5 Types of Teams. What’s Your Choice?
Different types of companies have logically provoked the evolution of different types of teams. Some of the teams are permanent and others are temporary. Some are part of the corporate hierarchy, others are adjunct.
The career of a product manager definitely involves working with teams. About 75% of employers rate teamwork and collaboration as “very important”. Only 18% of employees get communication evaluations at their performance reviews. 39% of surveyed employees believe that people in their own companies don’t collaborate enough.
In this article, we define the most common types of business teams in the workplace. But first, let’s identify the core difference between teams and groups.
“Coming together is a beginning. Keeping together is progress. Working together is success.”
Groups and teams
Business companies include both groups and teams.
- Groups are usually formed around common interests or purposes with the goal of sharing information, but there is no collective accountability. It can be a social club or a workgroup with volunteer efforts.
- Teams’ focus is collective performance, where the members have both individual and mutual accountability. Therefore, companies create teams to bring together groups of people with complementary skills and interests to work toward a common goal.
Of course, each type comes with its set of strengths and weaknesses. The type of team you need depends on your purposes, location, and organizational structure.
The early concept of teams rose to popularity in the 1970s. However, the modern teamwork is fully integrated into the activities and organizational culture.
Advantages of Teams
The main advantage is that a team brings together different people with diverse skills and allows them to make something that nobody could do alone.
Communication level is higher on teams. Effective teams can discover new approaches and improve product and service quality.
One more team’s advantage is the efficiency in product development within the traditional hierarchy. Team members are able to analyze and identify dependent tasks, sometimes applying great improvements.
Disadvantages of Teams
Unfortunately, not all teams perform successfully. When managers do not care about creating and supporting strong teams, the members may become discouraged and leave the company.
An important point is the reluctance to speak out against the majority opinion. It’s about fear of upsetting other members and disrupting social cohesion.
Teams can be ineffective if they lack leadership, expertise and necessary skills: the team members do not feel accountable, and the team fails. Teams can not also work well if they have no defined purposes and resources required.
Employees are more productive when they work together and this is the main idea of team collaboration. Although many different types of teams may benefit a company, 5 of them are particularly relevant.
“A successful team is a group of many hands and one mind.”
A project team is a group of employees that work collectively and have shared goals and strategies.
This type of team means structuring work in a specific, measurable and time-constrained way. Project teams allow assigning clear roles and responsibilities, set specific deadlines.
We define 4 subspecies of project teams:
1. Functional team
A functional team is permanent. It includes members of the same department with different responsibilities. There is a manager who is responsible for everything. Everyone in the team reports to him.
A functional team can be usually recognized in traditional project management companies.
This type requires a manager who ensures that there are no obstacles when it comes to transferring work from one team to another.
2. Cross-functional team
A cross-functional team consists of members from different departments. This kind of team tackles specific tasks that require different expertise and inputs.
Cross-functional teams are becoming increasingly popular all over the world. However, there is an opinion that the whopping number of all cross-functional teams are dysfunctional.
3. Matrix team
A matrix team is a “2-boss system”. Here an individual reports to a different manager for his/her work. A matrix team is the product of a Matrix management approach.
It helps top managers to retain control over the project without being involved in decisions.
4. Contract team
A contract team is an outsourced team where the members are tied down by a contract.
The client can easily cut all ties to the team after the project is completed and the contract has ended. In this kind of team, the role of project managers is crucial. They have to maintain constant communication between the customer and team members, to compensate for the lack of the team’s physical presence, to bear full responsibility for project success or failure.
Self-managed teams consist of employees of the same company who work together. Although they have a wide set of objectives, their key goal is to reach a common result.
There is no manager here. The members of self-managed teams should determine rules and expectations, solve problems and bare shared responsibilities.
Thinking about creating a self-managed team, you should pay attention to the levels of responsibility and the autonomy that is given to the team.
The main advantages of self-managed teams are:
- Improved motivation because of autonomy
- Ability to manage own time and handle tasks when it suits employees
- No pay for office
- Pride in team accomplishments because of shared responsibility
What about the disadvantages? One of the weak points is about the lack of hierarchical authority that can put personal relationships over good judgment.
This can suppress creativity and critical thinking. You should also pay attention to training time and costs that are higher due to a broader scope of duties.
A virtual team involves employees who work in different locations and who rely on the power of communication and collaboration tools to get things done together.
This kind of team provides people with better life-work balance and allow business owners to hire the best experts.
There are different types of virtual teams that are characterized by 3 dimensions: time, space and culture.
- Time is about when people work (during different hours, on different shifts, in different time-zones).
- Space is about where people work (right next to each other or hundreds of kilometers away).
- Culture is about how people work (including such factors as gender, age, race, language, education, nationality, social, religious, economic factors, etc.)
An operational team deal with supporting other types of teams. It is formed to make sure that all office processes go smoothly.
Operational teams may have their own projects and function as they also have well-defined roles and responsibilities.
A problem-solving team is usually temporary. It is focused on solving a specific issue. This kind of team may be created after the financial crisis or any unplanned event or challenge. It is aimed to come up with solutions to help the company climb out of a steep recession.
Once guidelines are set in place and plans are formed, the task forces and committees are disbanded.
How to make your team successful?
Do not forget about team collaboration tools that assist to make communication and management processes easier. There are numerous benefits of such online tools, including:
- The precise and clear delegation of work
- Increased productivity
- Work across geographic locations
- The faster way to work across departments
- Better reporting and tracking issues
- Better organization of workplace docs, etc.
What’s your choice?
If you have some hesitations about what kind of team approach to choose, try to ask yourself at least the following 6 questions:
- What are the goals of the potential team?
- How many people are required?
- How do you identify their roles?
- Will their engagement be temporary or permanent?
- Do the employees require a strong leader?
- Is it necessary to be located in a single place?
If your goal is to perform a project that requires input from marketing, design and customer support depts, choose a cross-functional team.
If you are going to outsource designers, an agency or people to work remotely, then the only logical way is opting for a mixture of virtual and contract team.
Actually, the most teams in the modern business world represent a hybrid of some, if not all of the team types.
What kind of team do you have? Could you share the strong and weak sides of your specific team? Feel free to comment!