Different Types of Teams and How They Collaborate
There are many different ways we can classify types of teams. In a sense, no classification is completely accurate, due to the sheer complexity of the group work landscape. Still, even an approximate differentiation can be useful in recognizing and selecting the appropriate type of team for an organization.
This article seeks to explore the criteria by which team types are identified and to detail some notable types of teams. Also, we explore ways the listed teams collaborate, along with providing some context in the form of examples.
Table of Contents
What are the criteria for defining different types of teams?
Types of teams are the different ways we categorize teams using different parameters.
We can use a great number of criteria to categorize types of teams. But first, how can we define what a team is? In simple terms, a team is a group of people with defined roles, working on a task together. Each member shares the responsibility for the outcomes the team achieves. In addition, team members see themselves as parts of an entity that also belongs to a larger company social structure. As such, teams exist in many different settings, and teamwork is an essential skill for most employees today.
To start with, we need to acknowledge that there is no widely accepted typology of teams. Putting teams into separate categories can be a difficult task, as there are many parameters we could use to do this. Some of the common parameters used to differentiate types of teams include group permanence, team structure, leadership style, and collaboration type.
A team’s existence can be short-term or long-term. This depends on how much time is needed to achieve their defined purpose. In terms of group permanence, we recognize temporary teams and permanent teams
Temporary teams are mostly concerned with finishing their time-bound task. Once this is achieved, the team can break up. The members of such teams usually don’t have time to get to know each other’s strengths, unlike permanent teams.
Example of a temporary team
A crisis response team responding to an oil spill. This team is made up of experts from various fields, collaborating to find optimal solutions. The team disbands once their goal of managing the oil spill is achieved.
On the other hand, permanent teams are made up of people who work together throughout the year. They know each other’s strengths and can assign tasks to those most suited to handle them. Social cohesion is important for this type of team, as the members’ feelings can affect the entire group.
Example of a permanent team
A team of warehouse workers. This team consists of full-time employees, working on similar tasks all year round. Sometimes they go out for drinks together, showing their closeness developed by working in close proximity.
The structure of a team refers to the ways team members relate to each other. This includes the ways in which the members’ roles are interdependent. In a broader sense, it is also how they are embedded inside the larger company system.
Example of a team structure
Teams of guards inside correctional facilities is an extreme example of team structure importance. If one member of the team makes a mistake in following the protocol, it can cause grave consequences for other team members. Perhaps one guard fails to notice a concealed weapon, causing a colleague to get hurt.
Leadership styles can vary along the spectrum from being relaxed and democratic to highly autocratic. Democratic leaders allow workers more autonomy and creative input. Generally, employees in these kinds of workplaces are happier and thus more productive. In contrast, an authoritarian leader makes all the decisions, with little to no care for employee feedback. This makes the workplace filled with an atmosphere of fear, removing space for creative expression and innovation.
Example of leadership style
Employees of a travel agency come to work every day insecure about their job stability. Their boss is known to be capricious and has zero tolerance for the tiniest mistake. He makes all the marketing decisions, which are unfortunately completely ineffective. Employees are too afraid to suggest improvements. As a consequence, there is a constant downward trend for company earnings. This causes even more erratic behavior by the boss, creating a vicious cycle for the stressed-out employees. This is an example of autocratic leadership.
Team collaboration types refer to methods of coordination and communication a team uses. These could include various technologies, as well as times and spaces a team can collaborate within.
Example of a collaboration type
A team of sports journalists collaborates in real-time, using a virtual space. They share pertinent information and drafts of their work. They accomplish this by using a team chat app, allowing them a way of efficient and simple communication.
🎓 To learn more about specific collaboration types, check out our in-depth guide on the topic of types of collaboration.
What are the different types of teams, according to their structure and functions?
When faced with conflicting information, delineating types of teams can quickly become confusing. Different authors use different criteria to outline specific types of teams. In practice, this makes developing a unified team typology very complex. It causes significant overlap between most well-known types, as well as many terms describing the same phenomenon. For the sake of simplicity, we can refer to one frequently cited method of categorization. This classification was formulated to describe separate types of workgroups. It suggests the existence of six distinct types of work teams: production groups, service teams, management teams, project groups, action and performance teams, and advisory teams.
Production teams are permanent work units that consist of members who produce and deal with tangible products. This means that team members are usually responsible for constructing or assembling products, as well as maintaining and servicing equipment. The fact that these teams deal with more hands-on tasks means that team members’ physical and psychomotor characteristics are especially important.
Another characteristic of production teams is a stable, full-time team membership. Membership is stable in some parts because production tasks often require extensive training. Team members are trained to accomplish their tasks efficiently and in synchronization with others.
Production teams are usually directed by supervisors, who make most of the decisions. They can also form a specific subtype — functional teams.
Functional teams: a subtype of production teams
Functional teams are the traditional type of team. These are probably what most people think of when they imagine a team: groups of people working in the same department, assigned with different duties. Functional teams possess a well-established team structure, adjusted to performing small, predictable, routine tasks. Also, they have a designated manager tasked with overseeing the group.
The disadvantages of functional groups are most visible when a change of pace is needed. Due to their rigid nature, change is slow and painstaking. As a result, these teams are also not very adept at communication across units.
How production groups collaborate
An important requirement for production groups is the successful coordination of team member’s efforts. This is due to the need for synchronized work, as team members’ roles are usually interdependent. So, each step is necessary to advance towards the common objective. With production groups, collaboration usually relies on in-person interactions, including regular meetings to keep everyone in the loop. As production groups are bound to physical spaces, communication is also realized in real-time.
Example of production groups
Jennifer is an assembly line worker in a factory that produces electronic goods. To complete each step of production, she has to follow assigned protocols. She, as well as her colleagues, is responsible for specific tasks. Her tasks are routine and repeat in daily and weekly cycles. Jennifer communicates with her colleagues and her boss in person, during work hours.
Service teams consist of team members who conduct repeated transactions with customers. These teams are similar in structure and leadership style to production teams. The main difference between the two types of teams is that instead of building and maintaining products, service teams interact with streams of customers.
As a consequence, the environment of service teams is more unpredictable than that of production teams. Team members need to have some level of interpersonal and improvisation skills. To aid in communication with customers, team members go through appropriate training. They have to abide by behavioral guidelines provided by the management. These guidelines enumerate different scenarios an employee may encounter, as well as ways of dealing with them.
Besides these features, service teams in most cases also have supervisory figures. These people deal with team coordination and resolve issues their employees are not trained to handle.
How service teams collaborate
Service teams primarily collaborate at the site of their work. Most communication is verbal and occurs in real-time. Some exceptions can be important notices or customer conduct regulations. Also, work hours and sick days may be discussed through text messaging or chat apps.
Example of service teams
Nick is a waiter at a popular restaurant. His responsibilities include greeting customers and taking their orders, then communicating these orders to the kitchen staff. When the orders are complete, Nick has to deliver food and beverages to the customers, charge them for the service, and bid them goodbye when they prepare to leave. When work is slow, he also helps out with cleaning duties.
Nick communicates with his colleagues mostly in person or through texting. Important policy updates are sent to his email. In his day-to-day duties, Nick collaborates with other members of the team making sure to be as clear as possible about what the customers want. He performs his tasks ardently, trying to minimize the burden to other team members. He often tells lighthearted jokes to make the high-pressure environment less tense. During meetings, he is open to sharing ideas about what can be improved about the service process.
Management teams are groups of people who run an organization. Management team members are responsible for the overall effectiveness of units that report directly to them. These are the people who plan and form strategies for the future of the company. Different team members are responsible for different functions inside the company, with people at higher management levels coordinating their efforts. With each level of management coordinating sub-units under their jurisdiction, a pyramidal hierarchy develops. At the top of the management hierarchy is the executive management team, responsible for long-term strategic decision-making.
Team members create a vision of the company’s future. Then, they make sure to effectively share it with others. They combine their efforts to bring the vision into existence by establishing a solid organizational structure. Managers have to make sure that employees abide by certain standards. Managers also have to take into account possible risks and do their best to try to mitigate them. They do this by monitoring external factors and countering them with appropriate means.
How management teams collaborate
The primary mode of collaboration and communication between management team members is usually in-person meetings. These take place on a weekly, monthly, and quarterly basis.
- Weekly meetings may deal with status and development updates or discussion of ideas.
- Monthly meetings do this on a larger scale, focusing on significant updates to policy, performance results, or major strategic changes.
- Quarter-yearly meetings usually last between 2 and 4 hours, and perform an in-depth analysis of performance, focusing on a particular function or geographical area.
Other daily communication or less important updates can be done through online collaboration tools or email.
Example of management teams
It has been a few months since a software development company launched a new app. After a recent update, many customers are complaining about the app being difficult to use. Hence, the main topic of the weekly management meeting is discussing ways of improving user experience. After a long discussion, the management team decides to assign an experienced developer to solve the issue. The developer’s usual responsibilities are put on hold, due to the urgency of the situation.
Project teams are groups that perform specialized tasks within a definite time frame. These teams produce deliverables, such as new products or services. Developing new products consists of non-repetitive tasks and original work. Thus, team members are required to be knowledgeable, with clear judgment and expertise.
The project starts after senior management defines the objective. Next, they assign roles to team members, based on their expertise. This means that participation is not usually voluntary. Project teams most frequently do the following:
- Solve product quality problems — 57% of the time
- Draft business strategies — 47% of the time
- Develop new products, clients, or markets — 40% of the time
Project teams are more flexible and tend to have fewer technical, mechanical, and workspace dependencies. They are not as tied to the organization and can perform a wide range of intellectual tasks.
In regards to duration, we can differentiate between:
- Ad hoc project teams. Short-term ad hoc teams are formed for one task cycle. This means that they exist for a very specific, one-time purpose.
- Ongoing project teams. Long-term ongoing teams are assigned new tasks or cyclically perform the same tasks. Member satisfaction and motivation are more important for this type of team, as people collaborate for longer periods of time.
Project teams are temporary by nature and usually disband after project termination. After the team is disbanded, members return to their original units or their next project.
In most cases (up to 78%), project teams tend to be cross-functional. This means that team members are picked from different disciplines and functional units. They have to possess the appropriate skills needed to tackle the project. Such teams can also be matrix teams, under specific circumstances.
Cross-functional teams: a subtype of project groups
These teams can be listed as a more permanent variety of project teams. Cross-functional teams consist of members from different departments, working together on a defined common objective.
The main benefit of a cross-functional team is its level of productivity. Experts from various fields unified for a common cause produce results at lightning speed. Due to coming from diverse backgrounds, these experts can collaborate on a wide range of projects. Along with increased range, bringing together different perspectives can lead to opening spaces for innovation.
On the other hand, cross-functional teams have their own set of challenges. Namely that they are often vastly dysfunctional. This dysfunction is most apparent when it comes to matters of collaboration among team members. Firstly, members come from different units which makes communication slow unless the company offers a unified collaboration platform. The other big reason is that experts tend to be more attached to their personal opinion, which makes them more likely to come into conflict with each other.
Matrix teams: a subtype of project groups
In simple terms, a matrix team is a two-boss system. One of them is the overseeing manager of the entire project and the other one is the expert leader an employee directly communicates to.
Matrix teams are beneficial due to employee flexibility, possibly because management does not get in the way of daily activities. Instead, the workers are primarily supervised by an experienced leader. This person is highly knowledgeable about the project process requirements and has realistic expectations of their employees.
One big setback of matrix teams is the need for dual reporting by the employees. These reports take up valuable time and energy. Additionally, workers are often left confused and frustrated when their supervisors give them conflicting instructions.
How project groups collaborate
Project teams collaborate by combining the individual efforts of all team members. As most team members come from different departments or functional units, all of them have unique perspectives to offer. The sharing and discussion of ideas happen at regularly organized meetings. These meetings can take place in the office, or online via audio-video conference tools. As the project process changes at a fast pace, team members find synchronous communication tools more efficient than traditional email correspondence. Hence, a solid technical solution is a must when it comes to sharing information and instant conversations.
The management type most suited for project teams is one that allows employees to act autonomously or semi-autonomously. This allows employees, who are usually experts in their field, to express their full potential. One way of increasing the sense of autonomy is to engage workers in the decision-making process.
Inside project teams, decision-making is done using these techniques:
- Consensus — 62% of the time
- Leader or expert decides — 15% of the cases
- Team vote — 12% of the time
- Management — in 10% of the cases
These statistics suggest that plenty of value is placed on employee input. In particular, it seems that a democratic and collaborative approach to decision-making shows the best results. One reason for this can be the fact that people who are allowed to work autonomously also feel a greater sense of responsibility for the project outcome. This leads them to perform better, as they get a sense of reward when a task is successfully completed.
Example of project groups
Higher management of a luxury winery puts together a team tasked with launching a new product. Cleo is a graphic designer on this team, whose job is to produce promotional material, as well as the website prototype. To create a good visual representation of the new product, Cleo needs input from different members of his team.
First of all, he needs to ask Ray from marketing about the general impression he should be aiming for. They exchange messages via a team communication app, and he gets his basic instructions.
Next, he needs to stay in regular contact with the web development team, to check if his ideas for the website make technical sense.
Cleo might even decide to contact the eccentric sommelier, to get a better feel for the new wine. This can only be done in person, as the taste taster believes that technology affects his taste sensitivity. Cleo decides to go the extra mile, as the descriptions and associations he provides inspire original ideas.
Putting together these inputs, Cleo can produce a higher quality, original design.
Action and performing groups
Action and performing groups carry out complex and time-limited tasks and performances that involve audiences, adversaries, or harsh environments. Team members are usually highly trained and experienced specialists. Together, they carry out complementary, interlinked roles. Some examples include negotiating teams, firefighters, surgery teams, investigative units, search and rescue units, professional musicians, etc.
How action and performing groups collaborate
The people on these teams have expert knowledge of performance standards and protocols. In practice, this means that team members can perform their duties without prior training, or introduction to other team members and their roles. A surgeon can perform surgery even if he has never met his anaesthesiologist before. In a sense, this is because all surgeons and all anesthesiologists would (if they are experts) perform the same task in the same situation. So, the collaboration between team members of his type of team depends on the environment and the assigned protocols.
Example of action and performing group
Becca is a trained vocalist. She gets the opportunity to provide backup vocals for a popular artist’s new single. She arrives at the studio, where she is provided with notes and sound samples of what she should aim for. Becca quickly fits in, and the job is done in no time. This is because both she and the studio staff are professionals, who need minimal guidance to be able to cooperate.
Advisory groups are also called parallel teams or teams for advice and involvement. These teams pull together people from different work units to perform jobs the organization is not equipped to do. They are called parallel teams because they function in parallel with the production process. Managers temporarily form quality circles, selection panels, and other advisory groups to solve problems and recommend solutions.
How advisory teams collaborate
The manner in which an advisory group might collaborate depends on the task they were assigned. Daily tasks may be coordinated through face-to-face briefings or online correspondence. Other, more important, updates can be communicated in writing, whether email or physical copies.
Example of advisory teams
The HR team of a marketing company, Stephanie and Anna, needs to perform a regularly scheduled employee satisfaction survey. need to carefully go through the list of questions they want to ask. They do this during an informal meeting over brunch, sharing suggestions and modifying the survey. They print out the questionnaire and each agrees to distribute the survey to selected departments. After getting their responses, they meet again to review the results and write a report for management.
An alternative approach — the team continuum
There is research that proposes an alternative solution to strict categories of teams. This solution comes in the concept of a team continuum. A continuum is visually represented by a directional line, signifying the change of qualities in the indicated direction.
On the left side of the team continuum are groups that tend to be more:
- Reactive. Reactive teams need to quickly assess situations, prioritize tasks, and rapidly respond in an appropriate manner. These teams frequently use protocols to increase efficiency.
- Deal with intra-team issues. These teams concentrate on internal matters of the team while putting more emphasis on collaborative than individual work.
- Produce incremental results. They usually have fixed due dates for delivering products.
Progressing to the right, teams acquire traits that turn them increasingly:
- Proactive. Proactive teams usually operate by producing a strategy, and then systematically implementing it.
- Address broader issues. These teams look beyond the scope of the team. They can deal with a greater range of problems.
- Focused on employee autonomy. These teams value and nurture worker independence. They are focused on producing well-rounded employees.
Here, we can look at a visual representation of the team continuum. There are a few marks along this conceptual line, denoting a few common types of teams. These marks are by no means meant to represent the only types of teams, they are only points along this spectrum.
Example of a type of team on the team continuum
A task force is a type of team formed for a special purpose. These teams work on specific projects and contain multiple units or organizations. Task forces are employed to find solutions to critical problems. On the team continuum, they are located center-left, marking them somewhat, but not completely reactive. Also, they could be described as more focused on a singular goal.
Additional classifications of teams
There are other ways you can distinguish between teams, beyond the bounds of previous categories. All the different types of teams we described, can also fit into some of these categories.
Types of teams based on management type
Each team has to have proper strategic planning, decision-making, and team member coordination. Making decisions about future moves and keeping team social cohesion in check can be demanding tasks. These tasks can be a shared responsibility of team members or the duty of a selected or assigned supervisory figure. With various levels of autonomy in mind, we can categorize teams into those with these management types: supervisor-led teams, semi-autonomous teams, and self-managed teams.
Teams of this type have an elected or appointed supervisory figure. This person may sometimes take into account input from employees under their supervision, but they usually make most decisions on their own. This form of management is more common in production and service teams, as their tasks are traditionally seen as more simple. With growing task complexity, team members are more likely to exert personal influence and autonomous decision-making.
Within strictly supervisor-lead teams, most of the unit’s success depends on the competence of the leader. The leader needs to be able to correctly foresee necessary future steps, as well as coordinate and bring out the full potential of their employees.
Semi-autonomous teams have designated higher-ranking supervisors. However, they also take in input from other members of the team. This can be done through formal channels of communication, or during informal conversations.
Self-managed teams refer to teams where the employees make the decisions. These teams have no managerial authority. They consist of peers cross-trained in a variety of skills, all working independently to achieve a common goal.
The added sense of shared responsibility that comes along with autonomy makes people care more about the success of the team.
On a less positive note, having no authority figure can lead to conformity. This happens because people try not to come into conflict with others, as they feel the need to be accepted. When left to their own devices, the more naturally assertive people take the informal lead, while the others try not to disturb the status quo.
Example of teams with varying management types
- Jerry is the manager of an electrical components wholesale warehouse. Workers inside his unit have been complaining about being overworked. The business recently experienced a boom, and there have been no new hires to support the new load. Jerry is of the opinion that the workers are simply spoiled and that they can manage their duties just fine. After some time, a few workers quit and the annual review shows serious invoice mishandling. As a result, both Jerry’s ego and his salary take a hit. This is an example of a supervisor-led team, where the supervisor happens to be autocratic.
- Ewan works at a carpentry workshop. He and his colleagues have organized their work in a way that allows them full autonomy in decision making. Ewan talks to the customers, then organizes his tasks and sets his own schedule. He personally determines the price of services but delegates the bookkeeping to another colleague. This is an example of a well-functioning self-managed team.
Types of teams based on work location
For the majority of human history, up until recent decades, to do business with someone meant to do it in person. With the progress of communication and travel technology, virtual work became possible. The revolutionary invention of the Internet made it feasible for work to be done by people from all over the world. More recently, and unfortunately more pressingly, the COVID-19 pandemic made the office a risky place to be. This continues to influence more and more teams to switch to a remote style of work.
In regards to work location, we can categorize teams into two types:
Co-located teams are teams whose members are located at the same physical space. They have the opportunity to practice face-to-face collaboration. Co-located team members travel to the offices, spend their work hours either in the office or in the field, and travel back home after. During their daily activities, they can communicate with their colleagues by simply walking over to them and starting a conversation.
Co-located groups have better quality interactions, due to a lot of communication consisting of non-verbal cues. You instinctively recognize these cues by being in the same physical space as the other person, and by consciously and unconsciously observing their body language. This ability allows for the easier transfer of information and leaves less room for miscommunication.
For the business, co-located work is more expensive than virtual work. The company has to rent out or construct offices, which require constant maintenance. For employees, the daily commute to crowded cities can be a huge waste of time.
Like all other types of teams, virtual teams apply their distinct skills to accomplish a common organizational goal. The only difference is that these teams use technology to bridge the gap between team member’s geographic locations and time constraints. The type of technology they use falls into two distinct categories:
- Synchronous. Synchronous technology supports real-time interactions. Some examples are audio-video conferencing tools or a team chat app.
- Asynchronous. This type of technology is used for interaction that takes place at different times. Some examples of asynchronous technology include e-mail and online bulletin boards.
As virtual teams can be active during the entire twenty-four-hour cycle, they can be more productive than co-located teams. Additionally, they have access to diverse sets of skills, experiences, and knowledge about customers and business.
Next, no need for offices means that money can be saved on rent, construction, and maintenance of company spaces, and no time wasted on commutes significantly improves employee’s work-life balance. Besides, virtual teams are commonly made up of people with diverse cultural backgrounds. This diversity makes room for more innovation and promotes equality.
One disadvantage of virtual teams is the lack of non-verbal cues present in in-person interactions. As explained in the segment about face-to-face teams, these non-verbal cues constitute the majority of interpersonal communication. Unfortunately, they are much less apparent in, for example, video conferences, sometimes making communication awkward and stunted.
Example of face-to-face vs. virtual team:
- Face-to-face team. Cara has her own clothing brand. She does all the designing and sewing by herself, but she hires Claire and Marc to help her with marketing and sending out orders. Cara can be a perfectionist when it comes to her brand’s image and has to communicate very clearly to Claire what she expects from her. They do this by having long conversations over coffee, helped with impromptu drawings and descriptive gestures. Cara shows Marc hands-on exactly how she wants her orders packaged, providing also a visual guide in the form of pictures taken of specific order types. Face-to-face collaboration is the most viable type of communication for Cara and her team. This is due to her demand for attention to detail and the need for the physical handling of products.
- Virtual team. Kris has an idea for what she believes would be a revolutionary app. However, she cannot build it by herself and decides to organize a team. She turns to online resources and finds that Indian residents Satvik and Sai, as well as Pyotr from Russia, are willing to participate for fair compensation. The initial phases of development are riddled with frustrating misunderstandings over the inability to understand each other during video calls. When the team finally agrees to start using a team chat app, their communication improves dramatically. This happens because the app allows the team to communicate in real-time while remaining focused on written communication. This allows team members to be clear about their intentions, without strong accents and annoying echoes coming in the way.
Types of teams based on a cultural distinction
There are certain other effects of increased frequency of teams working remotely. As team members are geographically dispersed all over the planet, they also come from significantly different cultural backgrounds. One’s cultural background, for the most part, shapes their opinions, attitudes, prejudices, and behavior. When these characteristics vary widely between team members, it can significantly affect communication, collaboration, and team dynamics. Some of the challenges of cross-cultural teams can be:
- Language barrier. Despite English being the unofficial-official language of international business, team members can be proficient at it at different levels. This is also an issue with other languages a team may use. Different levels of language proficiency can cause frequent misunderstandings and time lost on trying to explain concepts.
- Differing outlook on work. Different cultures have widely varying ideas about what kind of role work has in one’s life. Unpaid overtime might be considered completely normal and expected, while in other places it constitutes a severe intrusion into one’s private life.
- Different ideas about leadership. Cultures around the world have, in some cases very strong, opinions about the issue of who is competent and appropriate to become a leader. For example, in some areas of the world, it is still unusual to have females in leadership positions. Tension can arise when a team member with the belief that a woman should not be a leader comes into contact with a female boss. Resistance and sabotage are almost bound to happen. These beliefs can be screened for, but they can often go under the radar, due to most of the Westerns rarely considering this kind of situation.
- Different attitudes concerning collaboration. Similar to the issue of leadership, collaboration can also be made difficult by widely differing cultural backgrounds. We can again refer to the gender issue, as sometimes even one’s religion can forbid them from working together with a person of the opposite sex.
To further explore differences based on cultural backgrounds, we can present a simple distinction between these types of teams:
These teams consist exclusively of people who perceive themselves as part of a single culture. As such, they are mostly uniform when it comes to workplace expectations in terms of appropriate behavior and attitudes. As the language barrier is non-existent, team members communicate with little worry about being gravely misunderstood. These characteristics can make the workplace more relaxed and friendly.
On the other hand, too little difference can be a catalyst for conformity. People get cozy and comfortable and tend to flow with the prevailing mood, ideas, and opinions of the crowd. Differing, and even clashing opinions are often the birthplace of original ideas. When all people on the team have grown up and lived in similar circumstances, they are less likely to come upon drastically divergent solutions to everyday tasks and problems.
Cross-cultural teams consist of members from varying geographical and cultural spheres. Thanks to modern technology, people around the globe can come together and work with a common purpose. These advancements can make workplaces more complex and tough to navigate, but can also make teams and their work more innovative, and more rewarding.
Due to the challenges listed above, communication in cross-cultural teams can become awkward and stunted. When people with different presuppositions come together, there are bound to be clashes of opinion and temperament. These challenges can be overcome with a careful candidate selection process, along with constant mediation in collaboration efforts between team members. When these challenges are overcome, you can experience a more exciting workspace, filled with a diversity of cultures, opinions, and ideas.
Example of single-culture vs. cross-cultural teams
- Single-culture team. A team of real estate agents working locally. Gary and Sarah are members of this team, working mostly independently, but reporting to the same boss — Gayle. Both Sarah and Gary consider themselves peers and do not dispute Gayle’s authority based on her gender. This issue never even comes into question, no matter their squabbles and differences of opinion. When conversing, Gary and Sarah both understand what the other one wants to say, and if not, they can easily explain themselves in simple terms.
- Cross-cultural team. An international committee overseeing a factory being built. This committee consists of experts coming from various fields, and two countries. One part of the team comes from an Asian country that is investing funds to build a corporate outpost, while the other part is from the local European country where the construction is taking place. The language barrier and different expectations quickly become points of conflict. At some point, daily miscommunication becomes so obstructive, management decides to hire a cultural mediator. This person helps make the cultural gap smaller, by explaining to both sides their differences in perspective and customs.
In this article, we explored some types of teams and their collaboration techniques, along with providing some realistic examples. You can use this information to help you make sense of team dynamics and your role inside the team. Also, knowing about the different ways teams collaborate can give you insight into the pros and cons of various communication styles and techniques. These can guide you if you plan on forming, maintaining, or participating in successful team collaboration strategies.
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