The 8 Best Team Effectiveness Models and How They Work (With Examples)
Why is team effectiveness more important than ever?
5 MINUTE READ
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October 2, 2018

Businesses get caught up in utilising the latest technology and having the best budgets. But as Patrick Lencioni described in the opening of his book, ‘The Five Dysfunctions of a Team’, ‘Not finance. Not strategy. Not technology. It is teamwork that remains the ultimate competitive advantage, both because it is so powerful and so rare.’

Effective, cohesive teams are the lifeblood of successful, powerful organisations. Over time, many team effectiveness models have been developed. Today we are breaking down eight of the most popular models and the benefits of each so you can decide which works best for your team.

1. The GRPI Model of Team Effectiveness

The GRPI model was first introduced by Richard Beckhard in 1972 to aid with understanding teams. Following this, doctors Irwin Rubin, Mark Plovnick and Ronald Fry then developed and popularised one of the oldest team effectiveness models in 1977, and it has stuck around for good reason. GRPI is an acronym that comprises the four pillars of the model — goals, roles, processes and interpersonal relationships.

Let’s break it down:

  • Goals: There must be clear objectives and intentions regarding individual and team goals, combined with robust and open communication about priorities and expectations.
  • Roles: The entire team must have a defined team leader and clear roles and responsibilities. For example, each team should have a project lead as well as individuals who are assigned to roles that match their expertise.
  • Processes: Teams need established decision-making and problem-solving procedures, along with clear team processes.
  • Interpersonal relationships: Team performance is based on frequent, honest communication, engagement and flexibility between team members.

The GRPI is a simple framework that can help organisations improve employee engagement and foster accountability towards measurable individual and group goals.

2. The Katzenbach and Smith Team Effectiveness Model

This model was developed by Jon Katzenbach and Douglas Smith in 1993. The authors studied teams in many companies that had different types of business challenges and co-wrote the book ‘The Wisdom of Teams’.

The Katzenback and Smith model resembles a triangle with each point representing the team's goals or objectives. These revolve around aspects of teamwork, including collective work products, performance results and personal growth. The three points of the triangle include:

  • Commitment: Team members are more dedicated to their work when they are engaged and aligned to the mission of the organisation, have clear goals and a shared team approach towards reaching them. A lack of commitment can have a negative effect on group dynamics.
  • Skills: Every member of a team must be adept in problem solving and teamwork, and have the professional skills and adequate resources needed to accomplish goals.  
  • Accountability: Co-workers need to be steadfast in their commitment to their individual tasks and team goals. Avoidance of accountability can affect team success. For example, if an individual is unwilling to complete their task on time, this can have an impact on others who rely on their work to complete their own objectives.

In the Katzenback and Smith model, team development helps to increase accountability and engagement. Successful teams employ the use of performance management systems to increase adherence to a common goal.

3. The T7 Model of Team Effectiveness

Michael Lombardo and Robert Eichinger crafted the T7 model in 1995 with the aim of better understanding the factors that contribute to team effectiveness. After all, you can't fix the problem if you don't know the causes of team dysfunction.

Lombardo and Eichinger discovered there are five common internal factors and two external factors that highly impact team effectiveness. Each one begins with T, which earned it the name 'T7 model’.

Internal factors include:

  • Thrust: Team members have a shared goal.
  • Trust: Every employee is confident that their fellow team members have good intentions and are committed to the goal. For example, individuals may have trust in the rest of their team through working together previously, their noted skills and experience or their status within the organisation.
  • Talent: Employees have the skills and resources to produce effective team performance and the best results.
  • Teaming skills: The entire team works well together and has excellent problem-solving and decision-making skills.
  • Task skills: Team members exhibit consistent and timely execution of tasks.

External team factors include:

  • Team leader fit: Does the team leader work for the greater good of the team and the goal? The leader must have a collaborative rather than dictating approach towards reaching team goals.
  • Team support from the organisation: Teams must have overall support at the right level across every tier of the organisation and be provided with the resources needed to reach their goals. For example, team leaders should have access to administrative or project support as well as key project roles.

High performing teams ensure each of the five internal factors are active. That being said, without support from the external members of the company, effectiveness is limited. Sometimes, team leaders need to advocate for external buy-in to gain support and reach maximum team effectiveness.

4. The LaFasto and Larson Model

Team Effectiveness Model: Man gesturing while sitting in front of laptop

In 2001, Frank LaFasto and Carl Larson developed a team effectiveness model they coined 'Five Dynamics of Team Work and Collaboration'. Through researching 600 teams in various organisations, they made a model of what an effective team looks like, which consisted of five elements for team effectiveness.

  • Team members: Your talent is your greatest asset, so choosing the right employees is key. Do team members have the proper skills and capabilities to work in a team environment? For example, you can select and build the right team by creating a skills matrix or reviewing the effectiveness of individuals against previous projects.
  • Team relationships: Similar to the importance of interpersonal relationships in the GRPI model, the right team building behaviours are key to maximising team capabilities.
  • Team problem solving: When any group has good team connections and interactions, high levels of trust foster productive conflict resolution and problem-solving skills. Absence of trust can have the opposite effect.
  • Team leadership: An effective, proactive team leader that moves team members in a compelling direction is critical in any team effectiveness model.
  • Team organisation environment: Collaborative work methods and organisational culture support team commitment and accountability.

5. The Lencioni Model

Patrick Lencioni published his book ‘The Five Dysfunctions of a Team’ in 2005. This book suggested a new team effectiveness model, known as the Lencioni model, which looks at the underlying reasons why teams are dysfunctional.

Lencioni suggested that the five dysfunctions of a team are:

  • Absence of trust: A lack of trust creates an environment where teams are unwilling to seek advice, support or assistance.
  • Fear of conflicts: As conflicts can create space for new or better ideas, a fear of conflict can lead to an ineffective team. For example, a disagreement between two employees could encourage them to consider a third option that is beneficial for all.
  • Lack of commitment: People who aren’t committed to the work they’ve been assigned have an impact on the wider team.
  • Avoidance of accountability: Team members are unwilling to hold themselves or others accountable for their work, which leads to team dysfunction.
  • Inattention: A lack of attention to team goals and productivity can appear if individuals are too focused on their own goals.

Lencioni’s model is shown as a pyramid with the absence of trust at the bottom and suggests you need to tackle one dysfunction before you can work on the next.

6. Tuckman’s FSNP Model

In 1965, Bruce Tuckman introduced the Forming, Storming, Norming, Performing model, also known as FSNP. The model was enhanced in 1977 by Mary Ann Jensen to include a fifth phase known as Adjourning, creating the FSNPA model.

Tuckman’s team effectiveness model suggests that these five stages are necessary for teams to work at the highest possible levels of effectiveness and growth. The phases are:

  • Forming: Team members get to know each other and develop a basic understanding from which they’ll work throughout the project. At this stage, people are likely to avoid conflict and strive to feel included. For example, individuals may be more formal than they otherwise would.
  • Storming: At this stage, team members are more open to challenging others and conflict is more likely. During this phase, the team navigates these challenges in order to progress.
  • Norming: Individuals begin to feel they are part of a team and work together to agree and become more effective.
  • Performing: The team is working well and performing against objectives. They are motivated to work together to reach goals.
  • Adjourning: After the project has concluded, the team conducts a review that finalises their time together and plans for any future necessities.

7. The Hackman Model

J. Richard Hackman suggested a new team effectiveness model in his 2002 book, ‘Leading Teams: Setting the Stage for Great Performances’. Hackman identified five conditions that are believed to increase the likelihood of a team working effectively. These conditions are:

  • Real team: This is defined as teams where everyone has a defined role with rights and tasks to carry out. For example, your team may have a clear document which captures everyone’s roles and responsibilities.
  • Compelling direction: The team has a clear direction or end goal that they are working towards. This may be set out as a series of smaller goals that help to motivate the team.
  • Enabling structure: For a team to be truly effective, it needs to be supported by a structure, workflows and processes that allow work to be completed as it needs to.
  • Supportive context: An effective team needs access to the tools, resources and support that’s required to deliver a project or reach a goal.
  • Expert coaching: Teams with access to a coach or mentor have a greater probability of working effectively, as they can access expert help when it’s needed.

8. The Salas, Dickinson, Converse and Tannenbaum Model

In 1992, Salas, Dickinson, Converse and Tannenbaum proposed an adapted version of  Hackman’s earlier model developed in 1983. This new model highlighted the importance of organisational context and group design and their effect on the performance of a team. The elements of this model are:

  • Organisational context: Teams need a supportive and reinforcing environment that provides them with the right information, education and rewards to work together towards a goal.
  • Team design: Effective teams are designed in a way that facilitates and prompts work through a defined structure, clear goals and an understanding of processes.
  • Team synergy: Individuals need to work together to move forward and create gains, while reducing any potential losses through ineffectiveness. For example, teams need to have a shared energy and enthusiasm towards the project they’re working on.
  • Process effectiveness: Teams are able to understand and evaluate the effort, knowledge, skills and strategies that are applied to tasks.
  • Material resources: In order to work effectively, teams need access to resources that allow them to complete the task on time and to a high enough quality.
  • Group effectiveness: The way that a group behaves is a key factor in high performing teams, including how members feel about their experience, the quality of others’ work and how individuals work together.

Implement Your Team Effectiveness Model With Ease

Team Effectiveness Model: Woman pointing to sticky note on wall while in a meeting

Regardless of the team effectiveness model you choose, the right tools and technology can make it easier for everyone to embrace.

Now that a lot of team communication has gone digital, email can quickly become a replacement for talking to colleagues at their desk or by phone. Email is great in some situations, but newer technology has made teamwork even easier.

Try a teamwork chat app as an alternative to email and discover how this can help teams make decisions quickly on the go, build a rapport with each other and increase the likelihood of a team's success.

You can also introduce new tools to make collaboration easier for your teams. There are a number of tools that foster online collaboration, such as Google Docs, video conferencing software like Skype or Google Hangouts and online whiteboards for visual collaboration.

Whether you adopt one of these four popular team effectiveness models or build your own, technology can help get your project teams on board.

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