Considering the Context in Team Building

Many consultants and organizational consulting firms offer a signature team-building approach. While there are many high-quality models out there that are backed by solid research and based on best-practices methodology, many fail to take into account the context in which the team operates, the type of team, and/or the dynamics that are specific to that team, including personalities, goals, norms, supervisory relationships, etc. The result is an approach that works for the “average” team or for “most” teams, but not for every team. When we describe our approach to team-building later this month, you will see that we lead with the team, not our approach, because we know that there is no one-size-fits-all solution.

One significant way in which teams differ is the level of interdependence required for them to be successful. We can quantify the level of interdependence required by (or actually present in) the team by comparing the team to analogous sports teams. This simple analogy helps team members to identify the level of interdependence in their team (either necessary or actual), turning a fairly abstract concept into something more accessible and concrete. For example, think about the typical team-building session we described last week (i.e., a well-intentioned, but “fluffly,” facilitator coming to do a workshop to help build trust through the use of an off-the-shelf assessment). How effective would that approach be for a team that operates like a track and field team. Operating asynchronously, geographically dispersed, cross functionally, in shifts, etc. can all create unique dynamics in a team. In order for team development to be effective, attention needs to be paid to how the team is defined or structured, as well as to any other characteristics that make it unique or result in specific challenges.

In the graphic below, you can see the progression from 0% interdependence (tennis) to 100% interdependence (synchronized swimming). Consider where on this continuum your team currently falls and where your team needs to be. How does the level of interdependence impact how your team should be developed?

Varying levels of team  interdependence:

Capture

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