What Type of Team Are You On?

Everybody wants to be part of a great team, and nobody enjoys being on a bad one.  Unsurprisingly, a lot has been written about what makes for a great team, and how teams can get better ( link ).  So, you might ask, why am I bothering to add still more?  Good question. 

Many teams have a blind spot – a lack of awareness of something so simple, yet so powerful, that it can make an almost immediate impact on how well a team works: the difference between a “G” team and an “R” team. 

Playoff, by pacificcoastamateurs CC

Playoff, by pacificcoastamateurs CC

“G” teams are like golf or gymnastics: everybody does their best individually, and then the scores are added up to determine how well the team did overall.  Beyond encouragement and maybe a bit of informal coaching, there’s not much a team member can do to help their team mates. 

By Joebrunton - Own photo, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=22845125

By Joebrunton - Own photo, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=22845125

“R” teams are like rowing and rugby: everything needs to fit together like clockwork, the only score is the team score.  Team interaction, alignment, and coordination is key: it’s all about working together and helping each other out. Even the strongest individual contributor is going to be a net negative if they can’t mesh their activities with what everyone else is doing.

Few business teams ever discuss what type of team they are, or what type of team they should be given the competitive “game” they are in. That’s a problem for at least two reasons. 

First, differing views on “what type of team” can lead to unnecessary friction and distrust. “G team” believers see “R team” fans as wanting to intrude where they aren’t needed (wasting time and creating work for others). “R team” fans see “G team” believers as not being “team players” (overly focused on the interests and needs of their part of the organisation).  However, through an overt discussion of the topic, teams can get aligned around what type of team they need to be, and adjust their behaviours accordingly. (Or, perhaps more accurately, get aligned around when they need to be a “G” team and when an “R” team.)

Second, there does seem to be a general shift in the type of team that most organisations need. The “G team” model works well when things are fairly predictable, so you can create stable interfaces between parts of the organisation and externally: it provides simplicity and focus.  But, as internal and external interfaces change more quickly, it becomes harder to maintain that stability: think of the rapid shift to mobile apps as a way for customers (and employees) to interact.  It’s a broad sweeping statement, but organisations increasingly need “R teams” – especially at the top.   Unless there’s a conscious discussion of when and where each type is needed, teams will keep working too long with an outdated model. 


So, what kind of team are you on?  And what kind should it be?



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