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 of characteristic� and organized them into a relatively focused model.

Keep in mind caveats before we proceed. 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 apply the model’s predictions rigidly 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 summed up 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 on in the team that influences 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.

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.


Teams are part of a larger organization system. 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 their goals.


Team member must agree on who is to do what and ensure that all members contribute equally in 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 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 perform 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. Leader who expect good things from their team are more likely to get them. For instance, military platoons under leaders who held high expectations performed significantly better n training than control platoons. In addition, studies have found that leaders who exhibit a positive mood get better team performance and lower turnover.

Climate of Trust

Members of effective teams trust each other. And they also exhibit trust in their leaders. Interpersonal trust among team members facilitates cooperation, reduces the need to monitor each others behavior, and bonds members around the belief that orders on the team won’t take advantage of them. Team members, for instance, are more likely to take risks and expose vulnerabilities when they believe they can trust others on their team. Trust in Leadership is important in that it allows the team to be willing to accept and commit to their leader’s goals and decisions.

Performance Evaluation and Reward Systems

Individual performance evaluations, fixed hourly wages, individual incentives, and the like are not consistent with the development of high performance teams.

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. 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.

Comments are closed.