Great Teams Create Great Strategy. But Most Teams aren’t Teams.

Think about strategy conversations as a seed. And think about your team environment as soil. If the seed falls on toxic or infertile soil, and nothing will grow from it, but weeds.

Jon Katzenbach and Douglas Smith conceptualized the team performance curve, a J-shaped graph, illustrating five levels of teamwork. Unless you become at least a real team, creating a winning strategy remains an illusion.

Team Performance impact according to Katzenbach and Smith

Working Group: Members share information and make decisions but lack common goals or mutual accountability. Focus is on individual performance.

Pseudo Team: Potential for gains, but lacks focus on collective performance. Members avoid risks and don’t establish common purpose or goals.

Potential Team: Significant performance gains possible with effort towards clear purpose, goals, and mutual accountability.

Real Team: Small group with shared purpose, goals, and mutual accountability. Greater performance impact than potential team or working group.

High Performance Team: Characteristics of a real team with deep commitment to personal growth. Examples include special ops teams, successful sports teams, and some business executive teams.

It requires strong personal commitment to transition from real to high performance team.

The moment you reach the level of real team, you’ll start to witness fundamental changes in individual behavior. Being right is less important than succeeding together. The common goal stands above all. Everyone works to achieve it.

This is the environment, the soil, we need to create great strategy. Ego-free, healthy conflict about the best way forward. To achieve a level of success that was impossible before. Great strategy requires a real team. Combined, high-performance is achievable.

Have you ever been part of a real team or a high-performing team?

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Main image by Glen Cary.