The Team Performance Curve
The Team Performance Curve traces the development of a team from the beginning stage of Working Group by the ultimate goal of becoming a High-Performance Team. Team effectiveness increases as you move anywhere along the curve, but the performance impact may decline if the group becomes a Pseudo-team before making it to the possible team stage. Moving along the curve and becoming more effective and better-performing involves taking risks, dealing with problems and concerns, patience, time, and commitment.
The first meaningful point on the Team Performance Curve is a Working Group: A group for which there is no meaningful incremental performance need or opportunity that would require it to become a team. It is comprised of a number of workers who pursue no collective, time-oriented goal. Usually members interact only to proportion information, methods, and practices and each member performs in his or her area of specialization and responsibility. There is often very little room for conflict, no set of goals, and no mutual accountability.
An example of a Working Group is the members of an administrative staff whose responsibilities include answering phones, filing, billing, and scheduling appointments. They are all working as part of the same group, but have no shared, time-oriented and assessable goal to reach. They work together to continue a certain level of permissible performance, but are not collaborating towards achieving a set goal.
A working group may turn in to a Pseudo-team on their quest to becoming a Real or High-performing team. A pseudo team is not truly a team, already though it may “go by the motions” and consider itself to be one. Pseudo teams show little to no interest in creating clear, concise goals and their downfall roots from failing to shape a shared purpose. These “teams” are the weakest of all teams in regards to performance impact and productivity. As stated in The Wisdom of Teams, by Jon Katzenbach and Douglas K. Smith, “the sum of the whole is less than the possible of the individual parts.” In other words, the team members are stronger individually than the outcome or end results that are produced.
Almost always, pseudo teams “contribute less to a company’s performance needs than a working group and this is because their interactions detract from each member’s individual performance without yielding any joint benefits.” This kind of team would only ever become a possible team if they were to define specific goals, be committed to a shared purpose, and were then willing to make valuable contributions based on this assumption. A pseudo team only beholds the possible of becoming a real team when its members execute the basic principals and standards of any high performing team member.
A possible team is a group for which there is a meaningful, incremental performance need, and that really is trying to enhance its performance impact. They typically require more clarity about the purpose, and goals and more discipline in devising a shared working approach. A possible team has not however established a group accountability. They are very shared in organizations, but are not good enough. The steepest performance increases occur between this stage and becoming a Real Team.
There should be an effort for working groups to jump straight to becoming a possible team, skipping pseudo-team altogether to keep at the minimum as productive as they were. A group or pseudo-team only becomes a possible team if they make a good, honest effort to enhance their performance impact. Those who take the risks to climb the curve will inevitably confront obstacles, some of which will be conquer and others will not be. possible teams that get stuck should stick to the team norms and keep pushing for performance. Performance in itself has the possible to save a struggling possible team by illustrating that the team can and will work, consequently giving new motivation.
In order for a group of people working together to be considered as a real team, there are five basic elements that need to be met. The aspects needed concern the number of people working together, their complimentary skills, commitment to performance goals and a shared purpose, commitment to a shared approach and mutual responsibility and accountability. Only once these five aspects are met can a group of workers be labeled as a real team.
There seems to be an agreed upon concept that teams with fewer members perform better. The teams that we have read about in text or learned about during class time indicate that anywhere from two to twenty members perform best when put together. Groups of larger numbers tend to break into smaller sub-teams within a team, which leads to without of communication and a break down of team values and structure. Larger teams confront problems such as the inability to construct clear goals or clear purposes. They tend to revert to crowd behavior and have trouble finding shared ground throughout their many differences.
Finding adequate space for larger numbers of people also presents a problem. Many companies do not have enough unused space to house a team of fifty although finding a place to set up work space for twelve may be more reasonable. Complimentary skills that are brought to a team are also as important as the number of people working as a team. Within the aspect of skills we can further break it down by looking at the types of skills needed. Technical, problem-solving and interpersonal skills are the three types that need to be identified and brought to each real team.
Technical skills include any formal training or specialty that team members bring to a group. An example of this could be a surgical team performing a heart transplant. This team would need to consist of medical specialists ranging from nurses to various doctors. Having a school teacher in this team would clearly not be necessary and would not contribute to a successful team operation. It is very important to match skilled team members to correct teams in order for that team to reach optimal performance.
Decision-making and problem-solving skills are often developed while working together as a team. Many members bring the basis of these skills to a group stemming from prior experiences but given the fact that each team is rare, skills in these areas are usually readjusted to suit a specific situation. Working by problems that a team faces and making decisions that affect the team and its members have to be developed when a problem is faced is basic.
Interpersonal skills like decision-making and problem-solving skills are also developed once a team is formed. Team members will bring interpersonal skills that they have developed over their lifetimes to a group, such as how to manager conflict and communication but, each team member brings individualism and with that comes the need to adjust interpersonal skills in order to compliment other team members in a way that is productive to the overall effort that is being made.
Performance goals and commitment to a shared purpose is an important part of becoming a real team. Teams are put together in order for a goal to be met. Whether it be developing a new product line or performing a surgical operation, the task at hand is always clearly defined prior to the beginnings of team work. Although this goal or opportunity is predetermined, there must be an agreement between team members that they are all equally able and willing to work towards it successfully.
As stated earlier it is very important to have a clearly defined purpose in order for a team to know what it is that they are working to complete. After this goal is defined, a team must then decide exactly how it is that they are going to accomplish it and reach success. It is not enough for a surgical team to have a goal of completing a heart transplant. They must also have a plan containing each step of the surgery, directions for each team member and a set of instructions for everyone in the group to follow. Without these instructions measuring success would be impossible and reaching a shared goal would be difficult.
While working together each team member must also take responsibility for the team as a whole. Placing individual blame for failure or success weakens a team’s ability to work as a group. Each member must know that all of their actions are a reflection of the real team and any problems that arise are a direct reflection of each and every group member. Going back to the surgical team, if the actual doctor operating happens to make and error and the transplant is a failure, it is the team that failed, not the one surgeon. Each member’s actions must be considered as important as the next members. Without mutual accountability it is impossible for a group of people to work as a team, instead they are simply a group of individuals working together.
The last stage in the team performance curve is when a team would like to become is a high performance team. A high performance team meets all the conditions of real teams, and has members who are also deeply committed to one another’s personal growth and success.