In 2018 my journey in Team Coaching included a certification as Advanced Practitioner in the Team Diagnostic Survey (TDS), that uses the Six Conditions for Team Effectiveness. The TDS is the only validated instrument that has been published in a peer review journal article. designed to diagnose the strengths and weaknesses of teams. It was brought to my attention via the Team Coaching Zone podcast founded by Krister Lowe.
I find the Six Conditions for Team Effectiveness a simple model, practical to use and very effective.
The late Richard Hackman, Ruth Wageman and their colleagues at Harvard and other universities based on their research about the major conditions that foster team effectiveness identified 6 Conditions that account for up to 80% of team effectiveness, 3 Key Task Processes that emerge from those conditions, and 3 measures of Team Effectiveness.
They studied teams in intelligence agencies, symphony and chamber orchestras, hospital patient care teams, management groups, flight deck crews and others. The research included:
- 120+ teams, 11 nations, wide range of industries
- Rigorous empirical study, not anecdotal
- Rich mix of quantitative and qualitative assessments of the teams
- Interviewed and surveyed all members, observed teams to capture potential influences on their effectiveness − Design and structure of the teams − Characteristics of the members − Actions of the leader
Let’s pick this model apart and build it back again.
The first part of the diagram, the Six Conditions, represent the main features of a team’s design that can be influenced to shape its effectiveness. The Six Conditions are presented in chronological order. To build a great team, first come the Essentials (Real Team, Right People, Compelling Purpose). When the Essentials are in good shape, turn next to the quality of the Enablers (Sound Structure, Supportive Organizational Context, Team Coaching)
- 3 Essentials: Real Team, Right People, Compelling Direction
If the three main conditions are missing or weak, teams will inevitably struggle over time.
1. Real Team groups that are bounded, interdependent and stable. Bounded: Clear who is—and who is not—on the leadership team. Stable: Membership is kept intact for some period of time. Interdependent: Members share accountability for a common purpose.
2. Compelling Direction Ensure the ends specified are clear, challenging, and consequential. Clear: Can imagine what it would look like if we achieved it. Challenging: A stretch of capability to achieve it, but not impossible. Consequential: Important impact on the success of the organization and on the lives and work of others.
3. Right People All members must possess both task and teamwork skills.
- 3 Enablers: Sound Structure, Supportive Context, Team Coaching
4. Sound Structure -> Right size: Keep the team small, ideally in the single digits. Meaningful team tasks: The work members do together is vital and connected to the strategy. Norms of conduct: Members understand what must always be done, what must never be done (norms/ground rules/team charter/ operating guidelines/etc.)
5. Supportive Organizational Context the organization’s structures and systems enable rather than undermine teamwork. Information: What data the team needs—in a form they can use Education: Training and technical consultation to build expertise Material resources: The space, time, and “stuff” for working together on hard decisions
6. Available Expert Coaching This can come from someone inside or outside the team. This person or people should be available to intervene in the process in ways that promote the best use of collective resources in completing the work.
Key Task Processes
Key Task Processes mean the ways that members are working together result in the team using its full capabilities to do the work well and the team is growing in capability. Effort is working in ways that build shared commitment to the work and the team. Strategy means inventing uniquely suited approaches to the work. Knowledge and skill is using member capabilities well.
- 3 Team Effectiveness Outcomes: Task Performance, Group Process, Member Satisfaction
The Criteria of Team Effectiveness mean that the team outcomes are excellent. Task Performance means the main clients or users of the team’s work are satisfied with the quality, quantity, and timeliness of the team’s work. Quality of Group Process means the group is becoming increasingly effective over time, not just for a one-time good performance. Member Satisfaction means that the team contributes to the learning, growth and satisfaction of its members. There are tradeoffs among these three outcomes in the short run (e.g., sometimes a team has to put task performance ahead of member learning), but great teams are able to make those tradeoffs and build positive outcomes on all three over time.
The general result of a Team Diagnostic Survey on a Team including the 6 Conditions, with a scale from 0 to 5 (red/negative to green/positive) can look like this:
The Team Diagnostic Survey has been relaunched in 2017, since then more than 400 coaches and internal team leaders have been certified in the instrument. The TDS has been used by thousands of teams and is being applied some of the biggest companies in the world in banking, energy and other sectors. It’s an instrument and model that I use in my Team Coaching (article to be published soon) practice, which also includes workflow simulations for business Agility.
Book – 2002 Leading Teams: Setting the Stage for Great Performances, by J. Richard Hackman
Book – 2008 Wageman et al. Senior Leadership Teams: What it takes to make them great, Harvard Business School Press
Webinar August 2018 – Intro to Team Diagnostic Survey, 6 Conditions for Team Effectiveness
Website – Team Diagnostic Survey