Competition LevelAt the first level, there is rivalry within the team. Team members have the same or similar goals, yet different ways of reaching them, and these are not considered equal. There is an idea that there is a "best way" of doing things and that only one solution is "best".
Interactions are driven by competition, i.e. by finding ways to be better than other team members.
Team members are focused on being better than one another. They pay attention to what others do in a negative way, either to find something they can take advantage of - or a flaw they can use to put down others.
When one team member has trouble, this is taken as an opportunity to increase one's own standing rather than help the team produce better results.
The effectiveness of the team could be written as 1+1 <1, because the effectiveness of the team is limited by the most capable team member - and even then, that person diverts a significant portion of attention towards securing their rank rather than a beneficial outcome.
In the worst case scenario of competition we see sabotage, i.e. purposefully conducting actions that reduce the effectiveness of another team member for personal benefit.
Additional team members will exacerbate this condition, i.e. effectiveness drops as additional people enter.
Interactions are driven by conflict, i.e. when one team member feels that another is interfering with their way of accomplishing their goal.
Coexistence LevelThe third level - a local optimum - is when team members choose a way of working that will not create conflict.
Interactions are limited to a minimum, as team members feel that interaction might reduce their own effectiveness.
Team members focus on individuals goals, which have been purposefully chosen in a fashion that is independent of others. They can choose to ignore other team members, because their work has been created to be independent.
Problems faced by a single person are limited to that person, the team is not the place to receive much help. Other team members feel unaffected by such a condition.
Peaceful coexistence requires a high level of respect for one another, lest the team falls back into conflict.
A coexisting team operates on a "1+1 <2" effectiveness, depending on how often team members work individually to achieve the same goal, i.e. duplicating work. In the very unlikely case that all goals are also organizational goals and do not produce an overlap, coexisting team members will be as effective as the sum of each individual. The major downside of coexistence is a slowed problem resolution.
Joining a coexisting team will drive the team members back into conflict until the new team member has found their place.
Coordination LevelAt the fourth level, the team members coordinate their personal goals and approach, finding ways to increase overlap in their goals and work for mutual benefit.
Interactions are limited to goal synchronization - reducing conflict and increasing the alignment of both goals and approach throughout the achievement cycle (identify, realize, achieve).
Team members first and foremost focus on their individuals goals, yet they chose those goals in order to achieve a uniting, greater goal. Coordination implies prioritizing one's individual goals in comparison to other goals within the team, so team members need to subject their individual goals towards those of others at times.
Coordination requires frequent synchronization, problems get addressed at those synchronization points.
The level of synchronization points as well as the quality of discussion occurring at those points reflects the effectiveness of addressing problems. The resolution of problems then depends on the way the team chooses to address identified issues.
A coordinating team achieves "1+1 =2" effectiveness, minimizing the waste of duplication and speeding up problem solving. The downside of coordination is the time required to coordinate, which is usually more than compensated through enhanced alignment and problem solving.
Coordinating teams tend to deal with newcomers well, since they identify problems in teamwork fast and address them effectively.
Collaboration LevelAt the fifth level, team members collaborate to reach shared goals. They choose an adequate approach towards reaching their goal which allows every team member to utilize their strengths. Collaboration is a prerequisite for hyperproductivity.
Interaction is a continuous condition rather than happening at discrete points, yet driven by need. Team members will "pair up" where it makes sense and work individually when there is no benefit in working together. Synchronization points lose their meaning as team members are constantly synchronized.
Everyone understands and contributes towards the team's most important goals. Each team member's activity focuses on reaching shared objectives. Collaboration requires aligning personal goals with team goals and reducing the amount of goals that are pursued simultaneously.
Team members use each other to overcome problems, and problem solving - like interaction - becomes a continuous state. The resolution of team problems is prioritized over individual accomplishment. Problems are readily transparent, as the need for resolution will increase interaction.
Collaborating teams will be effective at "1+1 > 2", as team members are no longer limited by their own ability. Taking advantage of synergies and bringing together strengths allows the team to achieve goals which are greater than the individuals could.
Harnessing everyone's strengths, collaboration enables teams to perform even better as new team members join. To maximize effectiveness, new team members should complement, rather than duplicate, the strengths which exist within the team.
The five levels are not "clear-cut" transitions. At different times, the team may jump between those levels and individual members within the team may operate at different levels as well. This model serves as a guide for observing and classifying where the team stands and draw conclusions for potential corrective actions.
- At which level do you feel most comfortable? Why?
- What are the key impediments preventing your team from reaching the next level?
- Which structural elements of the organization affect your level of teamwork?
- Which beliefs, behaviours and actions result in your team's current level?
- What can you do to help your team reach a higher level?
- How do you avoid getting stuck at one level?