Team or Psuedo Team?

Make sure you have a team before building it

Posted by Dave Diehl on March 26, 2016

What makes up a team?

Before figuring out to build a team, let’s start with figuring out if you have a team. Patrick Lencioni in his book, Overcoming the Five Dysfunctions of a Team, defines a team as small group of people that have the following characteristics:

  1. Shared Goals
  2. Shared Responsibilities
  3. Shared Rewards

You need all three characteristics to have a team.

Pseudo-Teams

If you don’t have all three of these characteristics, you aren’t a team. You are a group. Let’s take a look a groups that are not really team. I call these groups Pseudo-Teams, because they are not teams.

Reporting to Common Manager

Nothing in Lencioni’s definition of a team refers to a reporting structure. You can have multiple people report to the same manager, but never be a team. If your a managing a group, and that group has different goals and responsibilities, you don’t have a team.

I’m not arguing that reporting structure has to based on teams. Rather, it’s not the reporting structure that creates a team. You can have a single team reporting to different managers. The key takeaway is corporate hierarchy does not create teams.

No Shared Responsibilities

In a large company, it is difficult to create clear responsibilities for team goals. For example, a development team may only control the writing of the software, but the testing is part of another group. If the shared goal of the team is producing quality software, then we have a problem. The software team can’t be held responsible for their shared goals.

Defining the team’s responsibilities and goals is an important part of the process. It’s often unclear a corporate environment what exactly the team is responsible for. Creating this clarity is the role of the leader of the team and will help the effectiveness of the team.

No Shared Rewards

Sometimes you have a situation where the team shares a goal and responsibilities, but does not have shared rewards. Or possibly only the manager or leader of the team gets rewarded, but the rest of the team gets left out. If this happens, you don’t have a team.

You don’t have to have the same rewards for all members of the team, but they must be shared. For example, college basketball coaches will earn financial rewards for winning, while their players will not earn a dime. I believe they are still very much a team because they share in the recognition and experience of having a winning team.

In a corporate setting, I have seen managers absorb all credit, and then deflect all blame onto the team. A lack of shared rewards destroys the morale of the team to the point it can no longer be called a team.

What now?

Clearly define goals, responsibilities, and rewards for effective teams

Every member of the team should be able to quickly define goals, responsibilities, and rewards. If they can’t, you have a problem. Think carefully about what the appropriate goals responsibilities and rewards are. Once you have done this, then you can start to build and act like a team.

Don’t pretend to be a team when you are not

If you have found out you aren’t working on a team, that’s ok! As Lencioni points out, good things can be done with non-teams. But don’t team-build with a pseudo team. It will probably do more harm than good.

  1. Overcoming the Five Dysfunctions of a Team
  2. The Five Dysfunctions of Team