As the concept of teams has evolved, it has entered our society with the implicit assumption that we will enjoy increased knowledge acquisition, deeper commitment, higher performance, and greater innovation with increasingly less need for formal leadership (Katzenback and Smith, 1993). Though few will argue against this assumption, the complexities of the group dynamic and the puzzle of how to ensure high performance remain a constant struggle for researchers and practitioners alike.

In the age of lean organizations, one could assert that most work groups in existence today are being pushed to evolve (formally and informally) toward a team philosophy as the span of control of management widens and pressures to outperform competition increase. To better understand the state of teams in today’s organizations, CCL has begun researching this area. The fundamental question guiding this research is: “What role will teams play in organizations of the future?”

CCL’s 2004-2005 State of Teams report provides a broad look at the challenges, needs, and functioning of teams in today’s organizations. This report was based on survey results from 118 CCL program alumni.

TEAMS ARE CENTRAL TO SUCCESS

The results point to some interesting trends in how organizations are using teams today. First, teams seem to be alive and well within organizations and play a valuable role in organizational success. Secondly, teams are being used as much to drive change as for direct business results. As teams are created for the design and implementation of organizational change, their design seems to necessitate multiple team memberships, geographical dispersion, and collaboration with other teams.

TEAM LEADERS MUST BE MULTI-TALENTED

Team leaders are expected to be strong communicators and diplomats who also have project management skills, such as organization, decision-making, and prioritization. Additionally, personal attributes, such as intellectual ability, flexibility, and courage, contribute to the profile of an effective team leader.

COLLABORATION IS KEY

The results suggest that collaboration across teams is a significant determinant of success. The challenge for today’s leaders lies in the difficulty of collaborating with global virtual teams that often share members.

TEAMS ARE FUNCTIONING BELOW THE OPTIMAL LEVEL

In regards to the team’s internal functioning, respondents believe that most teams are not functioning at their optimal level, raising the question of whether greater investment in team and team leader development could help realize their potential. Areas of particular concern in internal functioning are the coordination of activities, revolving team memberships, and ineffective conflict resolution.

TEAM COACHING AND COLLABORATION ARE AREAS OF DEVELOPMENT

This survey also captures market data on the current and future programming needs of team leaders. These respondents are most interested in programs focusing on team coaching, team membership, and collaboration across teams. It is obvious from this data that teams will continue to be an important part of organizational effectiveness, though team structure and purpose may continue to change. These results provide a springboard to further research that can delve deeper into the issues and trends.

About the Authors:

André Martin a former enterprise associate with the Center for Creative Leadership, is currently the Leadership Development Director for Mars, Inc. André holds a master’s degree and Ph.D. in Organizational Psychology from St. Louis University.

Vidula Bal is a the former Group Manager of open-enrollment programs in Colorado Springs. In addition to facilitating a variety of leadership programs (including the Leadership Development Program (LDP)®, the Looking Glass Experience, and Leadership and High-Performance Teams), she is the acting global manager of the LDP, the Center’s flagship offering. Her research has been published in several venues including the Encyclopedia of Television, Personnel Psychology, and Leadership in Action.

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