Key Learning Outcomes

  • Recognise that a team should have common purpose.
  • Differentiate between a “working group” and a “team”.
  • Understand the characteristics of an effective team.
  • Recognise the benefits of a high-performing and effective team for your business.


In their Harvard Business Review article, “The discipline of teams”, experts Jon Katzenbach and Douglas Smith define what makes a team different from a group of people that simply work together. They define a team as “a small number of people with complementary skills who are committed to a common purpose, set of performance goals and approach for which they hold themselves mutually accountable”. They state that to be considered a team, a group has to have this common purpose, and that the best teams translate this into specific performance goals, have an agreed set of standards and communicate regularly.

In small- to medium-sized businesses, knowing how to create and work in teams becomes critical when there are limited people and financial resources. For a business employing 5, 10 or 20 people, the consequences of the group not performing are much greater than for a much larger organisation employing 5,000 people. In this article we focus on learning the difference between a working group and a team, and look at some of the characteristics that are commonly found in highly effective teams.[wlm_ismember]

Are we a working group or a team? 

Just adding the word “team” to a group’s title, for example, “the sales team” does not mean that the group is actually functioning as a team. It does not mean that there cannot be high performing and effective working groups in a business. These groups come together and share ideas before individuals go off to perform their respective roles, taking responsibility for their individual performance. The difference in a team is that members of the group work together to achieve both individual and mutual goals, and not only share ideas but also actively work together towards a common purpose. This is why the overall performance of a team will almost always be greater than the results of a group of individuals combined.

Below is how Katzenbach and Smith differentiate between the two groups:

What makes an effective team?

Katzenbach and Smith highlight some key characteristics that can be found in effective teams. By knowing what these are allows us to work with the teams within the business to achieve higher levels of performance:

Building effective teams within your business will have a number of positive benefits, including improved performance. In this section of the website you will find a number of learning articles that will assist in building, motivating and managing your team.[/wlm_ismember]

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