Understanding Team - What is a Team?

teamTeams are part of the modern organizational culture. Whether you are a team leader or a team member, having a better understanding of how teams work, and being able to identify where the team is in the process, is a critical part to ensuring the team is ultimately successful. Start with the basics and understand what a team is and what role they play in an organization.

Why Teams?

If you visit an organization, you will find that most of the activities of the organization are performed by a group of persons. Most of the work in organizations is done in teams. In an organization, activities are arranged in such a way that requires collective contribution. In fact, new organizations can be described as composed of teams.

In modern organizations individuals are required to work in different types of teams. Even though individuals are important, their effectiveness depends, to a large extent, on the teams of which they are members. Every individual contributes for the achievement of a common goal. The individuals interact, collaborate, coordinate and influence among the members. Thus, most of the time individuals work in a team.

Groups and Teams:

A team consists of individuals. However, collection of individuals in a place may be only a crowd. When the individuals come together for certain tasks, then we have formation of a group.  A group is not necessarily a team. A group can have individuals with varied interests, attitude as well as thought processes. It is not necessary that the group members would have a common objective or a common goal to achieve. Let’s define these terms.

What is a Group?

The main function of a group is to exchange task related information and discuss task-related issues. The accountability in the group Building Roles and Teams remains of the individual. Each individual brings his/her competencies as well as the relevant information related to the task. Thus the group can be defined as a collection of individuals working in face-to-face relationship to share information and resources for a task to be achieved.

Group V/s Team:

The team is qualitatively different from the group in several ways. The team functions almost like an individual. In other words, the team is accountable for results; collective responsibility is taken. There is mutuality and complementarity of the members of the team. The most important characteristics of a team are that it creates synergy, i.e., the performance of the team is more than the collective performance of the individual members. Hence, A team can be defined as a group of individuals working in face-to-face relationship for a common goal, having collective accountability for the outcome of its effort.

Difference between Groups and Teams:

Attribute

Group / Work-Group

Team

Purpose

Same as that of Organization

Teams could be created for specific purpose, distinct from that of organization

Work Products

Individual

Collective

Process

Discuss, decide, delegate

Discuss, decide, do

Leadership

A single leader

Shared Leadership

Meeting

Efficient

Open, Problem Solving

Accountability

Individual

Individual and Mutual

Performance

Performance typically depends on the work of individual members.

Performance depends on both individual contributions and collective work products- the joint outcome of team members working together

Responsibility

Members of groups do not take responsibility for any results other than their own, although they do pool their resources to attain a goal

Each team member shares responsibility for the team outcome.

Goal

Groups share a common interest goal

Teams share a common interest goal plus a common commitment to purpose which supplies a source of meaning and emotional energy to the activities performed.

Evaluation

Indirect (Eg. Financial)

Direct (Collective Work Product)

What is a Team?

A team may be defined as a group of two or more people who interact and influence the members for the achievement of common goal. A team is a group of individuals, all working together for a common purpose. The individuals comprising a team ideally should have common goals; common objectives and they should be compatible with each other.

"A team is a small number of people with complementary skills who are committed to a common purpose, performance goals, and approach for which they are mutually accountable." - Katzenbach and Smith, 1993

“A team is groups of two or more people who interact and influence each other, are mutually accountable for achieving common objectives, and perceive themselves as a social entity within an organization.”  - Steven and Mary Ann Von

A team is defined as a reasonably small group of people, who:

  • Are committed to a common purpose
  • Hold themselves mutually accountable for achieving a clear and identifiable set of goals
  • May or may not have complementary skills

Characteristics of a Team:

Based on this definition given above, the characteristics of the teams may be elaborated as under:

  • A group of two or more persons
  • Having regular interactions among members
  • Ability to influence the behavior of team members
  • Members are mutually accountable
  • Members are interdependent
  • They together form social entity
  • Work towards achievement of common goal Each member’s contribution is as important as any other member’s contribution
  • Congruence between achievement of individual goals and that of the team goal

The frequency of interactions, influence and the nature of task may determine the formation of group, i.e., long-term, short-term, formal, informal etc. Many new managers and supervisors reading this article will be taking over the management of an existing team rather than bringing together a new one. However, understanding these basics will help you put together your ideal team if you had the opportunity. This will help you fully understand the issues you may face.

Each individual is a contributor and brings a set of skills and knowledge to the organization. When we bring those individuals together, there is a wider range of skills and experience, and as a leader you are able to come up with even better solutions.

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