“60% of  a team’s success is determined BEFORE the team even exists!”

Is that wild, or what?!

So said Ruth Wageman, Ph.D., visiting scholar in psychology at Harvard University and at ReThink Health, in a recent presentation of hers I attended.

Defining Team Effectiveness

Think about this for a moment: “What one or two organizational conditions most increase the chances of having a great team?” In other words, “if you were to stack the deck in favor of having a great team what are the 1-2 design features you would most want?”

Wageman posits that there are three keys to a team’s effectiveness:

  1. that the output from the team meets or exceeds the needs of whomever that output was designed to serve
  2. that the team becomes an increasingly capable team over time
  3. that the team members’ learning and growth are fostered by their work with the team

So the operative question is, “How, as leaders, can we increase the probability of these things happening in the teams that we create?”

And from this, two sets of conditions become apparent: Essentials – things you MUST have;  and Enablers – things that accelerate team development.

Ruth Wageman, ICF Advance 2016Let’s take a close look

Team Essentials

  1. The team has to be a REAL team – Everyone must know (and agree on) who’s actually ON the team. People rotating on and off, or being part-time team members, won’t cut it. The team roster must be stable over time. Otherwise, it’s just a collection of people and NOT a team. So YOUR job, as leader, is to decide who is (and is not) on the team and make sure everyone else knows, as well.
  2. The team must have a COMPELLING purpose – Is it clear? Challenging? Consequential? If not, don’t expect much by way of output. Note, though, that this is about specifying the desired ‘ends’ of the teamwork; not the desired ‘means’. So YOUR job is to specify the desired/required ‘ends’ and leave it to the team to determine the ‘means’.
  3. The team must have the RIGHT people – This means NOT choosing someone based on their title or position, but on their ability to meaningfully contribute to achieving the team’s purpose. This means NOT including people on the team because they’d feel slighted for being excluded. This means NOT including people who are known to work poorly with others even though they may have some relevant technical expertise. This means NOT including people with ‘derailer’ attributes (a lack of empathy to see or care about other team members; a lack of integrity with conflict). So YOUR job is to insure that all members of the team have both task- and teamwork skills, and that the team, itself, has adequate diversity and a good mix of perspectives and capabilities needed for the work at hand.

And why does this all matter? Because if you can’t get all three of these Team Essentials in place, then you’re probably better off not even having a team in the first place.

Team Enablers

Once the Essential are good, Wageman suggests that there are three additional conditions of note.

    1. The team must have a sound STRUCTURE – The team size must be right (research shows that 9 or less is ideal – any more than that and progress gets bogged down by having too many ideas to sift through; any less that that and progress gets bogged down by having too few ideas to consider. The tasks team members are, well, tasked with, must be meaningful. (Taking time to provide others with routine updates is not a meaningful team task.) And team norms of conduct must be clearly specified and maintained.  So YOUR job, as leader, is to insure that the team you’ve created has these sound structures – because it matters:Ruth Wagemen, ICF Advance 2016
    2. The team must have TOP-DOWN  support – Think about this in terms of the following elements:
        1. Rewards: Positive consequences for good team performance must be in place
        2. Information: The data needed for the team’s work must be made available to the team and done so in a form they can actually use
        3. Education: Any training or technical consultation that’s needed must be made available to the team in a timely manner
        4. Resources: Other material resources needed for the work are sufficient and available

      So YOUR job, as leader, is to empower the team by removing organizational roadblocks, opening opportunities, and providing them with what they need so they can properly exercise their own influence up and out, in service of achieving the very goals you’ve assigned to them.

    3. The team must have Available, Expert Coaching – Someone (inside or outside the team) who can skillfully intervene to help the team, and its team members, do their absolute best work. That said, while while ‘good’ coaching can greatly help both well- and poorly-designed teams become more effective, ‘poor’ coaching will negatively affect both types of teams, as well, so choose your coaches carefully:

Ruth Wagemen, ICF Advance 2016

One more thought on this: The TYPE of coaching that’s needed will likely vary based on where the team is in it’s life cycle:

Ruth Wageman, ICF Advance 2016

60-30-10 Rule

Wageman’s quick-and-easy reminder for team success is her 60-30-10 Rule:

  • 60% of  a team’s ultimate success is determined BEFORE the team even exists, based on how YOU, their leader, creates the Essential and Enabling conditions for that success
  • 30% of a team’s ultimate success is determined during the first few minutes of the team, based on how YOU, their leader, handles the official launch of the team (and the team members reactions to that launch)
  • 10% of a team’s ultimate success is determined by the presence and quality of hand-on coaching and process consulting.

May your NEXT team be your BEST team!



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