In the book 97 Things Every Project Manager Should Know: Collective Wisdom from the Experts Barbee Davis notes that,
“A group in itself does not necessarily constitute a team. Teams normally have members with complementary skills and generate synergy through a coordinated effort which allows each member to maximize his/her strengths and minimize his/her weaknesses. Team members need to learn how to help one another, help other team members realize their true potential, and create an environment that allows everyone to go beyond their limitations.”
An important word in this text is synergy. Workgroups do not have synergy, teams do. Synergy is the ability of a group to outperform even its best individual member, in my opinion, the very definition of a team.
How are teams normally created? A manager starts looking at the skills required to accomplish the list of tasks necessary to fulfill the initiative and then chooses members with those skills. This is a strengths based approach and certainly valid. However everyone has weaknesses and these are rarely accounted for. For high performance team creation a broader set of attributes should be assessed, what are the members weaknesses and who can be added to the team to minimize those weaknesses?
As an example, let’s say that a team is being put together for a certain project. Roger is chosen because of his software development skills, as are several other team members. However, in looking at their behavioral styles plotted in a team graph [below] shows that most of them are of the Stablizing and Cautious area.
While this style can lower risk and produce well made solutions it can also be difficult for the team to make decisions and deliver on time. A catalyst needs to be added to the team to keep them on track, people with opposite behavioral styles. These people will be the drivers that keep the project moving forward to completion.
In summary the difference between workgroups and teams is in their synergy. Team members have complementary skills. Their strengths are maximized and their weaknesses minimized. Teams are carefully chosen whereas workgroups are a hodgepodge of styles.
Sample team Personal Style square