How To Tell The Difference Between Groups And Teams

A Team Is Not Just Any Group Working Together

A team is more than the sum of its parts.

To understand how teams deliver extra performance, we need to distinguish between teams and working groups.

A working group’s performance is made up of the individual results of all its individual members. A team’s performance is made up of both individual results and collective results.

In large organisations, working groups are prevalent, and the focus is always on individual goals, performance and accountabilities. Working group members do not take responsibility for results other than their own.

On the other hand, teams require both individual and mutual accountability. There is more information sharing, more group discussions and debates to arrive at a group decision.

Teams produce work products/results though the joint contributions of team members. This is what makes the team’s collective performance greater than the sum of all individual members’ best performance. In short, a team is more than the sum of its parts.

Group vs Team


Group Team
  •  Strong, focused leader
  •  Shared leadership roles
  •  Individual accountability
  •  Individual and mutual accountability
  •  Individual work products
  •  Collective work products
  •  Meetings are efficient
  •  Meetings usually involve open-ended discussion and problem-solving
  •  Discusses, decides, delegates
  •  Discusses, decides, does real work together
  •  Group’s goals are the same as the broader organisational goals
  •  Team’s goals are specific to the team and delivered by the team
  •  Measures its effectiveness indirectly by its influence on others (eg. business’s financial performance)
  •  Measures team performance directly by assessing collective work products

The Importance Of Teams In Organisations

Deploy teams strategically for best results.

We believe teams should co-exist and enhance existing structures in organisations. Teams should not crowd out individual opportunity or formal hierarchy. For example, frontline productivity requires preserving direction and guidance through hierarchy, while drawing on the energy and flexibility through self-managing teams.

The company’s management must recognise a team’s unique potential to deliver results, and deploy teams strategically when they are the best vehicle for the job. This way, management creates the kind of environment that encourages team performance, as well as individual and organisational performance.

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