Understand Team Type to Create Team Purpose

March 15, 2011 -- Sal Silvester

I recently wrote a post about the importance of understanding your team's purpose. After all, purpose drives everything. It drives what's on the team's "agenda" and what's not (I am using the term "agenda" more broadly than meeting agenda. I am referring to the specific areas the team should be focused on).

An important step in clarifying team purpose is to first understand the "type" of team you need (and want).

Let's look at 4 team types of  teams outlined in Senior Leadership Teams by Wageman, Nunes, Buruss,
and Hackman.

Information Sharing Teams exchange important information about various areas of the business. They meet to hear about the direction and initiatives from the senior leader. Additionally, team members need each other for information, but require little additional interaction to fulfill their responsibilities. Their purpose is to make individual leaders better informed, better aligned, and more able to do their jobs.

Consultative Teams are periodically brought together to discuss and advise the senior leader. They do not make decisions, but provide information, debate issues, and act as a sounding board for the senior leader. They also promote information sharing among members, in addition to the senior leader. Their purpose is to make the senior leader better informed and better able to do his/her job.

Coordinating Teams come together to coordinate a major initiative and to manage operational interdependencies. Members are highly interdependent, have shared responsibilities, and must work together frequently and flexibly to accomplish their shared purpose.

Decision Making Teams make the small number of critical decisions that are most consequential for the organization. They are the most complex - and potentially most valuable – team. To be successful they need a compelling purpose, the right people on (and the wrong ones off) and sound structures to support effective collaboration.

So, as you look at your team and wrestle with its purpose, start by deciding what "type" of team you need to be (and want to be). Then, think about the meaningful items should be on the team's "agenda" based on your team type.

For example, if you decide your team should be a decision making team then it probably doesn't make sense to spend most of your team time doing what I call the "Round Robin" - where everyone has 5 minutes to provide an update to others on the team who really don't care.

Team type will drive your purpose. Purpose will drive what's on the team's agenda.

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