More on … why teams succeed

Business leaders are always looking for the new recipe for successful teams. Yet, this definition of a team has stood the test of time and continues to provide the most effective guidance on why teams succeed :

“A team is a small number of people with complimentary skills who are committed to a common purpose, performance goals, and approach, for which they hold themselves mutually accountable  [Katzenbach & Smith, 1993]

It outlines 5 fundamentals of effective teams :

team basics

In 2011, Katzenbach released further research on teams – validating this original definition. He says that rigorous attention to these fundamentals is what actually creates the conditions necessary for team performance but too often these fundamentals are overlooked or ignored.

There are five prerequisites for a successful team:

  • Clear objectives: What are we trying to accomplish as a group? The group’s purpose and specific goals — the challenges it is addressing — must be laid out in order to establish a commonly agreed-on working approach.
  • Communication: What is the process for letting one another know what we need to know? The team’s working approach, rules, behaviours, decision-making protocols, and interactions should be explicitly discussed, especially at the inception of the group or when new members join.
  • Membership criteria: What do we need in order to accomplish our performance goals? Teams operate best when membership is relatively small but carefully constructed to include the necessary skills, expertise, experience, and political clout to get the job done. When needed, outsiders can be brought in to offer new perspectives and ideas and team members can be trained in new skills.
  • Member roles and accountability: What are we mutually accountable for? Who is accountable for what? Performance expectations for team members and the group as a whole should be clearly delineated, including precise descriptions of individual responsibilities and how these responsibilities interconnect.
  • Leadership approach: When do we need a single leader as opposed to multiple leaders? When and how do we shift the leadership role among team members based on the task at hand? There are distinct team modes, and each requires a different leadership approach. Individual leadership, multiple leadership, and shifting leadership models are the primary options, depending on the performance situation.


The research tells us that spending time working on and discussing the fundamentals of team performance – with the team – is an essential practice that helps bring about the ultimate goal of team excellence.

How well does your team do that?


Click here to access other posts on teams:

Why some teams succeed and some don’t

More on … why teams fail