Defining Your Team

May 4, 2010
5 Min Read

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.

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