Much of the work that has been written about teams and
teamwork focus on the assumption that some teams are more effective than
others. While team effectiveness can be judged by measuring the productive
output of the team, many authors have attempted a more holistic approach the
analysis of team effectiveness.
I. Historical Look at Team Effectiveness.
In the 1930's Kurt Lewin focused on work groups and
what forces made them effective. His research produced force field
analysis, in which the forces that help and impair groups are studied.
There have been literally hundreds of articles about
effective teamwork. Rather than creating an exhaustive but incomplete list
of what authors today feel are important, I will list what pioneers of
McGregor (1960, 232) created
a list of eleven important elements of effective groups. These are presented
in such a way that a consultant could identify each aspect from observations
of the groups:
1) informal, relaxed
2) a lot of discussion
3) task or objective is well
4) members will listen to
5) there is disagreement
6) decision making by
7) criticism is frequent,
frank, and relatively comfortable
8) people are free to express
their feelings and ideas
9) clear assignments are made
and accepted (roles)
10) little evidence of a
struggle for power. Leadership shifts from time to time
11) self-conscious and
New Patterns of Managment
1961, gives 24 Characteristics of an Effective Team:
Skilled Members and Leaders
Group has been in existence sufficiently long to have developed a
well-established, relaxed working relationship among all its members.
Members are attracted and loyal to the team, its members, and the leader.
4. A high
degree of confidence and trust
and goals reflect needs of members
are seen as important
and goals motivate members
Leadership adheres to principles that support members, create cooperation
Helps members develop
Members accept willingly and without resentment the goals and expectations.
Leader and members believe that each member can accomplish the "impossible."
Supportive atmosphere stimulates creativity.
"Constructive conformity" to mechanical and administrative matters
Motivation to communicate
Motivation to receive communications
Motivation to influence other members and to be influenced
Communications with the leader
Flexibility and adaptability
Goals and philosophy of operation are clearly understood, and provide a
solid base for making decisions.
selection of leader.
The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Leadership Fable,
(2002) Lencioni presents a pyramid model with the five dysfunctions of a
team (from the bottom, up):
of trust: stemming from an unwillingness in the team members to be
vulnerable and genuinely open up with one another about their
mistakes and weaknesses.
conflict: inability to engage in unfiltered, passionate (yet
constructive, though it may strike you as odd) debate.
commitment: no buy in and commitment can be expected when ideas and
opinions have not been aired and genuinely taken into consideration
prior to a decision.
Avoidance of accountability: without commitment to a clearly defined
set of goals, team members will hesitate to call their colleagues on
their actions and behaviors that are counterproductive for the team.
Inattention to results: Lencioni brings it all home through the
realization that avoidance of accountability leads to a state where
team members tend to put their individual needs above the team's
In 1972, Beckman wrote of four "Important Areas for
Team Effectiveness:" 1) goals, 2) Roles, 3) Processes, and 4) Relationships
(152). These broad areas are similar to many of the characteristics of
effective teams given by authors today.
In 1986, Goodman, Ravlin, and Argote did an empirical
study of group effectiveness. In this study they compiled findings
about group effectiveness which were published between 1979 and 1986.
General themes focused on the following:
heterogeneity and homogeneity of traits, abilities, and
2. Size -
Leadership - Situational and participative
decision making techniques
Gladstein created a model to confirm that group
structures effect process relationships and group effectiveness (1984).
The Gladstein Model of Task Group Effectiveness was been formally
tested using a sample of one hundred sales groups (499):
Inputs - Group Level
and goal clarity
Specific work norms
Inputs - Organizational Level
Training and technical consultation
Rewards for group performance
3. Group Process
Discussion of strategy
Weighting individual inputs
The Team Handbook is
an excellent book about teams and creating increased quality through
teamwork. Scholtes gives ten "Ingredients for a Successful Team":
Clarity in team goals
Clearly defined roles
Beneficial team behaviors
defined decisions about procedures
Established ground rules
Awareness of group process
of the scientific approach
Parker's twelve "Characteristics of a Good Team"
includes both task and behavior characteristics:
Clearly defined goal accepted by all members and a plan for reaching it
Informal climate - not tense nor boring
Encourages participation of all members
Members disagree in civilized manner
Roles - distributed, defined, well executed
Leadership shifts depending on the needs of the team.
Decisions are reached by consensus
Team takes time to build relationships and trust
four team member styles on the team
Team periodically examines itself.
Hackman writes that
effective teams meet three criteria: 1) the productive output meets
standards; 2) the team helps people to work together on future projects, and
3) the team contributes to growth and personal well being of team members
II. Survey Instruments
for the Measurement of Team Effectiveness.
There are numerous instruments to measure the
effectiveness of teams by surveying the members and leaders of teams. These
surveys are sometimes used for self-analysis by the team. Goodman's
exhaustive study of team surveys found that historically these surveys
assessed the following (Goodman 244):
a. type of group -- college
b. type of questions -- does
A cause B? Does ABC cause D?
c. specific types of methods
-- attitude questionnaires
of data collected -- quantified and subjected to statistical analysis
presentation of suggestions for future research -- need for more refined
types of interventions suggested -- team development, nominal group
techniques, quality circles
standard used to judge proper and improper research -- does it use
experimental model? (control groups, random sample, etc.)
In Parker's Team Development Survey, team members
are asked to rank their team on a scale from one to eight (seldom to very
frequently) on the following areas. After completing the questionnaire they
are asked about the strengths, areas for improvement, and action steps for
improving the team (33):
1. Clear Purpose
5. Civilized disagreement
6. Consensus Decisions
7. Open Communications
8. Clear roles and work
9. Shared leadership
10. External relations
11. Style diversity
Francis and Young's
Improving Work Groups: A Practical Manual for Team Building provides a look at the team building
process. It then presents a "team-review survey" which points out areas
that are important for teams and team development (48). The questions on
this survey revolve around these points:
1. Appropriate leadership
2. Suitable membership
3. Commitment to the team
4. Constructive climate
5. Desire to achieve
6. Clear corporate role
7. Effective work methods
8. Role clarity
9. Critique without rancor
11. Creative Strength
12. Positive intergroup
Blockages to team development are discussed, and team
activities are detailed which are meant to overcome these blockages.
Francis and Young also present the characteristics of an effective team
according to survey they conducted of 2,000 managers (Improving Work Groups: A Practical Manual for Team Building
10). The managers
gave these as the most important characteristics of teams:
1. Conflict - challenge,
openness, and veracity
3. Energy - "synergy"
4. Learning - continually
learn better ways of working together
5. Methodology - solve
problems, make decisions
6. Objectives - mission or
Output - the "acid test" - can achieve more than members working alone
8. Structure - flexible,
responsive, orderly, directed
9. Mutual Support - respect,
10. Team-Member Fulfillment -
growth and higher potential
"The Team Audit" by Francis and Young appears in
The Encyclopedia of Team Development Activities
edited by Pfeiffer (40).
This survey of eighteen questions is useful because it is short and it can
be legally copied and distributed to teams. This questionnaire is different
from others in that there is no assumption that the team needs a score of
100%. This survey is meant to audit which areas the team members feel are
important for the success of the team, and not how effective the team is at
achieving success in those areas.
Francis and Young include a comprehensive guide to
presenting and scoring this instrument. Items are score from 0 (irrelevant
to the success of the team) to 3 (vital to the success of the team). A
personal score is noted for each member, and a team score (average) is also
filled in. This is meant to induce productive communications within the
team. The questions probe these characteristics:
1. Skillful and positive
2. Clear identification of
3. Creative and innovative
4. Realistic planning
5. Ability to accomplish
6. Good conceptual and
7. Effective troubleshooting
8. Persuasive communication
9. Imaginative design skills
10. Technical expertise
11. Financial expertise
12. Production expertise
13. Personal expertise
14. Marketing expertise
15. Editorial Expertise
16. Problem-solving abilities
18. Human relations skills
"The Team-Development Needs Questionnaire" by Francis
and Young also appears in
The Encyclopedia of Team Development Activities edited by Pfeiffer (40). This questionnaire has 108 "yes or
no" questions relating to team development needs. The authors include a
comprehensive guide to presenting and scoring this instrument. The answers
are recorded on a matrix, which is then totaled to give total scores in
1. Inappropriate leadership
2. Unqualified membership
3. Insufficient team
4. Non constructive climate
5. Low achievement
6. Undeveloped corporate role
7. Ineffective work methods
8. Inadequate team
Soft-critiquing (unwilling/unable to identify, discuss, and resolve errors)
10. Stunted individual
11. Lack of creative capacity
12. Negative intergroup
Team Assessment survey by
Hitchcock and Willard is used to measure teams based on "The 8 Team S's"
Strategy - ability to set and commit to clearly defined, achievable goals
Structure - clear roles, communications, decision making, performance
Skills - technical and interpersonal
- commitment of members to participate and work together toward goals
- open, collaborative climate, accepting of conflict, demonstrative trust
Shared Values - High standards and commitment to excellence.
Symbols - leaders provide meaningful support and inspiration
Systems - business and human resource systems support team behaviors
Shonk's "Analyzing Team Effectiveness" survey
questionnaire was presented with a scale of one to five (Schonk 1982: 102)
. The research subjects (team members) mark on the scale where they feel
that they fall, and a space is given for comments:
Goals/Objectives established and met.
Planning and Organizing as preparation for accomplishing goals
Controls the team establishes to insure results are achieved as planned.
Follow-up - Team takes corrective action when needed
Attitudes toward differences within group
"Team-Effectiveness Inventory" by Hoevemeyer has
questions rated by the subject on a scale of one to five. The subject
circles the correct number. When results are tallied the members are urged
to compare their answers with the leader's answer. Hoevemeyer gives a brief
explanation of each of the areas surveyed. The highest possible score is
100, and the author calls this 100% effectiveness. The author notes that it
is practically impossible to achieve 100% effectiveness, but that a team
"that can consistently, over the long-run, function at 95 percent
effectiveness is doing well." Hoevemeyer's survey areas are:
Clear roles, purpose .
Priorities are clear and understood .
Team understands where it fits in organization.
members work toward accomplishing the same thing.
together to set clear, achievable, appropriate goals.
"If my team doesn't reach a goal, I'm more interested in finding out why we
have failed to meet the goal than I am in reprimanding the team members."
Support and resources to meet customer needs.
Participative decision making.
Team prefers to make decisions rather than autocratic decision-making.
Dedication, ownership of problems.
Team leader keeps members up to date.
Open, honest, timely, two-way.
Constructive conflict resolutions.
Open and honest communication.
Team leader seeks contributions such as knowledge, skills, abilities and
Positive Roles and Norms:
member have needed skills.
Individuals roles make sense to all team members.
Good match of team members' capabilities and responsibilities.
Unwritten rules and norms are understood by all.
"The Team Effectiveness Critique" by Mark Alexander as
it appears in
The Encyclopedia of Team Development Activities edited
by Pfeiffer (235), measures "the factors that lead to team development and
effectiveness." These nine dimensions are rated from one to seven, and
descriptors are given at each end of a continuum: for example, the first
question has at one end of the scale "there is a lack of commonly understood
goals and objectives" and at the opposite end "the team members understand
and agree on goals and objectives."
1. Goals and Objectives
2. Utilization of resources
3. Trust and conflict
5. Control and procedures
7. Problem solving/decision
8. Experimentation and
9. Self- evaluation
"The Instant Survey" from Pheiffer (The Encyclopedia of Team-Building Activities 13) is unique in that it is created by the
team and used immediately. In this activity the team members each record
issues which they feel are important to the team and to themselves as
members of the team. Cards with the issues written on them are distributed
to arbitrarily chosen small groups of three team members. The groups
discuss the issues on the cards, recording their thoughts on flip-charts.
The larger team then discusses the findings.
"Images: Envisioning the Ideal Team" from Pheiffer (The Encyclopedia of Team-Building Activities, 1991, 29) is
similar to the Instant Survey described above, as it is created by
the team itself to be used immediately. The team members are asked to give
descriptors by which he or she would like the team to be known. Examples
could be "effective," "dynamic," "open," or "skillful." After approximately
five descriptors have been chosen, a continuum is created for each
descriptor. An example might be "ineffective --- effective." This
continuum is labeled with five levels. A survey is thus created which the
team members individually score. Members are then asked to show on the
survey where they would consider the ideal score to occur, and steps
that might lead to that ideal. This leads to discussion by the team.
"The Team Profile Questionnaire", by Glen Varney,
from Pheiffer (The Encyclopedia of Team-Building Activities 245)
gives eleven aspects of teamwork. It is similar to many other team
assessment questionnaires, and has the team members rate themselves on these
1. Goal Clarity
3. Decision Making
III. Barriers to Effective Teamwork
Because team building and development are difficult, team leaders and
managers are interested in what factors hinder teamwork. This is in
Larson and LaFasto's subtitle phrase - "What
can go wrong." This paper will speak more on this subject in the section
titled "Struggling through the Stages" in Chapter 4.
Koze and Masciale conducted interviews with business
leaders and a survey of 4,500 teams in 500 Canadian organizations concerning
barriers to teamwork. They found two main factors influencing team
effectiveness: 1) organizational factors, and 2) individual factors. The
highest ranking organizational factors were 1) inadequate rewards and 2)
compensation for team achievements. The highest ranking individual factor
was the "personal mind shift" of team members (Koze and Masciale 8)
Scholtes lists ten barriers to teamwork (The Team Handbook
2. Overbearing participants
3. Dominating participants
4. Reluctant participation
5. Unquestioned acceptance
of opinions as facts
6. Rush to accomplishment
8. Discounts and "plops"
9. Wanderlust: digression
10. Feuding members
Woodcock and Francis defined the stages of teamwork and
barriers at each stage (10):
(struggles for influence and position)
(competent procedures for problem solving) low management
Hackman calls barriers to teamwork "trip wires."
Hackman gives five barriers to teamwork: 1) to call the unit a team but
really manage members as individuals; 2) balance of team and managerial
authority; 3) let groups work out the details is a problem - not enabling,
not supporting; 4) skimpy organizational support; 5) an assumption of
Resistance to teamwork may arrise because of a natural
aversion to change. Osborne suggests several tips to overcome resistance to
teambuilding: 1) define mutual needs, 2) elect a gatekeeper, 3) promote
participation, 4) discuss both sides of an issue, 5) explore alternatives,
6) turn rhetoric into reality, 7) monitor progress, 8) recognize and reward
results (Osborne 2).