assumed by managers.

On traditionally managed teams, we find that two factors seem to be important in influencing team performance the leader’s expectations and his or her mood. Leaders who expect good things from their teams are more likely to get them. For instance, military platoons need leaders who held high expectations performed significantly better in training than control platoons. In addition, studies have found that leaders who exhibit a positive mood get better team performance and lower turnover.

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