Organisations can achieve their inherent goals if there is teamwork. This is especially important in projects. Teamwork presupposes that each member of the project team will do his part in the achievement of the final deliverables. Teamwork also builds trust, increases accountability, and improves the conflict resolution skills of each member. Teamwork is like having a well-oiled machinery running the project. It allows for the efficient and effective execution of the different activities of the project.

Groups vs. Teams

There are some people who use the terms ‘groups’ and ‘teams’ interchangeably. While this may be true on a more superficial basis, there is a unique difference between these concepts.

Groups are nothing more than a collection of people who may share certain characteristics. A good example of this within the context of a business organisation is the group of people that make up the marketing department.

Teams, on the other hand, are groups of people who must work together to achieve a very specific objective or goal. In our example above, the marketing department is a group. However, this group can also assign several members to a team that will oversee the marketing of a very specific project. The people in a team show commitment to both the goals of the project and each team member.

The Concept of Teamwork

The presence of mutual commitment is stronger in a team than in a group. This commitment fosters a sense of accountability for everyone in the team. In turn, accountability fuels the team members to perform very well. It also strengthens their professional relationship among each other.

It is through commitment, accountability, motivation, and performance that teams can accomplish the goals of the team and that of the project.

Team Development Models

The cohesiveness of the team is essential to ensuring good teamwork. Organisations can learn from different models for developing their respective teams. Two of the more popular approaches are the Tuckman Model and the Katzenbach and Smith Model.

  • Tuckman’s Model

Bruce Tuckman developed the Group Development Model in 1965. Tuckman posited that successful teams must go through four (4) critical steps or processes. The first one involves the formation of the team, allowing each member to get to know and gain a fundamental understanding of one another and how they will work as a team.

The second stage is storming, allowing members to challenge each other. It is important for the team to navigate through these challenges before they can work together harmoniously. This is the third stage of Tuckman’s model – the norming phase.

As the bond strengthens among the members, they can perform their tasks, while maintaining active collaboration and participation. Their motivation to work together as a team is strong during this stage.

  • Katzenbach and Smith Model

Known as the Triangle of Team Effectiveness, Douglas Smith and Jon Katzenbach used their years of organisational observations in the formulation of a model that aims to increase member engagement and accountability.

The three apices of the triangle represent the outcomes of the teamwork. It includes performance results, personal growth, and collective work product. Each segment of the triangle requires commitment, accountability, and skills.

For example, personal growth requires an overlapping of both commitment and accountability. Collective work product requires commitment and skills, while accountability and skills are essential in ensuring optimum performance results.

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Features of a High Performing Team

Regardless of the organisation and membership makeup, successful teams share certain distinct characteristics. These are as follows.

  • The team’s vision, mission, and goals are defined in a very clear manner.
  • There are open lines of communication.
  • There is mutual trust and respect among team members that lead to group cohesiveness.
  • Team members always take a proactive approach to solving problems, while also employing high-quality decision-making processes.
  • Successful teams have a stable and efficient mechanism for resolving problems, issues, and conflicts.
  • Team meetings are always productive.
  • Team members try to collaborate.
  • The team encourages and appreciates diverse thinking.
  • Each team member has a very clear role to play.
  • High-performance teams display innovation and will always strive to deliver the desired outcomes.
  • A successful team always has strong leadership.
  • High performing teams never forget to provide maximum opportunities for each team member to develop both professionally and personally.
  • Successful teams never fail to show appreciation to their members and celebrate success.

Social Roles in Teams

One of the defining characteristics of a high-performing team is the clarity of the roles of each member. Each member can bring his unique set of competencies for the achievement of the team’s goals. At the same time, each member should also learn how to collaborate and establish and maintain a solid professional relationship with other members. Understanding the different social roles in teams can help ascertain the success of the project. Two of the most interesting theories on team social roles are those of Belbin and Parker.

  • Belbin’s Theory

Dr. Meredith Belbin proposed three general roles that each team member can play. These general roles include action-oriented roles, people-oriented roles, and thought-oriented roles.

Members who are action-oriented can be shapers, implementers, or completer-finishers. Shapers love to challenge others for them to improve. Implementers get the job done, while completer-finishers strive for perfection.

Being a resource investigator, coordinator, and team worker are the roles that people-oriented team members can take. Coordinators often serve as team leaders. Team workers, on the other hand, provide support. Resource investigators help facilitate the performance of the different tasks.

Thought-oriented roles can include plant, monitor-evaluator, and specialist. The plant role requires coming up with creative ideas, innovations, and approaches. Monitor-evaluators love to assess and evaluate other members’ ideas. They are very strategic when it comes to critical thinking. Specialists have a specialised body of knowledge with which they use in the performance of their duties.

  • Parker’s Theory

Glenn Parker’s theory describes four roles that any person can play in a team. These roles include collaborator, contributor, challenger, and communicator.

Collaborators always think about the bigger picture, while contributors are more concerned about specific tasks. Challengers can serve as the devil’s advocate, pushing the team to strive further. Communicators focus more on the building and strengthening of trust among members and esprit de corps.

The success of a project or any other organisational endeavour hinges on the commitment, motivation, performance, and accountability of each team member. Project managers should do well to learn how to develop and manage their project teams to ensure optimum project deliverables.

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