Evolution Of A Work Group To A Team :Posted on Linkedin by me on 13/1/08

Evolution Of A Work Group To A Team
Teams are all the rage in the workplace today, and every organization speaks of the importance of teams. But just because a group of people work together does not necessarily make them a team.
Teams are groups of individuals who accomplish designated objectives by working interdependently, communicating effectively, and making decisions that impact their day to day work
If what you consider as your team does not measure up to the definition, then you are not really leading a team. You are probably managing a work group. There is absolutely nothing wrong with a work group. A work group can achieve great results with your close supervision. The idea, however, in today’s changing organization and our competitive global marketplace, is to develop teams that can work autonomously without your close direction and support.
In your opinion what are the essentials which are needed to be prevalent to get a group of individuals to function as a team ?

Answers to the question :

Kishore Luthra
Sr. Software Engineer at Schneider Electric

In my view, there are only human factors that count to get a group of individuals function as team.

Assuming everything else is same and the only difference in achieving the objectives is close supervision or doing it autonomously, we can say that all work group or team members have the required skills set, knowledge and experience level.

If that is true then what makes the difference is the lack of some personal attributes in some of the members such as ‘sense of responsibility’, ‘team spirit’, ‘communication skills’, ‘maturity’ , ‘mutual trust ‘ and ‘ability to understand others’,

If most of the individuals have these attributes then the group can successfully function as team, by some of the team members putting extra efforts to fulfill the gap due to members that have less of these attributes.

If most of the individuals do not have these attributes then the group can still function as work group but there will be problems cropped up as the seeds are already there. The manager or leader has to put extra efforts to supervise closely and continuously check the direction of work at each step and taking remedial actions on-time for the problems cropped. But since there is a limit to a level all this can be done, the cost paid is extra time, loss of quality and limited efficiency and productivity in real terms.

 Manu Gulati
Engineering Manager at Broadcom Corp

Very good question. I have seen lots of “teams” in the workplace that do NOT function as teams. The blame for this can rest solely with the team leader. The philosophy and dynamic of a group that works together is dictated by its leader.

In my mind, a team starts to work like a team when:
* all members have a single high-level goal
* that goal is communicated to all the members, and they UNDERSTAND it
* the individual members are committed to the goal, to the point of putting that goal ahead of all other goals/aspirations.

The first two are easy to achieve. It is the third where people fail. You will know a team is working as a team when the team members are able to operate quite well in the absence of the leader; when certain high performing individuals start to act like leaders themselves; and when individuals are able to make judgement calls regarding what’s best for the project themselves.

Don’t know if this answers the question directly, but just some thoughts on the subject. Interesting question!

 Karthik. B
HSE Global Oprerations Manager at Honeywell International

This is a great Article in HBR. I read the hard copy and found very interesting
I like Role clarity to be a great tool than fixing objectives in team.


 Geert-Jan Dirven
Head of Operations Programs at DHL Worldwide Network

Thanks for the question! at first glance (top of mind) I would say the essentials are Space, Goals, Yield and high Switching costs.

The first and most important condition is interaction. There needs to be a place (either physical or virtual) in which interaction is facilitated. You could summarize this as “Space”: there needs to be a space in which individuals interact as a prerequisite to becoming a team. Second essential condition is “Goal”. There needs to be -as per your definition- accomplish designated objectives; a common shared aspiration. For a group of people to becoming as close as you describe in collaboration, I would add “Yield”; participation has to make sense (one side) obviously for the individual, which can largely be covered by Goal, but this is stronger; in true teams there can be tacit goals, which even cannot be expressed by the individuals; being a team-member (because the team chemistry can be that strong) could then be an objective in itself. It only makes sense -however- once you get to ‘feel’ the group. When more of your senses (see/hear/touch/smell/taste/6th) draw from the group and add to it, the more yield it will make… (tricky one, but I’d like to see what’s coming back on this, I’m not a psychologist). Finally there must be a tie-in; the existence of (large) opportunity costs when not participating in the team; I heard this story about a college-student broken down over participating in an on-line game; this ‘team’ burned him down. This last one I would call “Switching Costs”. In summary; Teams need Space, Goals, Yield and high Switching costs….
 Barb Eichberger, MBA
Technology Project & IT Management; SQL DBA & Development; Business Analysis & Design

I like what Jason answered at the start of the input… along those lines I might suggest:

1. Create a clear vision and mission statement.
2. Find and hire people who can function as individuals in a team environment (interdependence, communication, etc.)
3. Define a framework for those people to be empowered within; to define their goals to acheive the mission
4. Provide a system of measurements to which the team must answer, not individuals per se.
5. Act as team mission statement keeper and goals approver; be their liason, expert advisor, protector, measurement monitor and task master.

 Wubbe Jan Velthuis
System Engineer at Thales

In my opinion, one of the main differences between a group and a team is the sense of responsibility for the result. In a team every team member feels responsible for the whole outcome, so also for the work of other team members. This makes that members help eachother achieving the goal and make sure that no one stays behind.

To obtain this, team members must be aware of the work of others and understand it. Not on a detailed level, but on a global one. Frequent communication and an open mind are required.

I have been a project manager of both teams and of want to be teams (groups) and have noticed that teams work. Creating a team is quite an effort and highly depends on the characters of the team members.
 David Phillips
Organizational Change Management Professional, PMP; LION

Moving working groups to behave as teams is a feat of artistry by those who lead them. Contrary to the impression which may be left by my avater, I have no team sports experience on which to base my discourse, though I have a high school leter for “It’s Academic” and several years of amateur fencing. Still, I have worked among high-performing teams in both non-profit and for-profit pursuits, and I have noticed a number of similarities to what I see in the media regarding sports teams.

I propose that the chief qualities that assist working groups to behave as teams are these two contributors to cohesion within a team:
1. Working groups are managed, while teams are led.

2. Members of teams accept responsibility for one another, instead of relying on a solely vertical accountability structure.


P.S. I’ll blather a bit more later when I can focus on the two key points.
 Peter Hilts
High School Principal at The Classical Academy

There are work groups, there pseudoteams and then there are trueteams. A few years ago, my consulting partner and I coined the term trueteam to describe an end state of effective teaming. We were dissatisfied with the old saw of “Form-Storm-Norm-Perform” but we recognized the reality that teams do have a fairly predictable life cycle. Here’s the concept we articulated. It has proven valid and useful over and over.

++Stage One: Group: A group is an assemblage of disconnected individuals who experience low task focus, conflicting loyalties and jockeying for position. Groups are often assigned to function as teams without the appropriate leadership or training.

++Stage Two: PseudoTeam: A Pseudoteam emerges when group member act as they believe a team should act. Although there is increasing familiarity between the group members, there is also surface smoothness and a tendency to overcompromise. Living as a pseudoteam is frustrating because it is essentially false.

++Stage Three: AntiTeam: At some point, sometimes gradually and sometimes abruptly, the pseudoteam goes negative. The purpose of the group fragments because of growing resentment about the false fronts and overcompromising of the pseudoteam stage. Members engage in passive sabotage, withdrawing from discussions or withholding their constructive criticism. Members often slip into dysfunctional roles, such as the classic attacker—victim—rescuer triad. The AntiTeam is painful so…

++Stage Four: Crisis of Purpose & Productivity: Because the AntiTeam is not productive, members begin to challenge the group’s existence. Leaders challenge the group’s productivity and internal conflicts derail the work of the team. The crisis causes many members and leaders to question whether the team should continue.

++Stage Five: Retreat from the discomfort of conflict: Faced with the pain of the crisis, members retreat back to the comfortable familiarity of surface smoothness and artificial courtesy—in other words, they reform the pseudoteam.

++The Low Performance Loop: Many groups cycle through the pseudoteam-antiteam-crisis-retreat pattern indefinitely. They are productive, but not highly so.

There is a way around the low-performance loop. It is the method of ++Acceleration by Facilitation.++ An effective facilitator, (even when the team leader acts as a facilitator) helps the team by clarifying the task, identifying appropriate team roles and establishing a clear process for information gathering, decision-making and execution.

When a team is facilitated, it can function as a trueteam, complete with interdependence, healthy conflict, creativity, cohesiveness and high productivity. A trueteam is an extremely gratifying place to work, even though trueteams work at a very high level.

Talking about teaming and the phases of teaming is an excellent way to help a group of people skip the storm and move quickly to high productivity.
 Daniel Bucur
Creative Marketing & Business Development

Happy 2008
I agree with some of the statements from your question and would like to share few more thoughts on the subject. My opinion is that all organizations, as we know them, are structured in what you define as working groups, with clear (more or less..:-)) roles and attributes.
Talking about teams your definition is not wrong but I dare say incomplete.
When I think of teams I see something with a defined lifespan which is formed with a goal (objective) and as soon as this is achieved, it disappears as a structure. What remains are the links between the team members and this is in my opinion the most important thing to be taken care by the team “leader”, during the life time of the team and beyond. As soon as this task (which is very much on the emotional side) is well performed it gives you (leader) the ability and flexibility to play with this type of organization (live) form as needed.
To give you a visual example I see an ideal organization like a MEKANO ™ set (have to check the exact name of the game but I am thinking of the one with mechanical bits with what you could build cars, etc. which I used to have some time ago) where the shapes are the members and according the needs you (leader) have to put them together to achieve the goal. As soon as this is done you might want to wonder a bit at your creation after that you will disassemble the work and start with another model. Your role is to have the goal in mind, use the right shapes and bits but also to take care that the joints are well maintained.

 Brian Wiggins
Dynamic manager and presenter, dedicated to positive organizational development

I think that the key point in establishing a “group” as a “team” is a shared goal or reason for existence that makes the team dependent on each other for success.

For example, a group of people who all work in the same office and complete similar work without any major interdependence is not a team; if one person fails, it may make the department look bad, but ultimately it does not affect anyone else’s performance.

But if you take that same group and establish goals that they play a part in achieving, then the group becomes a team. For instance, if a call center has a bonus structure that is attached to average speed of answer (ASA) and customer satisfaction index (CSI), then everyone starts to have a vested interest in seeing each other succeed, as the entire team needs to perform well to achieve the team goals. 
 Luis K. Ayala
Application Development Group Supervisor at IE DIscovery

Hello Shalini,

In my opinion you need to have individuals who are:

a) Mature (needed to know when to lead and when to follow)
b) Capable (skilled, proficient at the task at hand), and
c) Motivated (internally or externally).

Only when you have all 3 elements will you have a team you can consistently rely on to get things done with very little outside intervention.


 Jim Becker
Lead Systems Engineer at Urban Institute

I’ll recommend the book The Five Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick Lencioni. It does a good job of presenting ways that strong teams can work together. I’m paraphrasing, but the five areas are: trust within the team (a willingness to be imperfect with your teammates), constructive conflict within the team, commitment to the team, accountability within the team, and a focus on the team’s results.

The five dysfunctions of the title are the absence of those: lack of trust (like an unwillingness to get or give help or to admit to mistakes), lack of constructive conflict (suppression of opinions), lack of commitment (undermining the team’s efforts), lack of accountability (letting low performers get away with it), and inattention to results (setting one’s personal agenda over the team’s agenda).

There’s a separate workbook for those who want additional how-to ideas, but it’s not necessary for getting anything out of the main book.
 Venkatesh Rao

The distinction between the terms (workgroup and team) and how to achieve the latter, has been studied in depth by Jon Katzenbach in the early 90s. His books (mainly “The Wisdom of Teams”) are probably your best source for insight into your question. It is a very tough question and I wouldn’t attempt a short answer, which is why I am recommending a book.

 Jason Koulouras
Director at TSX – Toronto Stock Exchange, Six Hats Thinker, Open to New Connections

Shalini, there is some really excellent material already answered to your question – my perspective:

1) The team needs an inspirational leader (does not have to be the formal leader).

2) The team needs an aspirational goal (the team members are aspiring to produce something or achieve something beyond “x% growth” or Y$ sales – something that is bigger than themselves as individuals that moves them to unifying actions.

3) The team needs tolerance for the inevitable differences of opinion, approach and thought process/patterns that will always occur – great teams consider all their members views and perspectives, incorporate the ‘best’ by consensus and thus achieve beyond linear growth and results.

4) As mentioned by others, the team needs a good facilitator who keeps things moving along but also pauses when required to allow all the members views and contributions to be articulated and considered.

5) The team members need to rewarded for their efforts and management needs to ensure that team members receive credit and recognition and it does not all go to the politically astute or connected.

A well functioning team is a force-multiplier and they typically achieve expectations and often vault well past and exceed.


Jason Koulouras also suggests these experts on this topic:
Mike Schmidt
Robert Castel, PMP
 Ron Graham
LION; Engineer, Educator, Editor of “Rhetoric for Engineers” and “start me up!”; advisor to student entrepreneurs

There are five ingredients in most effective teams:

– purpose
– leadership
– membership
– interaction
– deliverables

There’s loads more to be said here, but I’ve got a Web page for that.
 Archana Jog
Manager HR – Vedic Lifesciences Pvt. Ltd.

A short answer would be a common motive.

Well, as you have very rightly indicated a team and a work group are two different things. While we work in organizations, there are certain goals I feel. One, that an organization has to work towards together with all the departments in sync with each other. Two, that each department works towards achieveing its very special goal. Three, each team in a single department has to devote towards a department goal.

so, a work group I feel is a bigger group which consists of number of teams. Once these teams have good coordination and are well synchronized a work group acts like a team.



Author: Shalini Verma

Hi ! I am Shalini Verma and I help people to Achieve continuous inspiration and success , aid them to FREE energy from patterns and programmes that no longer serve them , partner with them to CREATE energy by putting into place regular work and life practices that are inspiring and sustaining and to MOBILIZE energy by taking intentional action into new oppurtunities and adventures . If you are ready to make inspiration and success your daily reality......then we are ready to go !

1 thought on “Evolution Of A Work Group To A Team :Posted on Linkedin by me on 13/1/08”

  1. Very informative post. Thanks for that. How would you like to discuss business related topics on the all new business forum. So many members could gain knowledge from your business experiences and advice.

    Please think it over.


    Col 🙂

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