When working with others our default action is to form a team. After all, teamwork is good and everyone works in teams. It is interesting to compare this idealized view to the reality of many teams. Team leaders report it requires hard work to lead their teams. How to keep everyone engaged? How to deal with inter-personal breakdowns? How to maintain accountability? These are everyday challenges all team leaders face.
Why Form A Team?
Let’s step back and challenge that implicit assumption we must form a team. Why? There is only one reason we need to form a team. We form a team when the desired outcome cannot be achieved if the team members worked alone. This says we only form a team when we need to collaborate with others to achieve shared outcomes. The level of required collaboration defines whether we will benefit from forming a team.
If this is true, how do we organize those groups of people who don’t have to collaborate together to create a shared outcome? One alternative is for these people to simply work as individuals without any group coordination, and that might be appropriate. I suspect the answer is somewhere between these two extremes.
What Is The Alternative?
In the example of a group of people in a call center, they each have their own call related goals and they don’t need to collaborate to answer their calls. Do they work completely independently? No, they will need to attend training, receive updates on the group and the company’s performance and other communications. In this case, we have a workgroup, a group of people who work together and don’t require a high level of collaboration.
Don’t Invest Unless You Will Get a Return
So why is this distinction between teams and workgroups important? Teams require a large investment to achieve their potential and perform well. If you don’t need a team, don’t invest the time and effort because you will ultimately be disappointed. Instead, ask yourself what level of collaboration is required to achieve your goals and proceed accordingly.