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Why do teams fail ?

Retrogressive teams are usually characterized by a lack in MOI, which is an acronym for Motivation, Organization and Information.

A lack of energy and drive can be detrimental to teams right after formation, considering that motivation is spawned in stages, team leaders should invest time and effort into keeping energy levels high at all time. A clear sense of hierarchy, structure and rules of engagement in organizations can keep team members prepared on how to deliver results whereas the lack of resources to consume for the purpose of understanding how to accomplish goals break down a majority of teams right after formation.

We see this illustrated in our everyday life from our favourite sports, bands, groups in a varying array, a major number of successful teams in the face of these constraints have two things in common, these teams have a SWAT and a Supporter as part of the team.

The term SWAT adopted from Steve McConnell’s work is an acronym for Skilled With Advanced Tools, this refers to a specific individual that possess domain-specific knowledge, or deep technical skills in a platform, area, framework or language, a SWAT is a master in his field and understands all the code and nuances of his subject matter.

Whereas we learn about the Supporter from Dr. Meredith Belbins research on Team Leadership based on People-Oriented Team structures. Here he defines a Supporter, as a person who builds on team members’ strengths and underpins their shortcomings. A supporter Provides emotional leadership and fosters team spirit to improve communications among team members.

Apparently as much as we may want to pose that most teams fail, we must understand that failure is a state of the mind, from the IBM Design Thinking Playbook, as Diverse Empowered Teams focused on a Hill, it is important to fail fast, this process regards failure as a learning opportunity, in order words, fail fast and iterate quickly.

As Thato Rammoko quotes Humans never fail, We only run out of Time, Scope or Capacity

The TSC (Time, Scope and Capacity) school of thought is a large enough argument for another article.


Characteristics of Dysfunctional Teams?


The cohesiveness of a group depends on the total field of forces that act on that group. From Corporate Skunkworks to Feature Teams etc, being able to identify a point of instability within a team can help towards streamlining objectives and goals amongst members even better. Here are some indicators you can look out for:

  • Autonomy: Autonomy is the degree to which you have control over the means and methods you use to perform your work. Trust plays a role in defining autonomy. Teams lacking in this element are plagued with team members that feel no personal responsibility for the outcome of their work. It’s vital for teams to be bound by common goals and objectives, not by processes.
  • Lengthy Conflicts: Establishing a line of action in case of conflict and opening up communication can save a team from breaking up during conflicts. If we take a look at Tuckman’s Team Building Model, this stage referred to as the storming stage is almost inevitable, as working out a conflict resolution framework early on is beneficial, as most people try to shy away from conflicts. The truth is that at the point of any major breakthrough, the most successful team had to navigate past their storm stage to get to where they are today.
  • Rigidity among roles being played: You observe this as teammates begin to cleave to titles. In a well-oiled team, team members are interdependent on each other, which means that they rely on the individual strengths of other team members, and they all do what’s best for the team. It is vital to highlight that during team formation, team members gradually take on roles that are not just best for them individually but that is best for the team as a whole. In this way, everyone gravitates toward productive positions, and no one feels left out.
  • Low level of commitment: As described with autonomy, this means sacrifice. For the benefits of the team, team members would sacrifice time and opportunity. High levels of commitment are essential to firmly coupled team. A decline in this activity is a clear warning sign.
  • Lack of communication: It may take some time to gain effective communication, in music bands the leading artist usually uses a few hand gestures to tell her instrumentalists when a cue is changing and these happen without anyone in the audience being able to tell the difference
  • Lack of Trust and Mutual confidence: Larson and Lafasto have stated that Trust hangs four key principles: Honesty, Openness, Consistency and Respect. Trust is less a cause than an effect of an effective team. You can’t force the members of a team to trust each other. You can’t set a goal of “Trust your teammates.” But once project members commit to a common vision and start to identify with the team, they learn to be accountable and to hold each other accountable. When team members see that other team members truly have the team’s interests at heart—and realize that they have a track record of being honest, open, consistent, and respectful with each other — trust will arise from that.

These are a few indicators among others, just as team structures are sometimes chosen for the wrong reasons, team members are often chosen for the wrong reasons. This brings to attention the need for developing a team formation structure focused on optimal output. Structuring teams for optimal output are at the core of the Result Driven Team Methodology. A group of individuals who are driven by a common goal and vision and are invested in the goals and objectives of the team.

While I’ve found these insights to have a wide range of applications, they are just the tip of the team management iceberg. Like all of us, I’m still learning, and I’m curious — Why do you think teams fail? What are the indicators you’ve come to associate with dysfunctional teams? Please, share them in the comments and help us all build better and stronger teams.

Published: Fri, 15 Nov 2019 21:00:00 +0000

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