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Teamwork & Collaboration: Achieve more than the sum of individual efforts

“Alone we can do so little, together we can do so much.” ~ Helen Keller

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Organizations are made up of teams. Successful organizations are made up of highly functional and collaborative teams. For individual success as well, the ability to work with other people is a valued trait. One cannot work in their silos and expect to succeed in a workplace that is structured to reward collaboration.

In this article, we explain the definition of teamwork, the stages of team development (Tuckman's model), types of teams, and tips to collaborate effectively.

So what is teamwork?

Teamwork is when a group of people comes together to achieve a common goal. They do this while dealing with conflicts in an efficient way and thus creating results that are more than the sum of individual efforts.

Great teams have proven over time how they can achieve goals often deemed impossible through grit, determination, cohesiveness, and peak performance. We can easily find examples of high-performing teams in sports, military, industry, and almost every other field. There are lots of benefits of working together in teams and in the next section we share the most significant ones. 

Advantages of working in teams

1. Better problem solving

People bring with them their set of knowledge, skills, and experiences that unique to them. When people come together in teams to solve problems, it assists in brainstorming and generating solutions that would otherwise have been limited to only 1 person's abilities.

It has been observed that complex problems are solved better by teams than individuals. And the more diverse the team is, the higher is the impact of them working together.

2. Innovation

When team members openly share their views and ideas, the team as a whole tends to evolve them into innovative solutions. A study of software development projects by PMI found that the results show teamwork quality and performance are dependent on the innovativeness of the project. Another study by Deloitte found that Innovation increases by 1.4x when diverse people work together in teams.

Innovation is not just a by-product but an essential outcome of highly functional teams.

3. Better work relationships

Over time while working together, team members form deeper bonds that enhance trust and collaboration. It has been visibly observed that established teams have better communication, long-term working relationships, and support from each other during tough times.

"If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together" ~ African Proverb

4. Faster learning

One of the key benefits of working in teams is that its members learn from each other's abilities and experience and this collectively makes their learning curve steeper. They learn from their successes, mistakes, failures, and challenges and grow together in maturity. Even when learning a new skill, social or group learning proves to be more effective.

5. Motivated members

The social facilitation effect, an established social psychology concept, states that people have a tendency to perform better in presence of others. While working in teams, it is difficult to get de-motivated. If one of the team members is down, the others are there to support them and thus further boosting morale and engagement of the entire team.

Types of teams

1. Problem-solving: Team coming together to solve a specific problem and then dispersing.

2. Functional: a department in an organization where team members have different responsibilities likely under a manager.

3. Cross-functional: individuals from different departments and roles coming together to perform certain tasks that require multi-expertise.

4. Virtual: members spread across geographies coming together through technology.

Now that we have established the meaning, types, and advantages of teamwork, it is important to also understand how teams get formed and the different stages they go through. Why so? If you are aware of the stages you can take appropriate steps to help the team move towards the high-performance stage. You would also be able to assess looking at the behavior of team members, which stage is the team currently going through.

There are 4 different stages of team development as identified by Bruce Tuckman - Forming, Storming, Norming & Performing. Below is a detailed explanation of each stage.

The 4 Stages of Team Development

1. Forming

As the team is brought together people engaged in introductions and niceties. There are very few judgments and most people are open and welcoming towards each other. The excitement of working in a new team creates a kind of halo effect initially. Teams are often also yet to clearly define their purpose of coming together and engage in the same.

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2. Storming

In this stage, as everyone starts getting in the flow of work and working towards the goal, conflicts and differences arise. Individual personalities emerge and power struggles arise. Team performance may take a dip in this stage and the ability to deal with it is required to deal with the decreased performance. Members of the team must establish ways of dealing with conflicts in a collaborative (win-win) way and maintain focus on their purpose and goals.

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3. Norming

Once the dust settles, conflicts usually pave the way to improved relationships and established guidelines. There is consensus and the roles and responsibilities of each team member are clearly defined. Team performance starts improving again in this stage.

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4. Performing

This is the desired stage to reach for any team and as soon as possible. Here all team members are aligned to the purpose and goals and are focused on achieving them. There is a sense of appreciation for how each member is contributing. There is recognition and praise for the work of the team and of course high performance.

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It is well established that individual success also depends on the ability to work in teams and collaborate with others. 

Do share your thoughts in the comments section below.

“Together, ordinary people can achieve extraordinary results.” ~ Becka Schoettle

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