The Key Elements of a Real Team
Small Number of People
Teams by their very nature can't be big therefore a real team has a definable membership, typically fewer than 12. (Refer to our Team Tactics article “Does size matter?)
Teams bring together complementary skills and experience that exceed those of any individual on the team. The different perspectives, knowledge, skills and strengths of each member are identified and used, by comparison most groups are extremely rigid, members usually have assigned roles and tasks that don’t change. Teams however are flexible performing different task and maintenance functions as required. Roles and tasks may change depending upon the expertise and experience most pertinent to the work being performed
Members share the common task and have clearly defined objectives for which members are individually and collectively accountable
A team has sense of shared purpose with a clear understanding of what constitutes the team's mission. They can describe a vivid picture of what the team needs to achieve, and the norms and values that will guide them.
The actions of members are interdependent and coordinated. Members have a shared sense of unity and consciously identify with the team and each other. Individuals use "we" rather than "me."
A group typically produces products that are the sum of individual member contributions whereas a team develops products that are a result of the team's collective effort.
In groups, members are individually accountable for their efforts where in real teams members need the help of one another to accomplish the purpose for which they joined the group. They are individually and collectively accountable for the timeliness and quality of the team's products. If members answer to the boss instead of to one another, then you have a work group not a real team.
Typically a work group has a strong leader, in a traditional management role, who directs activities, assigns tasks and establishes schedules. Where the team leader makes all the critical decisions it’s a single leader unit not a real team.
By contrast, teams share or rotate leadership among individual members. They will also rotate less desired tasks, such as record keeping, so that no one member is permanently assigned to a less challenging or interesting activity.