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3 Essentials Ingredients for Highly Effective Work Teams

Graphic Showing Trying to Pull The HorseDo you have the characteristics of a highly effective work team?

More and more work tasks are automated by software or machines. Therefore, human work increasingly centers around collaborative workflow processes, which are far more difficult to robotize.

Tasks that are either simple and autonomous or sequential. However, rules based tasks are ripe for automation. For example, if process A is complete, then do process B. But projects or processes that are truly collaborative involve two elements lacking in machine intelligence: creativity and judgment.

The primary focus for business leaders consequently evolves from managing the efforts of individual contributors to building and maintaining effective work teams.

Having been blessed with opportunities to work with a number of highly effective teams over the years, here are three key characteristics of great wrok teams learned from three noteworthy examples.

3 Essential Ingredients for Highly Effective Work Teams

Rule #1 - Chemistry 

John Sundberg, founder and CEO of Kinetic Data, learned about the importance of team chemistry at 3M early in his career. "Great teams make great products" is now one of mottos.

One aspect of his approach to building software development teams is to bring in individuals who have both solid general knowledge of coding as well as deep expertise in a particular area (e.g., Javascript, UI design, open source databases, etc.).

But the most critical consideration is the ability of the team to work together. He believes in creating work teams that are as small as feasible, as large as necessary, and as passionate as possible. Each team member has to be both an effective collaborator and a strong individual contributor (without being a "lone wolf").

Rule #2 - Communication

Managing a large, geographically dispersed team—in which most of the members are accustomed to a high degree of independence and have never met each other in person—presents unique challenges. It's not so much herding cats as herding lobsters.

Shelly Kramer and Daniel Newman of marketing agency V3 Broadsuite have not only made that model work. Instead, they tuned it to the point where they can grow quickly while never missing a beat in client service.

One key is to enforce standards where necessary while keeping bureaucracy to a minimum. Beyond a uniform payroll/time-tracking system with established names for each common task, pretty much all of the agency's rules of operation can be spelled out in a handful of pages.

Another is communication. In addition to email, the V3 Broadsuite team relies heavily on Slack. The company account has about a dozen topic-specific channels, as well as one for general discussion. Conversations in the "General" channel aren't always work-related, but do contribute to team building:

Rule #3 - Coordination

Records management products company TAB also manages a dispersed marketing team, led by global marketing management and including experts in technical web design and management, content marketing, social media, email marketing, and SEO.

Team members communicate as needed regarding specific issues or topics. For the most part, this experienced senior team operates in a "coordinated autonomous" manner. Each team member knows his or her role and steps into and out of the content marketing workflow as needed.

The system is working, as visits to the company blog have increased year-over-year for 18 straight months, while blog traffic converts to leads at a higher rate than any other digital source.

Building effective work teams is challenging. However, optimizing the three characteristics above—chemistry, communication, and coordination—will help create teams that collaborate effectively. The end result is workplace that's not just more productive, but also more human.

Tom Pick is an independent digital marketing consultant, focused on helping b2b technology clients improve their online visibility and business results. He writes about digital and content and marketing topics on the Webbiquity blog.

The CONNECT2Win Blog has been discontinued. The CONNECT2Lead Blog continues, and you'll find free and affordable resources for team on People First Leadership Academy