Effective teams depend on five conditions. Author J Richard Hackman spent about 40 years studying teams and collecting observations from academic research. He summarised his learning in the book “Leading Teams”. In the model he presents he focusses on creating the five conditions required for teams to create magic. He writes on the magic required by leaders as well. However his research made quite clear that teams affect the leader as much as leaders affect teams. Leading teams focusses on five conditions leaders can create. And having created these conditions, the leaders can step back and allow the team to perform. The leader then observes and gently steers and coaches.
Here is a diagram to summarising what it takes to establish an effective team and how you will know you are working in an effective team:
- The first question to settle is whether this is indeed a team or simply a group of people who happen to work in the same area. Do they have a task? Do they have specified authority to manage their own work processes? Are the team boundaries clear and is the membership stable over a reasonable period of time?
- Authoritatively setting direction energises team members, orients their attention and engages their talents.
- Effective teams require enabling team structures. A well-designed work team facilitates internal work motivation in individuals as they view their work as meaningful, feel personally responsible and receive trustworthy feedback on the results of their efforts.
- Effective teams operation within an organisational context in which rewards, information availability, team education and resource availability are managed successfully to allow the teams to give full attention to their particular responsibilities without distractions and the irritation of dealing with someone else’s responsibility.
- A compelling direction, an enabling structure and a supportive organisational context provide the foundation for an effective team. No amount of coaching can compensate if these are badly flawed. However, if these conditions are in place, coaching can significantly enhance team performance in terms of identifying opportunities and vulnerabilities in managing member effort, selecting performance strategies and using member talents. Blind spots are so named because we don’t see them. Even in teams! Effective teams have access to a team coach.
In 2011, based on research in teams in the intelligence community, Prof JRH updated the model taking ‘Clear Norms of Conduct’ out of condition 3 and setting it up as the sixth condition.
When these five conditions are met, the team will have an opportunity to operate as an effective team and will show the following outcomes:
- The ability to understand, shape and exceed client expectations.
- The inclination to grow as a team, detecting and correcting errors in their team process.
- The group experience, on balance, contributes positively to the learning and personal well being of individual team members.