Guide: Understand team effectiveness

Define what makes a “team”

The first step in answering this question of “what makes an effective team?” is to ask “what is a team?” More than an existential thought exercise, actually figuring out the memberships, relationships, and responsibilities of individuals all working together is tough but critical to cracking team effectiveness.

The term team can take on a wide array of meanings. Many definitions and frameworks exist, depending on task interdependence, organizational status, and team tenure. At the most fundamental level, the researchers sought to distinguish a “work group” from a “team:”

  • Work groups are characterized by the least amount of interdependence. They are based on organizational or managerial hierarchy. Work groups may meet periodically to hear and share information.

  • Teams are highly interdependent - they plan work, solve problems, make decisions, and review progress in service of a specific project. Team members need one another to get work done.

Organizational charts only tell part of the story, so the Google research team focused on groups with truly interdependent working relationships, as determined by the teams themselves. The teams studied in Project Aristotle ranged from three to fifty individuals (with a median of nine members).

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