secrets to team's effectiveness

It’s no secret: Great teams are the foundation of great companies. But creating a great team isn’t just about putting a bunch of allstars in a room and letting them loose. The 2004 United States Men’s Olympic basketball team taught us there’s much more to it.

On paper, it was a dream team, comprised of some of the hottest NBA talent at the time: Lebron James, Allen Iverson, Tim Duncan, Dwayne Wade, and Carmelo Anthony. With a roster like that, winning the gold seemed like a shoo-in.

But they lost, terribly, to countries such as Puerto Rico, Lithuania, and Argentina. NBC announcer Mike Breen described what went wrong: “You saw clearly that they just weren’t playing well together and they weren’t gelling. It was a struggle right from the get go.” Even though they had so much talent on their side, they didn’t play well as a team, and it cost them the gold.

This issue isn’t limited to sports teams. Google, a company known around the globe for having some of the most effective teams in tech, spent years analyzing what makes some teams better than others for their  Aristotle study. Their findings? It’s less about who’s on the team and more about how well they work together.

The LaFasto and Larson Model

Authors Frank LaFasto and Carl Larson proposed a model in 2001 called “Five Dynamics of Team Work and Collaboration.” They gathered insights from investigating 600 teams across various industries to answer the question, “What is an effective team?”

The resulting model features five layers or components that increase the likelihood of effectiveness:

  • Team member: What are his or her skills and behaviors? Picking the right person is the first step.
  • Team relationships: The right behavior in a team builds healthy working relationships between members.
  • Team problem solving: Good team relationships make it possible to work together to solve problems.
  • Team leadership: The right leadership enhances a team’s success.
  • Organization environment: The right processes and company culture in an organization promote commitment from teams.
However, this model can help you pinpoint areas of opportunity and improvement in your own team to reach higher levels of team effectiveness. Remember the way a team works together as whole determines their success much more than the strength of the individual team members. Focusing on effective collaboration elevates the work of everyone involved.

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