It is common usage to apply the term "team" to mean any collection of individuals who perform some related function, regardless of how those individuals actually work. To me, a team is a very specific type of human organizational unit, defined by how it works, rather than by what it works on. Simply put, teams are distinguished by teamwork. I have even, very occasionally, encountered fair approximations of cross-functional Scrum "teams" that fail to meet this most basic definition.
Teamwork describes a particular way of working toward a shared goal. I have distilled the essential characteristics of teamwork into the following (incomplete) list:
- sublimation of individual ego and need for recognition to the needs of the team
- sharing and balancing workload dynamically at daily or finer granularity
- individuals offering and requesting help in an environment of trust
- willingness to make personal sacrifices in support of the team
- recognition that the team's goal outweighs (but does not exclude) individual goals
Implied in my list of teamwork traits is a self-organizing, empowered team that has the authority to set its own commitments and determine how best to meet those commitments. Another implication is that a team is small. The standard Scrum guideline for team size (seven plus/minus two) has always worked brilliantly in my coaching experience.
So the next time you hear a client or colleague talking about a "team," make sure you know what they really mean: Is it a Team or a Group?
All for now....