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Whirling Chief

Go Team!

On the subject of teams, what exactly is the difference between a ‘team’ and a ‘work group,’ anyway? What makes any team a ‘team,’ and what makes it effective? Seriously. If you think about it, a work group is made up of more than two people and a team is made up of a work group. So…couldn’t we say a team is a work group? The answer is no.

If you look in the dictionary or the encyclopedia du jour — Wikipedia — it would tell you “a team is a group of people… linked in a common purpose.” However, it will also tell you “a (work) group doesn’t necessarily constitute a team.” Curious, eh?

The difference is that a team is a group of individuals, who gather their goals around a common purpose. Hmmm, you might say, if there are three, five, or eight of us and we have a purpose to work towards, does that make us a team now? The answer is maybe. Here comes our twist to the common definition: We believe a team is a group of individuals, who gather their goals around a common purpose, effectively. We believe a team by nature should be effective.

No doubt, any group, by definition of having multiple constituents, has multiple dynamics they need to manage themselves against. In a team, there will likely be interdependent and independent tasks, managing towards a common purpose. Therefore, there is higher complexity at play. Individuals may be effectively managing their parts; however, that doesn’t guarantee you are being effective as a team though, does it?

Over the years, research has perfected some common elements of effective teaming. My favorites come from Patrick Lencioni’s book The Five Dysfunctions of a Team:

  1. Effective teams have trust at their core.
  2. Effective teams engage in unfiltered conflict around ideas and manage differences constructively.
  3. Effective teams commit to final decisions and agreed plans of action.
  4. Effective teams hold one another accountable for delivering against agreed actions.
  5. Effective teams focus on achievement for collective results vs. individual results.

If you are being assigned to a team or sign up to be a part of one in the near-term, you may want to pay attention to these elements.


  • 22 August 2016

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