Companies and organisations are increasingly recognising the value of teamworking as leading to greater efficiency and employee satisfaction. But what is it about successful teams that make them so much more than the sum of their parts?
Measuring the contribution of a team has historically been a case of focusing on the effectiveness of individuals and their ability to carry out roles within a team structure. Meredith Belbin’s research on teams has long been recognised as the benchmark study into the organisation of teams and how teamworking can be developed and improved. Belbin’s view of teams is of an entity made up of individuals; the success of the team being dependent upon the individual elements of the team carrying out their roles successfully.
Unproductive teams are often comprised of highly talented individuals that, put together, do not perform. What traditional methods of assessing and improving team performance have been unable to say is why this should happen: why it is that, with some teams, two plus two does not always equal four.
I take a different view of teams. As opposed to measuring the individual elements, I like to measure the team as a whole thus answering the question of why successful teams are often more than the sum of their parts.
After three years of research into a variety of teams including project teams, work groups, ‘virtual’ teams and even football teams and a jazz group, Cranfield Management College in the UK developed a model for assessing the effectiveness of the team as a collective, taking into consideration the relationships between individuals – the links that hold the team together.
The model identifies sixteen separate competencies crucial to team success. These competencies can be divided into four clusters: Enabling, Resourcing, Fusing and Motivating.
How motivated, for example, is the team to complete a task and how confident are they of completing it are crucial collective competencies integral to the success of the team. A top football team or top performing business unit for example, would not perform to the same high standards if they did not believe in their own value and likelihood of success.
Using this framework it is now possible to identify where a team is lacking and how it can be made more effective. Teambuilding exercises, such as building a bridge with nothing more than the assistance than a box of matches, an old tyre and your team mates may still be vogue practice for companies and organisations wanting to improve team performance, but without identifying where a team needs to improve – what its collective deficiencies are – such interventions are of little value. A team with great spirit does not necessarily need to prove it by suffering on a cold hillside in the Carpathians… a more business focused approach will have greater relevance and lead to stronger team belief, commitment and confidence. And isn’t that what you want from your team?
For further information on how to develop assess and develop your teams, contact Sinclair: