Turn individuals into a team

Groups of people become teams when they share a commitment.

February 8, 2023

Whether working at home or in the office, employees log in to the same network, work in the same applications, have the same human resources representatives, and share bosses.

But none of this makes them a team, according to a classic Harvard Business Review article, The Discipline of Teams, which says "groups don't become teams because that is what people call them."

Rather, the article, which stems from "The Wisdom of Teams" by McKinsey partners Jon Katzenbach and Douglas Smith, says "the essence of a team is shared commitment. Without it, groups perform as individuals; with it, they become a powerful unit of collective performance."

Sharing a commitment goes beyond a boss unilaterally stating what the group should focus on. Instead, "the best teams invest a tremendous amount of time shaping a purpose that they can own."

Therefore, while groups rely on the individual contributions of its members, a team "strives for something greater than its members could achieve individually. In short, an effective team is always worth more than the sum of its parts."

Katzenbach and Smith cite three types of teams:

  1. Teams that recommend things.
  2. Teams that make or do things.
  3. Teams that run things.

Creating a cohesive, productive team requires first determining what kind of team to be and what to work toward. That can be done by fostering an atmosphere of collaboration and teamwork, and continually adjusting goals and methods to ensure that the shared commitment remains.