The 6 Team Conditions

Models with numbers are often good mnemonics, from Stephen Covey’s The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People to Patrick Lencioni’s 5 Dysfunctions of a Team. Well, last week I was introduced to Dr Ruth Wageman’s 6 Conditions framework that underpin and drive team effectiveness. Who’s Ruth Wageman?, you ask. She’s an American scholar and professor (Columbia, Harvard et al.), who researches team performance and building capacity for collaborative leadership.

In her webinar, she reported that in a recent study only 25% of almost 130 international teams were really high-performing. What makes the difference, she concluded, are 6 designable conditions that can be measured using her Team Diagnostic Survey or focused on when coaching individual team leaders. There are 3 essential conditions and 3 enablers, and I’ll run through them briefly.

The 3 essentials are:

Is it a real team? Is it clear to everyone who is in the team and who isn’t? A real team needs to be bounded and highly interdependent, she says. Also, is it stable for long enough to accomplish the team mission and goals?

Are the right people in the team? Do members have all the skills required to achieve the outcomes? How able are the members to collaborate well? Is there enough diversity of thinking? Have any “underminers” been removed? (These are the trouble-makers who might derail the project).

Is there a compelling purpose for the team? Are the members together just to share information and consult one another, or to perform tasks, make decisions and really craft something together? This should be a unique contribution to the organisation. Words like This team exists toWe will do this by….So that/In order to….could help.

And the 3 enablers:

Does the team have solid structures in place? Have team meetings, for example, been designed for optimal effectiveness, taking into account such things as purpose, agenda, facilitation methods, norms of conduct, and meaningful tasks being aligned with the broader objectives?

How supportive is the context? Does the organisation reward team excellence and collective results? How much does the team have access to information, resources and training?

Does the team have access to team coaching that develops the whole unit towards its goals through a facilitative process?

In an interview with the Institute of Coaching, Ruth added that when a team is truly effective the clients it serves are satisfied, it accomplishes better work over time, and the individual needs of its members are also well-served. Her final words were, ” Teams ought to be formed only when you need multiple people, multiple perspectives and multiple kinds of input in order to accomplish complex tasks. That’s when teams are at their best”.

Ruth didn’t mention our new context with Covid, I suppose because the above mentioned conditions are equally valid in a pandemic. Certainly her work sounds scientifically rigorous and most pertinent at a time when successful collaboration is so urgently needed.

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