Establishing The Context For Teams

Significant learning must occur before an organization embarks on the transformation to teams. A framework and link (i.e., context) need to be established between the current organizational state and the reason for having the conversation about the desired state. The context thus provides the basis for the conversations that are necessary for building a strong foundation for change.

The important context regarding teams concerns definitions of terms that are frequently interchanged in organizations. Clarifying the following definitions is the first step toward group unity:

■ Groups: Two or more people who work together toward a common goal, individually, with little interdependency.

■ Self-directed or self-managed teams: Groups that have learned over time to take on higher levels of responsibility for their work with higher incidence of interdependency.

Each of these definitions contains degrees of variation across a spectrum ranging from limited intrateam interaction and dependency to highly integrated, highly dependent interaction among team members. This concept is illustrated in the graph in Exhibit 1, which depicts the type of team opportunities existing in an organization based on the duration a group is to work together to meet an objective and interdependency of the work being performed.

Exhibit 1. The Spectrum of Opportunity

Long-It run R&lailonalilp



Medium Opportunity

High Opportunity jr

—Refatkmshifl Skills:

—R Blal or.ihip EkjKi:


Critical Y

—RciT.nur.icalion Skills:

—CcmmuniMfion Skills:

/ / / /

Low Opportunity /

Medium Oworturtity

—Rslalionsiiip Skijii;

—Relationship Stalls:

Important /


—Conirriiini^iiin Skills:

—Commurilcalion Skills;




Short-Term Low Relationship Interdependence



The graph does not provide a linear or absolute view. It is intended to generate thoughts and guide related dialogues about teams and to help develop a spectrum of opportunity that more closely resembles a particular organization. There is no right or wrong place to be on the graph, no better or worse arrangement of groupings. The important point is for an organization to have the conversation about the range of possibilities and how teams could fit into the organizational structure. Even in the lowest quadrant of opportunity, an organization can achieve benefits of the team structure by polishing relationships and communication skills.

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