What makes a team perform well together? This is a question that thought leaders and psychologists have been trying to figure out for some time. And in order to make sense of it all, they've proposed various models of team effectiveness with each model having its own strengths and weaknesses. Some models focus on how a team is structured and how communication happens, while other models focus more on the talent that individuals bring to the plate, or the company culture that they find themselves working in.

Understanding these team effectiveness models can help you figure out which model to adopt for your own team. Or it may simply help shed light into what's working in your own group, and how to help improve what's lacking.

Rubin, Plovnick, and Fry's GRPI Model of Team Effectiveness

Rubin, Plovnick, and Fry’s GRPI Model of Team Effectiveness

As early as 1977, this model of team effectiveness was proposed by Rubin, Plovnick, and Fry. It is also known as the GRPI model to stand for goals, roles, processes, and interpersonal relationships, and is represented in a diagram as a pyramid. In order for a team to be effective, they need these four parts:

  1. Goals: well-defined objectives and desired results, plus clearly communicated priorities and expectations
  2. Roles: well-defined responsibilities, acceptance of a leader
  3. Processes: clear decision-making processes as well as work procedures
  4. Interpersonal relationships: good communication, trust, and flexibility

Because of its simplicity, the GRPI model is great when starting a team or when encountering a team-related problem with an unknown cause.

The Katzenbach and Smith Model

The Katzenbach and Smith Team Effectiveness Model

In 1993, authors Jon Katzenbach and Douglas Smith unveiled their model after having studied teams across several companies and various work challenges. Their book, The Wisdom of Teams, lays out their model of efficient teams in a triangular diagram, with the three points being the larger deliverables of any team: collective work products, performance results, and personal growth. And in order to reach those goals, there are three necessary factors in play, which make up the sides of the triangle:

  • Commitment: teams are committed when they have a meaningful purpose, specific goals, and a common approach to their work
  • Skills: team members need skills in problem solving, technical skills to accomplish their craft, and interpersonal skills to enhance teamwork
  • Accountability: team members must have mutual accountability to one another as well as individual accountability to one's own work, and ideally these teams must be made up of only a small number of people

The T7 Model of Team Effectiveness

The T7 Model of Team Effectiveness

In 1995, Michael Lombardo and Robert Eichinger originally developed the T7 Model to try to get to grips with what factors affect team effectiveness. They identified five internal and two external factors, each starting with "T," hence the T7 model. These factors are:

Internal team factors
Thrust: a common objective or goal
Trust: knowledge that your team has your back
Talent: skills to do the job
Teaming skills: ability to function as a team
Task skills: ability to execute on tasks

External team factors
Team leader fit: whether the leader works well with the team
Team support from the organization: how the organization enables the team to work

For a team to be high performing, all five internal factors must be present. However, no matter how complete the internal factors, if leadership and the organizational support are lacking, the team's effectiveness is hampered.

The LaFasto and Larson Model

Authors Frank LaFasto and Carl Larson proposed a model in 2001 called Five Dynamics of Team Work and Collaboration. They gathered insights from investigating 600 teams across various industries to answer the question "what is an effective team?" In result, they built a model consisting of five layers or components that increase the likelihood of effectiveness:

  • Team member: What are his or her skills and behaviors? Picking the right person is the first step.
  • Team relationships: The right behavior in a team builds up healthy working relationships between members.
  • Team problem solving: Good team relationships make it possible to work together to solve problems.
  • Team leadership: The right leadership enhances a team's success.
  • Organization environment: The right processes and company culture in an organization promote commitment from teams.

The Hackman Model of Team Effectiveness

The Hackman Model of Team Effectiveness

Author J. Richard Hackman proposed a model in his 2002 book Leading Teams: Setting the Stage for Great Performances that revolve around five conditions that increase the probability of team effectiveness. Hackman's study of analytic teams in the U.S. intelligence community confirms that these five conditions do indeed promote team effectiveness, and growing team capabilities over time:

  1. Being a real team as opposed to a nominal team: This means effective teams have a boundary which clearly delineates who is a part of the team, the members are interdependent, and the membership is at least moderately stable.
  2. Having a compelling direction that everyone works toward: This means setting goals that are clear, challenging, and of sufficient consequence to motivate team members to strive together.
  3. Having an enabling structure that allows for teamwork: The team's structure — its conduct, the way it organizes and works on its tasks — has to enable teamwork and not impede it. If, for example, only one person gets to approve the work of 20 people, then that structure is hampering the team's effectiveness.
  4. Having a supportive context within the organization that allows the team to work efficiently: This means the team receives adequate resources, rewards, information, and the cooperation and support needed to do their work.
  5. Having expert coaching and guidance available to the team: Effective teams in business are those with access to a mentor or a coach who can help them through any issues.

The Lencioni Model

The Lencioni Model of Team Effectiveness

In 2005, author Patrick Lencioni published his book The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, which laid out a work team effectiveness model based on what causes dysfunctions, conflicts, and political maneuverings in a work group. Basically, he mapped out the conditions you should not have if you want your team to be effective. To know your team's dysfunction is to know how to cure it. Those dysfunctions are:

  1. An absence of trust: If team members are afraid to be vulnerable, or afraid to ask for help, then they won't turn to their teammates for assistance. If there's no trust, there's no comfort level needed for interactions and work to be smooth.
  2. A fear of conflict: If everyone is trying so hard to preserve some artificial idea of peace in the group, there aren't any dynamic conflicts that result in productive ideas.
  3. A lack of commitment: If people aren't committed to the work they do or the team they're in, then they won't follow through on their decisions or deadlines.
  4. Avoidance of accountability: Here's another drawback of the fear of conflict — no one wants to hold others accountable for their work.
  5. Inattention to results: If personal goals become more important than the success of the group, then no one will be watching results or even planning how to improve those results.

Lencioni's team effectiveness leadership model is illustrated as a pyramid, where you tackle each dysfunction one by one from the bottom up.

If you've read this far, then you're probably wondering why there is a need for so many models. The truth is: a lot of the magic that allows high-performance teams to function is a mysterious mixture of individual perspective, group dynamics, and organizational support. What these models can do however is help you identify specific elements that may be lacking in your own team so that you can focus on improving overall effectiveness.

Want to Read More About Team Effectiveness?

Sources: Amazon, SocialPsychology.org, HBR.org, APA.org, Tablegroup.com, SilvioKusakawa.com

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