6 Different Team Effectiveness Models to Understand Your Team Better

It’s no secret: Great teams are the foundation of great companies. But creating a great team isn’t just about putting a bunch of allstars in a room and letting them loose. The 2004 United States Men’s Olympic basketball team taught us there’s much more to it.

On paper, it was a dream team, comprised of some of the hottest NBA talent at the time: Lebron James, Allen Iverson, Tim Duncan, Dwayne Wade, and Carmelo Anthony. With a roster like that, winning the gold seemed like a shoo-in.

But they lost, terribly, to countries such as Puerto Rico, Lithuania, and Argentina. NBC announcer Mike Breen described what went wrong: “You saw clearly that they just weren’t playing well together and they weren’t gelling. It was a struggle right from the get go.” Even though they had so much talent on their side, they didn’t play well as a team, and it cost them the gold.

This issue isn’t limited to sports teams. Google, a company known around the globe for having some of the most effective teams in tech, spent years analyzing what makes some teams better than others for their Project Aristotle study. Their findings? It’s less about who’s on the team and more about how well they work together.

6 Team Effectiveness Models

To help teams work together more collaboratively and efficiently, psychologists and analysts have proposed various team effectiveness models. Some models focus on how a team is structured and how communication happens, while others focus more on individuals’ talent or company culture.

Understanding these team effectiveness models helps you figure out which to adopt for your own team. Learning more about these team effectiveness models also sheds light onto what's working in your own group, and steps you can take to improve.

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

This model of team effectiveness was proposed by Rubin, Plovnick, and Fry as early as 1977. It’s also known by the acronym GRPI, which stands for goals, roles, processes, and interpersonal relationships. Represented as a pyramid diagram, this model outlines four parts teams need to be effective:

  1. Goals: well-defined objectives and desired results, plus clearly communicated priorities and expectations
  2. Roles: well-defined responsibilities and 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 stemming from an unknown cause.

2. The Katzenbach and Smith Model

After studying teams across several companies and various work challenges, authors Jon Katzenbach and Douglas Smith unveiled their team effectiveness model in 1993. Their book, The Wisdom of Teams, lays out their model of efficient teams in a triangular diagram. The three points represent the larger deliverables of any team: collective work products, performance results, and personal growth.

There are three necessary factors to reach these goals. These 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 personal and mutual accountability

The T7 Model of Team Effectiveness

In 1995, Michael Lombardo and Robert Eichinger developed the T7 Model to define what factors affect team effectiveness. They identified five internal and two external factors, each starting with "T.” 

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

All five internal factors must be present for high-performing teams. However, no matter how complete the internal factors, if leadership and 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?"

The resulting model features 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 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

Richard Hackman proposed an effectiveness model in his 2002 book Leading Teams: Setting the Stage for Great Performances. It outlines five conditions that must be present for teams to successfully work together.

Hackman's study of analytic teams in the U.S. intelligence community confirms the validity and effectiveness of these five conditions:

  1. Being a real team as opposed to a nominal team: 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 and the way it organizes and works on its tasks—has to enable teamwork and not impede it. For example, if 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 issues.

The Lencioni Model

Patrick Lencioni’s 2005 book The Five Dysfunctions of a Team lays out a work team effectiveness model based on what causes dysfunctions, conflicts, and political maneuverings in a work group. He mapped out five qualities effective teams don’t want.

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.
  2. A fear of conflict: If everyone is trying to preserve peace at all costs, there aren't any dynamic conflicts that result in productive ideas.
  3. A lack of commitment: If people aren't committed to their work or team, 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, no one will monitor and optimize team performance.

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

Get the Balance Right

You may be surprised to learn how many models for team effectiveness exist, and this list only scratches the surface. Much of the magic that allows high-performance teams to function is a mysterious mixture of individual perspective, group dynamics, and organizational support.

However, these models can help you pinpoint areas of opportunity and improvement in your own team to reach higher levels of team effectiveness. Remember the way a team works together as whole determines their success much more than the strength of the individual team members. Focusing on effective collaboration elevates the work of everyone involved.

The Wrike Way

In our experience working with 17,000 of the world’s top performing teams, we’ve discovered that when people are able to align around common goals, big things can happen. Our analysis revealed 4 key disciplines that when mastered, propel companies forward and generate exponential impact: planning, process, collaboration, and visibility. We call these disciplines and the best practices surrounding them The Wrike Way.

Following The Wrike Way methodology, we’ve seen companies transform across four distinct stages on their journey to building team effectiveness and Operational Excellence. If you’re ready to elevate your organization and deliver a new level of excellence to your customers, download our step-by-step guide below.

Read More About Team Effectiveness

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




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