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The Science Behind Team Effectiveness


Culture Amp's Team Effectiveness survey uses inward feedback to help teams understand how productivity, cohesion, and alignment are driving their overall success. Team Effectiveness extends and advances the field of team-based applied research and assessment, putting real, actionable feedback into the hands of teams and their leaders. 

What is a team?

While the word 'team' is uttered constantly in the workplace, it is often used inaccurately. The most common mistake is to refer to a group of people as a 'team', when, in fact, they just that - a group.

We base our work on two conceptual definitions: firstly, Katzenbach and Smith define a team as “a small number of people with complementary skills who are committed to a common purpose, performance goals, and approach for which they hold themselves mutually accountable." 

The second concept is Bruce Tuckman's model of team development, which describes the four stages all teams go through as they progress from a group of individuals to a united team: forming, storming, norming, and performing. These definitions form the critical working assumptions for our research and Team Effectiveness survey.

Team Effectiveness Design methodology

Our research and survey design started with a simple question: How would we describe an effective team and the factors that support this?

We firstly defined an effective team as one that's performing well and contributing to the overall success of the company, while providing its members with an environment where they can do their best work, develop, and feel a sense of belonging and pride. 

We then studied contemporary academic literature, mined leading models for insights on the characteristics and behaviors of high-performing teams and piloted our findings with some of the world’s most successful, innovative and feedback-oriented teams and organizations to develop our method and diagnostic.

Measuring the factors that matter

To provide teams with useful, actionable feedback, we looked across the literature to identify the common components of effective teams emerging from the combined body of research. Our review encompassed individual studies and meta-analyses as well as well-known teamwork models, including Tuckman's Team Development Theory, Google's Project Aristotle, and Lencioni's Five Dysfunctions of a Team.

We looked at the list of factors that emerged and asked two key questions:

  1. Can team members act to change these factors themselves?
  2. Do these factors really differentiate high-performing teams from average or poor-performing teams?

Final Team Effectiveness survey factors

After applying the actionable and discriminating criteria, our final survey comprises 35 questions and assesses the following distinct factors:

  • Openness (psychological safety)
  • Supportive Climate (interpersonal sensitivity) 
  • Focus and Accountability
  • Organizational Alignment
  • Communication and Collaboration
  • Knowledge and Capability
  • Team Processes
  • Role Clarity
  • Development

An Overall Team Effectiveness outcome is included to assess whether teams believe that they consistently deliver high quality work, foster a sense of pride and create a place where team members believe they belong and can get their best work done.  

The actionable criterion led us to exclude factors that focus on team composition and individual differences, such as personality traits and emotional intelligence.

You'll also notice our factors align with some of the well-established team models already mentioned. Overall we found that, while the ways we work continue to change, the core factors underpinning team effectiveness remain largely stable. 

Two stand-out factors, however, are Openness and Supportive Climate, which combine elements of psychological safety, interpersonal sensitivity and dependability. Recent research has shown these elements to be some of the strongest predictors of team effectiveness. In fact, Google's Project Aristotle identified psychological safety as the number one predictor of effective team performance.

Team Effectiveness as an inward feedback process

Team Effectiveness uses an inward feedback process (team members rate their own teams) to help teams understand how these nine factors are driving their overall success. The result is that teams own their feedback because it reflects their shared view of the team's strengths and opportunities for development, rather than relying solely on an external view. For many employees, this is the first step towards being comfortable with feedback that reflects their own actions. This can be a powerful self-awareness strategy as well as a precursor to receiving individual feedback through Employee Effectiveness.  

Feedback that Inspires Action

The Team Effectiveness report is intended to help teams move toward the performing stage of Tuckman's model of team development. The process gives team members time to reflect on how the team is developing and performing, as well as providing them with resources to improve and progress. Interestingly, feedback has even greater effects on the team members who are struggling the most, improving their motivation, satisfaction and interpersonal trust.

Our reports deliver succinct and constructive feedback to teams on the nine factors. Reports are designed to make it easy for teams to take action. Each Team Effectiveness report delivers:

+ Team top strengths based on highest scoring factors and questions

+ Team top opportunities based on lowest scoring factors and questions

+ Comparison to the overall organization

+ Comments in an easily digestible format

Our aggregate reporting provides further insight by way of an overall view of teams across an organization. These reports are designed to highlight areas of general team effectiveness as well as insight into which teams might need more support. Aggregate feedback should not be used as a tool to compare teams against each other in an evaluative way but rather to uncover trends and patterns that require an organization-wide response. 

 



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