Teams vs Groups

What’s the difference between a Team and a Group – when do you need them and what makes them work?

People don’t always realise that there’s a difference between a Group and a Team and that not every group should be or even needs to be a team.

(In contrast, and technically speaking, every team is a kind of group)

Knowing which is which and giving some thought to what the functions and groupings in your organisation require can be really helpful, especially when it comes to improving performance, designing workflow and diagnosing the causes of dissatisfaction.

When you need a team

You’ll probably need a Team if you need synergy – if you need the sum of the parts to be greater than the whole.

If the efforts of individual people, working well in a Group give you all that you need, then don’t try to make them behave like a team. People working in a process, where they pass a task along to be progressed by somebody with different skills are also a Group.

If the outcomes you’re after are complex, challenging and beyond the scope of individuals, even working well as part of a process, then you need a Team.

I don’t know if the academics would agree with me, but I understand it in terms of my experiences:

  • relay runners racing in the 4 x 100m are a Group
  • rugby players, even with specialised skills and tasks, need to be a Team.

If you’re a member of the most senior group of people who run your organisation, you and your colleagues probably should be a Team – unless your business is a highly-specialised, one-off, short-term, project-based activity like making a movie. And even then I’d argue you’d add something by aiming to be a team.

You can use the table below to see the other key differences between Groups and Teams and some of the important implications for helping people to be productive and fulfilled. Alt-click the table and select “Save image as…” to download a copy:TeamsvsGroups