Team Capability: Do You Have It?

May 17, 2012 by  Filed under: Management 

We often think about organizations the way we think about buildings and machines. We make drawings that show how people are supposed to relate to one another on the job. These charts often use boxes stacked in the shape of a pyramid. They tell everyone in the company who is in charge and who answers to whom. But, in today’s world of instant communication and customer-designed products, we need ways to create organizations that are more like living organisms. Teams are one of those ways.

Organizations are not rigid structures–like buildings or Lego blocks. They are people who get together to accomplish something. Like the body, organizations have many parts and each part adds to the life of the whole. They help an organization function more like a living thing that grows and adapts.

A team is not just a group of people who are in the same space. While waiting for your flight at the airport, you are part of a group but you’re not a team. The members of a team share the same goals and work together to achieve those goals.

They work together to produce a result that is greater than the effects of the individuals. Such a team doesn’t need the constant input of outside guidance. It can take care of itself, improve itself, and learn how to produce more and better outcomes.

For this to happen, the organization has to develop Team Capability. Three conditions comprise this capability: atmosphere, attitudes, and alignment.

Atmosphere is about organizational features like structures, policies, processes, and reward systems. When these are team-friendly, the organization has a team atmosphere. For example, to be successful, they need space where they can operate without direct control from authorities outside the team. At a practical level, this means they are rewarded, not only as individuals, but also as a team. They are also allowed to spend money and make decisions within certain guidelines that everyone has agreed to follow. This atmosphere is ruined when a manager or boss constantly changes the their decisions or second-guesses their work.

Attitude exists when those who make up the team are willing to defer their personal agendas to the good of the group. This means you have to value the unique contributions of other members. It also means you have to build the team with people who are emotionally fit; stubborn, self-willed, egotistical people can weaken a team or even cause it to self-destruct. Teams thrive when they have people whose attitude is open to new experiences, people who demonstrate authenticity, and people who want to serve others. These attitudes build a shared commitment to the goal, which leads to the ability to produce more and better outcomes.

Alignment is what you have when teams solve problems and create solutions for customers. It also happens when individuals bring their unique strengths and capabilities to the service of the whole. And it happens when teams connect with other teams and other departments to achieve organizational goals. With this kind of alignment, you can’t help but see real bottom-line benefits for the organization.

Use these three variables to check your organization’s team capability. If this is new in your organization, work on improving these factors before setting up your first team. Once they are working, find ways to measure team atmosphere, team attitude, and team alignment so you can improve your overall team capability.

Greg Waddell is a professor of Leadership Studies at Mid-South Christian College and Adjunct Professor in the Business Department of Victory University (Memphis). He served as a missionary for 21 years in Uruguay and Argentina, returning to the U.S. in 2004 to finish his Doctor of Strategic Leadership at Regent University. Dr. Waddell is an experienced public speaker and teacher. One of his foundational principles is that true leadership involves expanding the leadership capacity of others. Contact Dr. Waddell at his website at

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