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Working in diverse teams
Working in diverse teams

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4.2 Team or working group?

One difficulty in distinguishing groups from teams is that many so-called teams are really working groups because the emphasis in these groups is on individual effort. People doing exactly the same job in a call centre answering customer enquiries, with the same individual targets and being overseen by the same supervisor or manager, may be called a team, but really it would be better if they were described as a working group.

A birds-eye view of three people sitting at a desk working on a computer.
Figure 5 A team or a working group?

You may be wondering whether this level of detail in terms of whether a group is really a team or a working group really matters. However, this level of distinction is useful when thinking about the time and effort that it may take to build a team when actually a group will do the job just fine.

For a team to be effective there needs to be a clear, shared understanding of team objectives, mutual respect, trust and an appreciation of individual strengths and weaknesses. There also needs to be an atmosphere in which knowledge and expertise can be shared openly, with opportunities for each team member to make a distinctive contribution.

Activity 4 Idenitfying a team from a group

Timing: Allow about 10 minutes

Think back to Activity 3 and have a look at what you put for examples of teams that you are part of. Using Katzenbach and Smith’s (1993) definition, to be a team the group must:

  1. have a shared goal
  2. have a mix of complementary skills
  3. be mutually accountable for reaching the goal.

Would you still call all of your answers teams or on reflection would you now call some of them groups? Highlight those that you now feel to really have the characteristics of being a team.

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Discussion

How did you find completing this activity? Did you find that some of your examples were actually groups rather than teams according to this definition? If all of your examples are groups rather than teams don’t worry. Later in this course you will look at how you can gain further experience of working as part of a team.

Next you will consider the advantages and disadvantages of team-working.