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Not to be confused with Teem.
For the river in the North-East of England, see River Team. For the song by Lorde, see Team (song).
A team at work

A team comprises a group of people or other animals linked in a common purpose. Human teams are especially appropriate for conducting tasks that are high in complexity and have many interdependent subtasks.

A group does not necessarily constitute a team. Teams normally have members with complementary skills and generate synergy through a coordinated effort which allows each member to maximize their strengths and minimize their weaknesses. Naresh Jain (2009) claims:

Team members need to learn how to help one another, help other team members realize their true potential, and create an environment that allows everyone to go beyond his or her limitations. Teams can be broken down into from a huge team or one big group of people, even if these smaller secondary teams are temporary. [1]

A team becomes more than just a collection of people when a strong sense of mutual commitment creates synergy, thus generating performance greater than the sum of the performance of its individual members.

Thus teams of game players can form (and re-form) to practise their craft/sport. Transport logistics executives can select teams of horses, dogs or oxen for the purpose of conveying passengers or goods.

Theorists in business in the late 20th century popularized the concept of constructing teams. Differing opinions exist on the efficacy of this new management fad.[2] Some see "team" as a four-letter word: overused and under-useful. Others see it as a panacea that finally realizes the human-relations movement's desire to integrate what that movement perceives as best for workers and as best for managers. Still others believe in the effectiveness of teams, but also see them as dangerous because of the potential for exploiting workers — in that team effectiveness can rely on peer pressure and peer surveillance. However, Hackman argued that team effectiveness should not be viewed only in terms of performance. While performance is an important outcome, a truly effective team will contribute to the personal well-being and adaptive growth of its members.[3]

Compare the more structured/skilled concept of a crew, the advantages of formal and informal partnerships, or the well-defined - but time-limited - existence of task forces.

Team size, composition, and formation[edit]

Team size and team composition affect team processes and team outcomes. The optimal size (and composition) of teams is debated[by whom?] and will vary depending on the task at hand. At least one study of problem-solving in groups showed an optimal size of groups at four members. Other works estimate the optimal size between 5-12 members.[citation needed] Belbin did extensive research on teams prior to 1990 in the UK that clearly demonstrated that the optimum team size is 8 roles plus a specialist as needed.[4] Fewer than 5 members results in decreased perspectives and diminished creativity. Membership in excess of 12 results in increased conflict and greater potential of sub-groups forming.

David Cooperrider suggests that the larger the group, the better. This is because a larger group is able to address concerns of the whole system. So while a large team may be ineffective at performing a given task, Cooperider says that the relevance of that task should be considered, because determining whether the team is effective first requires identifying what needs to be accomplished.

A team of oxen yoked together

Regarding composition, all teams will have an element of homogeneity and heterogeneity. The more homogeneous the group, the more cohesive it will be. The more heterogeneous the group, the greater the differences in perspective and increased potential for creativity, but also the greater potential for conflict.

Team members normally have different roles, like team leader and agents. Large teams can divide into sub-teams according to need.

Many teams go through a life-cycle of stages, identified by Bruce Tuckman as: forming, storming, norming, performing and adjourning.


Independent and interdependent[edit]

Of particular importance is the concept of different types of teams. A distinction is usually drawn between "independent" and "interdependent" teams. To continue the sports team example, a rugby team is clearly an interdependent team:

  • no significant task can be accomplished without the help and cooperation of any of the members;
  • within that team members typically specialize in different tasks (running the ball, goal kicking & scrum feeding), and
  • the success of every individual is inextricably bound to the success of the whole team. No rugby player, no matter how talented, has ever won a game by playing alone.

On the other hand, a chess or bowling team is a classic example of an independent team:

  • matches are played and won, or points are scored, by individuals or partners;
  • every person performs basically the same actions;
  • how one player performs has no direct effect on the performance of the next player. If all team members each perform the same basic tasks, such as students working problems in a maths class, or outside sales employees making phone calls, then it is likely that this team is an independent team. They may be able to help each other — perhaps by offering advice or practice time, by providing moral support, or by helping in the background during a busy time — but each individual's success is primarily due to each individual's own efforts. Chess players do not win their own matches merely because the rest of their teammates did, and maths students do not pass tests merely because their neighbours know how to solve the equations.

Coaching an "interdependent" team like a football team necessarily requires a different approach from coaching an "independent" team because the costs and benefits to individual team members — and therefore the intrinsic incentives for positive team behaviors — are very different. An interdependent team benefits from getting to know the other team members socially, from developing trust in each other, and from conquering artificial challenges (such as offered in outdoors ropes courses).

Categories by subject[edit]

A JASDF team looks on after the Type 91 Kai MANPAD fires a rocket at a mock airborne target.

Although the concept of a team is relatively simple, many different types of teams have been identified by social scientists. In general, teams either act as information processors, or take on a more active role in the task and actually per form activities. The following are some common categories and subtypes of teams.

Executive team[edit]

An executive team is a management team that draws up plans for activities and then directs these activities (Devine, 2002). An example of an executive team would be a construction team designing blueprints for a new building, and then guiding the construction of the building using these blueprints.

Command team[edit]

The goal of the command team is to combine instructions and coordinate action among management. In other words, command teams serve as the “middle man” in task (Devine, 2002). For instance, messengers on a construction site, conveying instructions from the executive team to the builders would be an example of a command team.

Project teams[edit]

Main article: Project team

A team used only for a defined period of time and for a separate, concretely definable purpose, often becomes known as a project team. This category of teams includes negotiation, commission and design team subtypes. In general, these types of teams are multi-talented and composed of individuals with expertise in many different areas. Members of these teams might belong to different groups, but receive assignment to activities for the same project, thereby allowing outsiders to view them as a single unit. In this way, setting up a team allegedly facilitates the creation, tracking and assignment of a group of people based on the project in hand. The use of the "team" label in this instance often has no relationship to whether the employees are working as a team.

Advisory teams[edit]

Advisory teams make suggestions about a final product (Devine, 2002). For instance, a quality control group on an assembly line would be an example of an advisory team: they would examine the products produced and make suggestions about how to improve the quality of the items being made.

Work teams[edit]

Work teams are responsible for the actual act of creating tangible products and services (Devine, 2002). The actual workers on an assembly line would be an example of a production team, whereas waiters and waitresses at a diner would be an example of a service team.

Action teams[edit]

Action teams are highly specialized and coordinated teams whose actions are intensely focused on producing a product or service (Devine, 2002). An NFL football team would be an example of an action team. Other examples are the military, paramedics, and transportation (Eg. Flight crew on an airplane).

Sports teams[edit]

Main article: Sports team

A sports team is a group of people which play team sports together. Members include all players (even those who are waiting their turn to play) as well as support members such as a team manager or coach.

Virtual teams[edit]

Main article: Virtual team

Developments in communication technologies have seen the emergence of the virtual work team. A virtual team is a group of people who work interdependently and with shared purpose across space, time, and organisational boundaries using technology to communicate and collaborate. Virtual team members can be located across a country or across the world, rarely meet face-to-face, and include members from different cultures.[5] Ale Ebrahim, N., Ahmed, S. & Taha, Z. in their recent (2009) literature review paper, added two key issues to definition of a virtual team “as small temporary groups of geographically, organizationally and/ or time dispersed knowledge workers who coordinate their work predominantly with electronic information and communication technologies in order to accomplish one or more organization tasks”.[6] Many virtual teams are cross-functional and emphasis solving customer problems or generating new work processes. The United States Labour Department reported that in 2001, 19 million people worked from home online or from another location, and that by the end of 2002, over 100 million people world-wide would be working outside traditional offices.[7]

Interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary[edit]

Teams, such as in medical fields, may be interdisciplinary or multidisciplinary.[8] Multidisciplinary teams involve several professionals who independently treat various issues a patient may have, focusing on the issues in which they specialise. The problems that are being treated may or may not relate to other issues being addressed by individual team members. Interdisciplinary team approach involves all members of the team working together towards the same goal. In an interdisciplinary team approach, there can often be role blending by members of the core team, who may take on tasks usually filled by other team members.[8]

Team cognition[edit]

Team cognition has been defined as an “emergent state that refers to the manner in which knowledge important to team functioning is organized, represented, and distributed within team.”[9] This emergent state can manifest in two ways. Compositional emergence occurs when individual level cognition is similar in form and function to its manifestation at team-level. Compilational emergence, on the other hand, represents a greater degree of synergy among team members and represents a new-team level construct. As such, higher degrees of compilational emergence are more closely related to team process and performance than is compositional emergence.

Research into team cognition has focused on how teams develop mental models and transactive memory systems. Mental models refer to the degree in which team members have similar cognitive understanding of the situation and performance goals which include shared representations of the task. Transactive memory systems relate to how knowledge is distributed among team members and retrieved in a coordinated fashion, the way that team member rely on knowledge that is possessed by other members and how knowledge sets are differentiated within a team. The emergence of team cognition is thought to impact team effectiveness because it can positively affect a team’s behavioural process, motivational states, and performance.

Team cognition consists of two broad types of content. Task related models are related to knowledge of the major duties and resources possessed by the team. Team-related models refer to interactions and interdependence among the team members.

Team effectiveness[edit]

Main article: Team effectiveness

The formation of teams is most appropriate for tasks that are difficult, complex and important. These types of tasks are often beyond the skills and abilities of any single individual. However, the formation of a team to complete such tasks does not guarantee success. Rather, the proper implementation of teams is positively related to both member satisfaction and increased effectiveness. Organizations who want to receive the benefits afforded by teams need to carefully consider how teams are built and implemented. Often, teams are created without providing members any training to develop the skills necessary to perform well in a team setting. This is critical, because teamwork can be cognitively and interpersonally demanding. Even when a team consists of talented individuals, these individuals must learn to coordinate their actions and develop functional interpersonal interactions.[10] In their review of the relevant scientific literature, Kozlowski and Ilgen demonstrated that such training can greatly benefit team effectiveness.[11] Finally, teams are more likely to be successful when they are fully supported by the organization

Not all groups are teams[edit]

Some people also use the word "team" when they mean "employees." A "sales team" is a common example of this loose or perhaps euphemistic usage, though inter dependencies exist in organisations, and a sales team can be let down by poor performance on other parts of the organisation upon which sales depend, like delivery, after-sales service, etc. However "sales staff" is a more precise description of the typical arrangement.

Groups develop into teams in four stages. The four stages are: dependency and inclusion, counter dependency and fighting, trust and structure, and work. In the first stage, group development is characterized by members' dependency on the designated leader (Identical to 'Forming' in Tuckman's model). In the second stage, the group seeks to free itself from its dependence on the leader and groups have conflicts about goals and procedures (Identical to 'Storming' in Tuckman's model). In the third stage, the group manages to work through the conflicts (Identical to 'Norming' in Tuckman's model). And in the last stage, groups focus on team productivity (Identical to 'Performing' in Tuckman's model).[12] [clarification needed]

One aspect of teams that can set them apart from other groups is their level of autonomy. Hackman developed a hierarchical model of team autonomy which consists of four levels of team self-management. It is imagined along a continuum starting with a manager led team in which team members complete the required tasks but someone outside the team performs the executive functions. Next in the hierarchy are self-managing teams which are followed by self-designing teams. Finally, at the top of the hierarchy, are self-governing teams. The model also describes four different types of control that fully self-governing teams can possess. These include control over the execution of the task, monitoring and managing work processes, control over the design and performance of a team, and setting the overall direction of the team.[10]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Jain, Naresh (2009). "Run marathons, not sprints". In Davis, Barbee. 97 Things Every Project Manager Should Know: Collective Wisdom from the Experts. O'Reilly Media, Inc. p. 96. ISBN 9781449379568. Retrieved 2014-05-05. "Team members need to learn how to help one another, help other team members realize their true potential, and create an environment that allows everyone to go beyond their limitations." 
  2. ^ Cleland, David I. (1996). Strategic Management of Teams. John Wiley & Sons. p. 132. ISBN 9780471120582. Retrieved 2014-05-05. "Managers may believe that the current use of teams is a management fad that will go away in time, and the traditional vertical organizational design will once again hold forth." 
  3. ^ Hackman, J. R. (2002). Leading teams: Setting the stage for greater performances. New York: Harvard Business School Press
  4. ^ Belbin, September 2010.[clarification needed]
  5. ^ Kimble et al. (2000) Effective Virtual Teams through Communities of Practice (Department of Management Science Research Paper Series, 00/9), University of Strathclyde, Strathclyde, UK, 2000.
  6. ^ Ale Ebrahim, N.; Ahmed, S.; Taha, Z. (December 2009). "Virtual R & D teams in small and medium enterprises: A literature review". Scientific Research and Essay 4 (13): 1575–1590. http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1530904
  7. ^ Pearlson & Saunders, 2001
  8. ^ a b Ferrell, Betty; Nessa Coyle (2006). Textbook of Palliative Nursing (2 ed.). Oxford University Press US. p. 35. ISBN 0-19-517549-2. 
  9. ^ DeChurch, L.A., & Mesmer-Magnus, J.R. (2010). The cognitive underpinnings of effective teamwork: a meta-analysis. Journal of Applied Psychology, 95(1), 32.
  10. ^ a b Forsyth, D. R. (2006). Teams. In Forsyth, D. R., Group Dynamics (5th Ed.) (P. 351-377). Belmont: CA, Wadsworth, Cengage Learning
  11. ^ Kozlowski, S. W. J., & Ilgen, D. R. (2006). Enhancing the effectiveness of work groups and teams. Psychological Science in the Public Interest, 7, 77–124.
  12. ^ Wheelan, S. (2010). Creating Effective Teams: a Guide for Members and Leaders. Los Angeles: SAGE. Print.
  • Devine, D. J. (2002). A review and integration of classification systems relevant to teams in organizations. Group Dynamics: Theory, Research, and Practice, 6, 291–310.
  • Forsyth, D. R. (2006). Teams. In Forsyth, D. R., Group Dynamics (5th Ed.) (P. 351-377). Belmont: CA, Wadsworth, Cengage Learning.

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