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The Water Cooler

A blog of fresh ideas and findings from organizational leaders and researchers on how they’re making work better, shared regularly.

New guide and tools to understand team effectiveness

Filed under: Teams
When Google set out to understand what makes for an effective team, the researchers thought team composition would be most important. But it turned out that how a team interacts is far more important than who is on the team.

The newest re:Work guide, "Understand team effectiveness," includes the story of how the research project came to be (as seen previously in The New York Times), the hypotheses the people analysts sought to test, the methods used, as well as tools to help teams everywhere determine their own needs and discuss the importance of psychological safety.

In Google's research, psychological safety turned out to be the most important dynamic of effective teams. Psychological safety is defined as "a shared belief held by members of a team that the team is safe for interpersonal risk taking." The re:Work guide offers examples from external research on how your team can foster psychological safety and includes a set of actions managers can take to model and reinforce healthy norms.

In total, there were five dynamics the researchers found to be significant for team effectiveness:

  1. Psychological safety: Can we take risks on this team without feeling insecure or embarrassed?
  2. Dependability: Can we count on each other to do high quality work on time?
  3. Structure & clarity: Are goals, roles, and execution plans on our team clear?
  4. Meaning of work: Are we working on something that is personally important for each of us?
  5. Impact of work: Do we fundamentally believe that the work we’re doing matters?

The guide includes a discussion guide to help teams everywhere determine their own needs and develop a shared vocabulary to discuss them.