If you’re in a team, you’re probably in a good place. After all, research shows that teams outperform individuals nine times out of 10.
Teams play an important role in any business. If you look around the office, chances are you’ll find lots of teams; from the marketing team to the sales team. The success of your company will depend on how effective these teams are. But does your group fall into the category of “real team,” or are you more of a “pseudo-team”?
The term “team” is often used as a synonym for any group of people who are working together. However, being on a team and working as a team are two markedly different things.
Difference between a group, pseudo-team and real team
Professor Michael West, whose career has focused on the factors that determine the effectiveness and innovativeness of individuals, teams and organisations at work, identifies the following difference between a group, pseudo-team and a real team:
- Group – a number of people who come together for a common purpose. Their own agendas and motivations overlap for this purpose specifically.
- Pseudo-team – a group of people who report to the same leader but have little task or social interdependence. They use the word team to describe the structure, not the behaviours.
- Real team – has a shared purpose and shared understanding about the processes and behaviours that enable them to deliver that purpose, along with the consensus on how they add value beyond the sum of their parts.
Consider a group of people brought in from different departments to solve a problem who disband after the assignment is complete. Or a team of senior managers from different divisions who meet quarterly to review results and set strategies. These groups may be composed of talented individuals, but they are not real teams.
There are three critical conditions to discern real teams from pseudo teams:
- Clear and shared objectives – A real team understands their objectives and what they’re trying to achieve together. And shared objectives is the first principle of effective teamwork. In a pseudo-team, people have their own objectives, which they might have trouble articulating to others in the team. They may be working towards different goals or in competition with each other.
- Work interdependently – A real team works closely together to combine their efforts to deliver. They’re communicating and coordinating effectively together. Instead, a pseudo-team is a collection of individuals working individually toward a common goal but who happen to share the same task and superior. They each have their roles and responsibilities, contributing independently toward the larger goal. There isn’t much coordination between team members’ actions or efforts because they don’t need it — it’s not required for them to succeed individually or as a group.
- Meet regularly to review progress and improvement – A real team must meet regularly to review their performance and consider how they can improve their performance and close any gaps in terms of their effectiveness and efficiency.
Members of a pseudo-team might be great at what they do individually. However, together they are not effective because there is no coordination among them and no accountability for their performance as a group.
Why do we have pseudo-teams
We are fascinated by teams because we think the division of labour is one of the most important phenomena in history. When we talk about teamwork, we often refer to the positive benefits of teamwork – better communication, more productivity and creativity and so on.
We are also puzzled by teams because for something so central, it seems so difficult to make them work well. The reason why teamwork is so hard is because it requires two very different kinds of work. One is individual effort: people need time alone to figure things out. The other is collaboration: you need time together to share what you’ve figured out and integrate it with what others have figured out.
Real teams need to be brought together, kept together and managed together. They don’t just happen, and they don’t just exist in name only. Without someone steering the ship, real teams are likely to drift into pseudo-team status or worse.
Teamwork is an emotional commitment to a common goal and vision. People who work in real teams have a strong emotional connection with each other, which produces genuine caring and trust that permeates the entire group. When people trust each other, they feel safe interacting with each other and are able to build relationships that allow for open communication. This enables them to share information freely and openly without fear of retribution or ridicule.
If you are looking to build a real team, we can help. Broc Consulting offers team coaching services to increase team cohesion, motivation and performance. Please send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org to arrange a free 45mins consultation.