Defining Your Team

Teams can do a variety of things, and the buzzwords can get heavy when talking about teams. Teams may coordinate projects, create products, deliver services, or provide advice and they all make decisions. Let’s lay out some common language and definitions in teamwork.

Operational Team

Upon entering a company, sometimes you are placed on a team of individuals that works together on a daily basis. Examples are Human Resources, the IT squad, or the Marketing department. Within this function, there is a specific goal or mission on how the team will support the organization.

Leadership Team

The leadership team takes a strategic role in guiding the business decisions of the company. Almost every company has one, and it includes mostly CXO’s and Senior VP’s from varied departments, each with a very different viewpoints.

Quality Circle

This is a structured way to empower innovation while making management aware of the day-to-day issues. Individuals working in quality circles seek to pinpoint, analyze, and address problems within the workflow of their organization, with the goal of improving performance. Usually, these teams can improve working conditions as well as operational efficiency.

Cross-Functional Team

In cross-functional teams (also called project team sometimes), workers across functions of the organization—people with different areas of expertise—temporarily share their knowledge together toward a common goal. A common situation that calls for cross-functional teams is the launch of a new product. In these teams, active participation is a must and getting some semblance of consensus on decisions is often necessary.

Task Force

A task force is a group of experts that is called together to solve a predetermined, well-defined, and one-time only assignment. When the assignment recurs, sometimes it can also be called a committee. It’s usually called to make solving a problem official and the solution is implemented more often than not. The term comes to us from the United States Navy.

Self-Managed Team

In a self-managed team (also called self-directed team), there is no position that is granted authority. Working towards a common goal, the team creates their own action items, roles, education, and rewards system—usually based on a very practical what works, what doesn’t approach.

What do all of these have in common?

Varied roles. There isn’t a single person that has all the answers, and thus, teams can get more done when one person’s strengths make up for another’s weaknesses.

Shared leadership and accountability. There isn’t much focus on the leader. The team may have a leader, but the so-called followers are just as important, if not more important. The team is not just a sum of its parts. A member making individual progress at the expense of the others will not contribute to the desired outcome. So individuals must work together in order to make progress.

Global Possibilities. Any of the teams above can work together from various locations. In fact, I neglect to mention virtual teams, because virtual teams can really be any of the above—a virtual team is simply a method (as opposed to a purpose).

Problem-solving is a central activity. Solving problems can be a weekly, if not daily activity for these teams. It typically works best if there is a method behind the madness (the company principles and values are a good place to start), a structured approach, and a general agreement about decision-making norms.

Eva Rykrsmith

Eva Rykrsmith is an organizational psychology practitioner. Her passion lies in bringing a psychology perspective to the business world, with the mission of creating a high-performance environment. Follow her @EvaRykr.

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  • celinamacaisa

    Your statement “The team may have a leader, but the so-called followers are just as important…” is a team concept that some Gen Xers (like me) should take note of. Even though I knew about the importance of teamwork, rather than just doing it on your own and your own way, I still had the old notion that being a team leader is a command and control relationship, where the leader contributes more significantly to decision-making.

    Your article made me pay more attention to the fact that team members & their contribution are “JUST AS important or even more important.”

    Right now, I am still learning to work more effectively in a team situation (being part of a virtual team), so I would also like to share to your readers a helpful resource I found for new supervisors, managers and business owners and team members. Dianne Crampton’s Business Team Culture Book, “TIGERS Among Us: Winning Business Team Cultures And Why They Thrive” offers tools and techniques essential to create teams and a company culture that would lead to business success.

    Thanks for your article and books like those found in http://www.tigersamongus.com which help the so-called “individualistic generation” like me become better team members and leaders.

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  • http://www.tiffanyforsale.com tiffany jewellery

    SaaS marketer and online database guru for Intuit QuickBase. Loves the outdoors, traveling, photography, food, wine and being around great people.

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  • Pingback: Be the Team Member Everyone Wants | The QuickBase Blog

  • http://www.movingfrommetowe.com KareAnderson

    I am going to check out theTigers book – thanks Celinda. As she suggests, learning to work on a team takes work, all members’ contributions are vital –and the opposite needs to be avoided: someone chooding to be a free rider and not do their part. One way to bring out the best in others on a team is to be clear and specific about what “we” want to happen. I crafted them when asked to form issues teams for the Obama campaign. Like Celina’s team, most of these were virtual:
    1. Be specific about the top, actionable goal of the group.
    2. Identify what needs to be done to reach the goal, then recruit individuals who have the specific talents or other resources to get those tasks done.
    3. Approach each person by describing the goal, the specific way each one can help achieve it and why it would benefit that person; then describe the Sweet Spot of mutual benefit for all teammates to participate.
    4. Review above 3 items with everyone when first meeting together; ask for improvements in the goal and if others should be recruited to accomplish it; then agree on who should facilitate the group.
    5. Seek agreement on the Rules of Engagement by which your group will operate and on the timetable.
    6. When the goal is met, de-brief on what worked and what didn’t, then discuss other possible goals for which some or all teammates may want to work together again. Why not start now where you face a problem or an opportunity?

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  • http://twitter.com/EvaRykr Eva Rykr

    Thanks for sharing that resource and thanks for taking the time to leave a comment!

    I recently heard someone say, “The best team leaders are the ones who appear to be doing nothing at all.” Previously, I never thought about it like that, but most of the time I think it turns out to be true!

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  • http://twitter.com/EvaRykr Eva Rykr

    Thanks for those awesome suggestions Kare… I really liked your phrase, “RECRUIT individuals who have the specific talents or other resources to get those tasks done” — it's quite contradictory to the usual perception of the leader as 'he who assigns tasks' and more in line with inspirational leadership.

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  • celinamacaisa

    Thanks Kare for providing us with more helpful details and systematizing the process in just 6 steps. (It made me aware that we could do much better in the 1st and last step. And maybe this is why our performance is on a plateau.) Eva I also get what you are saying about “invisible leaders” in a way that they trust and give your freedom on 'how to' accomplish the project after agreeing on the what. Sometimes project managers do need to give their team more space.

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  • http://www.movingfrommetowe.com KareAnderson