Team Building

Success as a manager is heavily influenced by how well your team operates and what kind of results they achieve. Today's organizational hierarchy is changing dramatically. The days of a clear hierarchical ladder are transforming to a more flat team based approach. In this new series, we'll be examining team building and the dynamic shift of the organizational structure.


Having a flat organizational structure allows for flexibility, easy access to decision makers, and a lean system of operating. Many organizations also choose a more web-like structure than typical hierarchies of the past. With the web structure, instead of simple reporting to people above, we can also report to multiple people through a lateral connection. 

Things have certainly changed in many places, and things are still changing, especially when we look at organizations that are based on the overlapping, interactive work of teams. The change from hierarchical to more of a fishnet organization demonstrates the partnerships, teams, and interpersonal relationships that make our companies thrive. Many of us are already working in business teams, project units, and other ad hoc committees. Can you think of some of these alliances within your organization?

Trends in Business

Working from home and setting up virtual networks are not replacing the office environment, but they are certainly having a large impact in some areas. The use of mobile devices assists these efforts, as we become more and more reliant on virtual capabilities.

Types of Teams

A rose may always be a rose, but a team is not always a team. While many groups are called teams these days, they may actually just be a group of individuals. We hear terms such as an executive team, a quality team, a service team, or a sales team, but just calling a group a team doesn't make them a team in the slightest.

  • The Traditional Model: This refers to a group of people who have a traditional leader but who also shares some of the leader's responsibility and authority. How much leadership is shared usually depends on the particular task and what the boss is comfortable delegating. The boss is in charge, but may allow other team members to take the leadership role on various issues.
  • The Team Spirit Model: This is a group of people who are perceived as happy working for one boss. These people demonstrate team spirit, though they don't function as a true team since they report to one person who is solely responsible for all results and does not share authority or responsibility among the team.
  • The Self-Directed Work Team: This is a group of people who manage themselves. No one person in the group has authority to make all the decisions about the events that impact the collective. This is referred to as a self-directed work team because everyone has authority and responsibility among the team.
  • The Task Force Model: This is a group that comes together for a specific time to work on a special project or task. This group has traditionally been called a task force or committee.
  • The Virtual/Cyber Team: Members of these teams typically don't see each other in person, though they may connect frequently using technology. They are working together to accomplish goals but meet via e-mail, phone, video conference, etc. They can also fit any four models listed above.

Defining a Team

We like this definition: "We can define a team as a group of people who come together under shared leadership, mutual responsibility, and conscious authority to achieve agreed-upon goals in a mutually effective fashion." (Games That Teach Teams: 21 Activities to Super-Charge Your Group by Steve Sugar and George Takacs).

We've covered the foundation of team building and how the changing landscape of ways we work together is shaping how and the types of teams we are creating. In the next part of our sereis on Team Building we'll be looking at different ways and activities to actually build the right team for your needs.