Google’s five keys to a successful team

Collaborative teams do much of the work at organizations everywhere, so a research team from Google’s People Analytics group set out to determine what makes for an effective team at Google. And it turns out the how matters more than who.

The research team thought that building an effective team would be like putting together a human puzzle.

Teams’ effectiveness is determined mostly by how team members interact with each other, and much less by who is on the team.

Psychological safety was the most important and foundational of five key dynamics that characterized effective teams.

The five are, in order of importance: psychological safety, dependability, structure & clarity, meaning, and impact.


Removing the Hidden Barriers to Team Success

by Jacalyn Sherriton and James Stern.

This book provides a hands-on approach to creating or changing a company culture to accept and support a formal team structure. The authors provide their own practical, proven original model for culture change.

The book also shows how to change the subculture of an individual department, even when the whole company is lagging.

Subtsantial case studies of three companies (Mobil, IBM and Attorney’s Title Insurance Fund) and other brief examples are interwoven throughout.

Sherriton and Stern contest that corporate culture change is needed for successful implementation of formal teams.  

  1. Senior managers trying to implement teams continue to act individually: they are concerned about control over the teams and concerned that consensus decision making is too time consuming. They often set a very bad example, for example, by protecting their turf.
  2. Team members are typically not used to working in teams. They often are uncomfortable and lack the communication skills to make the teams work effectively.
  3. Corporate culture is defined by four elements.
    1. Ritualized patterns of beliefs, values and behaviors.
    2. Management environment created by management styles, philosophies, what is said, done and rewarded.
    3. Management environment created by systems and procedures.
    4. Written and unwritten norms and procedures.
  4. Their book describes successful change in subcultures when top-level support was either absent or sporadic.
    1. They feel that each major functional organization such as marketing or R&D has its own subculture, as do divisions and other large units of the organization.
    2. Subcultures are influenced by the overall corporate culture, but subcultures are never the same as the overall culture.
    3. There is much more freedom to change a subculture than is commonly realized or acted upon

      “There is nothing more difficult to take in hand, more perilous to conduct, or more uncertain in its success than to take the lead in the introduction of a new order of things.”

      Niccolo Machiavelli

      How pervasive is the issue of culture and change?

They did a survey of 100 companies and found that recently:

  1. 15% had been involved with a merger.
  2. 22% had been acquired.
  3. 41% had formed alliances.
  4. 78% were increasing the utilization of teams.
  5. 95% were involved in at least one of these initiatives that culture impacts significantly.
  6. Only 51% of respondents felt that their organization understood the need to address culture issues in making these changes.
  7. Only 31% of respondents felt their organization had the skills and knowledge to address organizational culture issues.
  8. Only 36% had assessed the culture and identified changes needed.
  9. But 56% (highest) had plans for training to address culture change.