If you're interested in building a successful team, it's crucial to first define what success means to you. Without a clear understanding of what you're aiming for, it's like trying to brew the perfect cup of coffee without knowing what it should taste like.
At Sense On The Beach, we've developed a recipe for defining team success that's been incredibly valuable for us in helping organizations align and connect with a clear vision.
We're happy to share it with you and invite you to use, adapt, and improve upon it. And we're always eager to hear about your definitions of team success, so don't hesitate to share them with us.
Our definition of team success
When it comes to teams, there are two key components to keep in mind: the team itself and the direction they're heading in.
A team is a group of people working together to achieve a specific goal, with clear boundaries and expectations set. The team direction, on the other hand, is the goals they're striving to achieve, the impact they're working to create, and the value they're delivering.
But here's the thing: having a successful team is about more than just hitting goals. It's also about ensuring that the team is healthy and functioning well together. After all, a team that's achieving great results but is plagued by conflict and turnover is not truly successful.
That's why at Sense On The Beach, we define team success as the combination of successful value delivery and a healthy team dynamic. In other words, a successful team is one that not only achieves its goals but also maintains a positive and productive environment.
Successful value delivery
To define what successful value delivery is, there are two key components to consider: outcomes and outputs.
The outcome is the impact we want to achieve as a team, such as increasing the number of customers or boosting customer satisfaction. A successful team is one that proactively works to achieve these goals and meets them to a satisfactory level.
The output, on the other hand, is the actual work the team does to reach those goals. This might include creating a new product feature or addressing a specific customer need.
A successful team is one that consistently and sustainably delivers outputs and meets the outcomes. By measuring and assessing both outcomes and outputs, we can get a clear picture of whether a team is delivering value successfully.
When it comes to team success, achieving goals is only half the picture. Equally important is ensuring that the team is functioning at its best, and that's where team health comes in.
But what exactly makes a team healthy? Thankfully, there have been a plethora of great initiatives and studies that have explored this question in-depth. For example, Google's re:Work project back in 2016 identified five key aspects of successful teams:
- Psychological safety: This is the most fundamental aspect that needs to exist in a team to be healthy. Psychological safety refers to feeling safe to be vulnerable and take risks in the team, knowing that no one on the team will embarrass or punish anyone else. If you want to know more about this topic, you should head to Amy Edmondson's TEDx talk, and read her two books on the topic: Teaming (2012) and The fearless organization (2018).
- Dependability: The idea of reliability, the feeling that everybody on the team can depend on anybody else. In the same way, anybody else from the company feels that can depend on the team. To better understand this idea of dependability we recommend Simon Sinek's Youtube video called What makes the highest performing teams in the world.
- Structure & clarity: Clarity of roles, processes, expectations, and goals must exist in a team to be healthy. If you want to know more about ways to clarify the system that exists in a team and between teams in a company, the book Team Topologies: Organizing Business and technology Teams for Fast Flow is a must-read reference. And if you prefer diving into the ways to define goals that are specific, challenging, and attainable, you can't skip John Doerr's Measure what matters book.
- Meaning: Feeling that you're doing meaningful work and finding a sense of purpose is an important ingredient of the team's health. This idea of meaning varies from individual to individual and can go from financial security to self-expression. You should read Hierarchy of Needs: A Theory of Human Motivation if you want to get more context around the topic.
- Impact: In the same way as with Meaning, feeling that the work you do matters and generates a positive impact is key for teams' health. There are many references to these topics, but if we had to choose one we would begin with Daniel H. Pink's book called Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us.
Google's work is a great foundation to learn from. Other great sources go in the same direction. For instance, Patrick Lencioni's book called The 5 dysfunctions of a team (2002) dives into the same concepts by looking at the essential things that can be missing in a team (dysfunctions). The absence of trust is the first dysfunction and is fully connected with some of the concepts we just mentioned.
Understanding these concepts is just the beginning. Building a team that embodies them takes time, dedication, and a conscious effort. And yet, despite all the information available about the ingredients that make a team healthy, many companies still struggle with questions like
"how do we define team success?", or
"how do we assess the success of a team?", and, most importantly,
"how do we make our teams more successful?".
At Sense On The Beach, we believe that assessing team health is just as important as evaluating value delivery, and we plan to delve deeper into this topic in future content. We will explore the best ways to measure team health and provide practical advice for improving it.