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Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Not All Groups are Teams

Highly empowered and effective teams are the key to compete in today’s world of high technology processes, six sigma quality and continuous innovation. We have all heard the adage that “There is No I in Team” but what does that really mean?

A group is two or more people who interact with each other to accomplish a goal. A team is a group with complementary skills who are committed to a common purpose defined by a set of performance goals and hold themselves mutually accountably. All teams are groups, but, not all groups are teams. What distinguishes a team from a group? Below is a table that can be used to tell the difference.

(From: Katzenbach, J. & Smith, D. (2004). The discipline of teams. In Harvard Business Review on Teams that Succeed, Harvard; HBR Paperback, pp. 1-25)

Groups don’t just become teams because we use that name and it is not about teamwork. Teams act as a collective unit with shared commitment and not a band of individual contributors. Just like in Lean the whole, or in this case, the team is greater than the sum of the individual parts. Teams often are more difficult to form because it takes time for members to learn to work together. Management must support and encourage the use of teams in there organization.

Highly performing and effective teams use a set of values that encourage listening and responding constructively to views expressed by others, giving others the benefit of the doubt, providing support, and recognizing the interests and achievements of others.

Leaders in a lean environment should advocate the discipline that teams must share to be effective rather than just establishing working groups.

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