What is a Team?

Are you a TEAM or a WORKING GROUP and why does it matter?

In this blog I’ll explore the difference between teams and working groups and explain why it’s important to differentiate between the two so that you don’t fall into the trap of trying to create a team out of a working group. I’ll also help you to think about how you can maximise team or working group effectiveness.

I’m sure that you’ve probably heard the expression:

Together Everyone Achieves More


team written on blackboard


And, in the immortal words of David Brent:  "There is no I in TEAM!"


So what is a TEAM?

A TEAM can be defined as:

“A group of individuals who share, and are committed to, a common purpose and objectives to which they hold themselves mutually accountable.”

For a group of people to be a TEAM, they need two things, a level of:

Interdependence and Commonality.





Teams have a high level of interdependence. The work of each person is interlinked with the work of others if objectives are to be met. This means they need to:

  • collaborate
  • jointly problem solve
  • communicate regularly.



In teams, there is a strong sense of common purpose, in other words, everyone is working towards the same thing, and everyone holds themselves accountable for achieving it. Their common purpose drives and guides team activity. There is a high need for contact and communication, as each member needs to be kept up to date to determine their next steps. Progress is monitored on a collective basis with regular reviews.


And what is a WORKING GROUP?

A WORKING GROUP is usually a collection of individuals with similar skills, performing similar functions but with individual objectives. Members of a working group can achieve their objectives with limited, or even no, contact with other members of the group as each person is totally independent of the group for achieving their objectives.


lego people


People may come together but this is often for social reasons, not because it’s essential to the achievement of objectives to do so.

Now, I’ve described these as two extremes. The reality is that a collection of people can operate anywhere on a continuum between a TEAM and a WORKING GROUP.


Team Working Group image


Early in my career, I joined a large, newly established training function where most of us were new to the business. Every Monday morning our manager held a team meeting. I used to dread those meetings as I had to sit and listen to each person give a detailed account of the previous week and their plans for the coming week. I had no involvement in their work, they did something quite different to me and, to be honest, I didn’t really understand most of what they were saying.

The trap that my manager fell into was trying to create a TEAM from a WORKING GROUP. If she had focused on our areas of INTERDEPENDENCE and COMMONALITY, our meetings might have been less often, more successful and almost certainly not so long!

That might have meant getting us to:

  • update each other on our experiences of working with different parts of the business and the challenges they were facing 
  • share ideas on creative training methods and successes, etc.


So, how would you describe the people you work with or manage?

Are they are TEAM, a WORKING GROUP or somewhere in between?

To what degree are they INTERDEPENDENT and have COMMONALITY of purpose?

Do you capitalise on these areas of INTERDEPENDENCE and COMMONALITY and use them to decide how they communicate with each other and the purpose, frequency and content of team meetings?

Or, do you focus time and attention on areas of independence that don’t further the needs of either the group/team or the individual?

Look out for next month’s blog on Handling Questions and Objections in Presentations.

Posted by Julie Turner

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