Think about your team – specifically about the roles of the individuals and the nature of the process for goal achievement. Does your team have:
- A clearly defined process for goal achievement, but with unspecified roles for each team member
- Clearly defined roles for team members, but an indistinct process for goal achievement
- Clearly defined roles and a definite process for goal achievement
- Unspecified roles and an unclear process for goal achievement
More importantly, what is the best combination of these factors for generating effective collaboration and optimizing a team’s functioning?
Tammy Erikson discusses this in her article ‘The Biggest Mistake You (Probably) Make with Teams’, where she reports on research done on large teams at the BBC and Reuters. Their research shows that:
“…collaboration improves when the roles of individual team members are clearly defined and well understood — in fact, when individuals feel their role is bounded in ways that allow them to do a significant portion of their work independently. Without such clarity, team members are likely to waste energy negotiating roles or protecting turf, rather than focusing on the task.
We’ve also found that team members are more likely to want to collaborate if the path to achieving the team’s goal is left somewhat ambiguous. If a team perceives the task as one that requires creativity, where the approach is not yet well known or predefined, its members are more likely to invest more time and energy in collaboration.”
These results suggest that the best combination of role and process specificity in a team is the second option listed above: clearly defined roles for team members, but an indistinct process for goal achievement.
It is therefore strongly advisable for management to spend time properly establishing each person’s role and responsibilities within your teams and organisation – not only for reducing ambiguity, potential conflict and “I’m not accountable for that” situations, but also to optimize collaboration and team cohesion.