Teams can solve complex problems, achieve challenging goals, and generate innovative ideas. However, teams can also be slow, inefficient, make poor decisions, and underperform individuals doing the same work. The key is to be intentional about whether a team is the best option. Review the materials below to determine whether a team is the best option to approach your task.

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What are Teams and When Do You Need One?

A team is a group of people whose collective skills, knowledge, and abilities are combined in ways that result in better decisions and stronger performance than the sum of its individual members. 

Teams are highly interdependent - they plan work, solve problems, make decisions, and review progress of tasks and projects collectively. Team members need one another to get work done. In contrast, if a team meets together primarily to share information and make a few occasional decisions, but most of the work done independently, then it's a group. Workgroup members are not interdependent in that they don’t need each other to get the work done.

When deciding whether a team is the best fit for the task at hand, consider:

1. Complexity/Nature of work

  • Is it a simple task? Can the work be done by one person? (No team is needed)
  • Is it a complex task? Do you need a combination of different skills, knowledge and abilities? Do you need different perspectives? (Team is needed)

2. Is there a common purpose?

  • Teams are most effective when they have shared goals, not just a collection of individual goals.

3. What does success depend on?

  • Teams work best if the success of one task/person depends on the success of others on the team; and if the success of the entire team depends on the success of each individual.

4. Do you have adequate resources to support the team?

  • While teams have a greater collective capacity, working in teams requires greater resources: time investment/coordination, communication needs, equipment, staffing, access to information needed. The bigger the team, the more carefully you will need to manage the process losses (factors that make it difficult for a team to live up to its full potential increase).

Knowing the answer to these questions will help you decide whether a team is needed and be intentional about why you need a team.