The Case for Teams – why are teams important?
Recent research carried out by Gallup, Ernst and Young and others has shown that there is a need for teams within organisations. Ernst and Young, in May 2013 summarised some of their findings as follows:
“Almost 9 out of 10 companies surveyed agree that the problems confronting them are now so complex that teams are essential to provide effective solutions.”
“An overwhelming majority of respondents think that their organization’s ability to develop and manage teams will be essential for their future competitiveness.”
This leads us to the conclusion that the success of an organisation is linked to the success of it’s teams. Teams are often the key step in linking the talents of individuals to the success of the organisation. Antony Jay put this well in the forward of 'Management Teams, Why they Succeed or Fail' by Meredith Belbin:
“It is not the individual but the team that is the instrument of sustained and endearing success.”
What is a Team?
There are always plenty of articles, books, papers, and news articles that talk about teams and teamwork. They tend to be very general, and don’t always link up to practical business situations. Perhaps the better question to ask is:
What makes up an effective Team?
- There are many points that can be discussed, but the key aspects are as follows:
- A team must have a purpose. It should be clear, communicated and understood.
- Members are chosen for what they can contribute “Who is in a team matters less than how the team members interact, structure their work, and view their contributions.” Google
- Dynamic interaction – this only happens when there is a lack of hierarchy and an agreed purpose. Everyone needs to understand when they need to make their contribution.
- Shared leadership – this should be rotated in regards to where the team is in terms of the business objective.
- Psychological safety is critical – team members must trust one another.
- Small enough to be productive – often overlooked, but critical.
“Small teams can deliver results faster, engage people better, and stay closer to their mission.” Ernst and Young, May 2013
“If I see more than two pizzas for lunch, the team is too big.” Jeff Bezos, Amazon CEO
Teams need to be put together with care
“Simply putting together a number of people and expecting them to work as a team is not enough.” This is our 'why' at Belbin HQ. For teams to be effective you need to work with them and provide teams and managers with the tools that they need to succeed.
We need to help managers:
- Identify the individual strengths in the team
- Define and communicate clear goals
- Develop an atmosphere which encourages members to share their strengths and weaknesses
- Foster relationships that exploit strengths and manage weaknesses
- Identifying and Communicating strengths
An article published by Harvard Business School in 2016 called ‘Preparing the Self for Team Entry: How Relational Affirmation Improves Team Performance.’ reiterates the importance of communication within a team:
“Making people aware of their own strengths results in better communication among team members and thus higher levels of performance.”
This is backed up by Rhodes back in 1991 who stated that:
“Without open, explicit communication about tools and processes, individuals have trouble making clear to one another what they are doing.”