Most of us work as part of a team – yet the key elements of what it takes to make a team function effectively remains somewhat of a mystery.
Does a well-functioning team simply reflect experienced and well qualified members, or are there other more subtle characteristics that make a team successful?
As with so many of our questions these days, Google has an answer.
Through ‘Project Aristotle’, Google has been tackling the thorny question of what makes one team more effective than another?
A tribute to Aristotle’s quote, “The whole is greater than the sum of its parts”, the aim of the project was to answer the question “What makes a team effective at Google?”
Over two years, Google interviewed more than 200 employees, and recorded the attributes of more than 180 teams working within the company.
What they found was that the key was not who was on the team, but how the team’s work was structured, and how each team member’s contributions were viewed.
Project Aristotle came up with five essential ingredients to a successful team:
Psychological safety is the most important feature of successful teams.
Team members must be able to express their views and take risks without feeling they are at risk of being criticised or embarrassed.
Psychological safety is the cornerstone for the four other dynamics.
If team members feel comfortable taking risks, they are more likely to act on new ideas, take on responsibility, be proactive, partner with others, or admit to errors.
Can each member of the team be depended upon to deliver high-quality work to prescribed specifications?
3.Structure and clarity
Teams benefit from having a clear purpose and goal. Is it clear what each team member’s role is. Are deliverables clearly stated and defined?
4.Meaning of work
If the work feels meaningful to each team member, then a team is likely to be more successful.
5.Impact of work
Successful teams believe that the outcome of their work has meaningful consequences and will create change that will benefit others.
How can we create psychological safety?
For a team to feel ‘psychologically safe’ they must feel they can share things with the team that might be wrong, messy, scary, or even sad – without fear of recrimination.
People must feel that they are heard, and that one voice matters as much as the next.
Teammates need to be sensitive to what others may be feeling, and to be able talk about how they feel about things, not just talk about work and data.
After all, successful projects often involve complex and detailed conversations, and differing ideas and points of view can generate powerful emotions.
Once we acknowledge that, it’s easier to make progress.
What do you think – do you work in a successful team?