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  • Writer's pictureAwatif Yahya

Designing Effective Teams


Very few people work in restricted silos. Most of us work within a community of some sort; either professionally affiliated or geographically bound. In the corporate world, such communities are known as work groups or teams. However, there is a tremendous difference between the two.


A work group consists of people who share ideas and learn from one another but are not interdependent, nor do they share a common goal. A team on the other hand, has specific characteristics as defined by Leigh L. Thompson, author of Making The Team, A Guide For Managers:


҉ Teams have a shared goal

҉ Team memberships are bound to a specific period of time (typically 1-2 years)

҉ Team members have work interdependency

҉ Team members have authority to manage their work and processes

҉ Teams operate in large social systems (e.g. organizations)

҉ Teams draw upon resources from outside the team and vice versa


Teams are crucial for the success of the work we do. Organizations put teams together to encourage innovation, improve productivity and enhance customer service. Diverse teams bring further benefits of having a variety of skill sets, experiences and a global view.


For those reasons, it is important to have a strong team foundation defined upfront to avoid potential hurdles in the future. Below are good questions to ask when designing an effective team:


1. What is the nature of work to be done? Is the work following a known procedure or is it experimental?

2. Is the goal clearly defined? Is the "why" understood and embraced?

3. How much authority does the team have or allowed to have?

4. What is the focus of the work the team will do?

5. What is the degree of task interdependence among team members?

6. What resources are available to the team? What resources will they need?

7. Are member interests perfectly aligned? Are they opposing or mixed in nature?

8. How big should the team be?

9. Will time pressure be a good or a bad thing for the team?

10. How long are team members expected to work together?

  

How can organizations decide on team design?


Organizations are not confined to one particular design for their teams; there are several types of teams to pick from and a mixture of styles. Organizations should adopt a best-fit style depending on the nature of work and the organizational culture.


The table below summarizes four team types identified by Leigh L. Thompson:



No matter the team type, the number of its members is a key component to its success. A good formula to follow is:


Where “n” is the number of members in a team. A model team size is fewer than 10 people. 



What about Virtual Teams?


More and more teams operate virtually nowadays. The COVID pandemic drove the need for virtual teams, but other factors include global business expansion, growth of gig economy, changes in family structures and caregivers among others. For more information on building strong virtual teams checkout a book titled Virtual Power Teams by my good friend Peter Ivanov.

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