Characteristics of successful teams
Regardless of whether we’re talking about the Indianapolis Colts or the editorial department of the Indianapolis Star, there are a number of characteristics common to successful teams:
- Clear goals
- Clear roles
- Clear communication
- Beneficial team behaviors
- Well-defined decision procedures
- A plan for improvement
- Balanced participation
- Established norms and ground rules
- Awareness of the team process
- Scientific approaches
There are a number of types of teams, and they are generally distinguished by three key points: their purpose; their duration (permanent or ad hoc); and their membership (functional or cross-functional). Five types of teams generally seen in the business sector are:
- Natural work groups: groups composed of people who work together every day
- Business teams: groups of people who come together for a specific task.
- Management teams: groups of people, usually peer managers, who come together to coordinate actions of the entire organization.
- Problem-solving teams: groups of people who come together for a specific period to analyze a situation and suggest working alternatives.
- New product/service teams: groups of people who come together to design or redesign a product or service.
To be effective, teams have a number of needs that must be met, including:
- Clearly defined purposes and goals that serve the organization
- Clearly defined parameters
- Ability to communicate within the organization
- People with the necessary knowledge and skills to accomplish their tasks.
- Knowledge of how they are going to accomplish their tasks.
How teams operate
To accomplish their purpose and mission, teams must collaborate effectively. Teams that follow a proven process often achieve their goals. An effective process includes:
- Identify the clear purpose, problem, or issue the team will address
- Determine a problem-solving process
- Hold effective meetings (e.g. agendas, ground rules, and established roles)
- Conclude collaborations (e.g. summarize decisions, review action items, and evaluate meetings)
- Follow up (e.g. distribute notes and complete assignments)
In summary, businesses often say they have “great teamwork” but the proof is in the process and the results.
Note: We have adapted portions of this post from P. Scholtes, B. Joiner, and B. Streibel, 2003, The Team Handbook, Oriel, Madison, WI.