Teams & Groups

Teamwork Processes Necessary for Effective Performance

Organizations are increasingly utilizing team-based structures for coordinating work and completing projects. Thus it is imperative for those creating, and performing in, teams to understand and utilize effective processes which lead to high performance. The ways team members interact and work with one another for reaching goals are referred to as processes. The need for, and usefulness of, different processes depends on which stage of work/project the team is at.

Which processes are effective when?

When teams are between projects or assignments, transition processes are effective for reflecting on prior accomplishments and preparing for future needs. Transition processes involve:
  • Identifying/evaluating tasks, challenges, environmental conditions, and resources;
  • Specifying and prioritizing goals; and
  • Creating action – and contingency – plans.
When teams are working toward the goals and objectives of a project, they perform different activities as part of action processes. These are:
  • Gauging progress toward goals;
  • Tracking resources and the environment to ensure what is needed will be available;
  • Assisting other team members perform their tasks; and
  • Coordinating the sequence of member activities.
At all stages of teamwork (e.g., before, during, and after), interpersonal processes are conducted, with a focus on managing the relationships between team members. Interpersonal processes include:
  • Conflict management and developing norms that promote cooperation;
  • Building and maintaining team member motivation and confidence; and
  • Fostering togetherness and coping with stressful demands.

Do the team’s tasks and size matter?

The level to which team members depend on one another for information, resources, and performing activities affects the importance of processes utilized by a team. In situations where team members are highly dependent on one another, interpersonal processes are extremely important for team effectiveness. When team members function more independently, interpersonal processes are less important for the effectiveness of the team. Additionally, the size of the team partially determines how important different processes are for the team to be effective. Larger teams face greater challenges in coordinating members than smaller teams do, thus action and interpersonal processes are extremely important for the effectiveness of large teams. As a result it is essential to determine how both the number of people and the tasks needed for completing projects may impact the way team members work together.

Implications for Practice

Each set of processes are positively related to team performance AND team member satisfaction. The more effective a team is at setting goals, coordinating activities, and working together, the better the team performs, and the more satisfied members are with working as part of a team. Additionally, the increased use of “virtual teams” and other technologies for coordinating interactions emphasizes the importance of utilizing transition, action, and interpersonal processes appropriately for effective team performance. In order to best utilize team-based structures, coordinators should ask themselves questions for each set of processes that relate to how well the team may perform: Transition-related questions:
  • What kinds of challenges may exist if using a team to complete this project?
  • What goals need to be met, and in what order?
  • What kind of action plans can we create, and what contingencies for those can we put in place?
Action-related questions:
  • What kind of progress is the team making toward its goals?
  • Are the resources needed still available?
  • Is the environment still conducive for a team-based structure?
  • Which team members could use assistance to complete their tasks, and what type of assistance may be most helpful?
  • Is the sequence of team member activities appropriate, or are adjustments necessary?
Interpersonal-related questions:
  • Are team members proactively or reactively dealing with conflict?
  • Are all team members willing to compromise, cooperate, and show one another respect?
  • What type of activities help to boost team member confidence and motivation for accomplishing goals?
  • What kind of activities help the team come together to cope with demands, stress, and frustration?
Particularly in situations where team performance is lagging, team members or managers can look to these sets of processes to help diagnose where problems may be occurring. Identifying which set of processes a team may be experiencing trouble with (creating action plans, coordinating activities, interpersonal conflicts) can help determine which type of intervention will be most useful for bringing performance back up to standard.

Interpretation by:

Kathleen Melcher

The DeGarmo Group

This was a summary of the research and practice implications from LePine, J.A., Piccolo, R.F., Jackson, C.L., Mathieu, J.E., & Saul, J.R. (2008). A meta-analysis of teamwork processes: Tests of a multidimensional model and relationships with teamwork effectiveness criteria.  Personnel Psychology, 61, 273-307.