Team Management Systems

Transforming Groups into Teams

By Ron Jungalwalla
Copyright © Ron Jungalwalla. All rights reserved.

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This article was originally published in the Executive Excellence, Vol 17 No 2, February 2000 and is reproduced here with the kind permission of both the author and Executive Excellence.

Perhaps more than any other factor, common goals and vision mix to form the glue that binds a team together.

Although the 40 people entering the function room shared the same employer, the body language, nervous smiles, and superficial conversations made it clear that most did not know each other. The opening speaker did an excellent job of welcoming all and breaking the ice with his animated and insightful comments. He was quick to engage his audience, while his honed wit and mastery of language delighted all. I found myself enjoying and admiring this character, whom I regarded as an astute and affable presenter.

Then he said it: "So, as you can see, this team has been brought together to achieve the financial targets by the end of the next year."

"What team?" I inwardly cried. Try as I might, scanning every corner of the room, I could not see the 'team' he was referring to. Indeed, all I could see were 40 people in one place at one time.

What qualifications are required to be a team? What are the differences between a group of people and a team? And what strategies can a leader adopt to nurture the transformation from groups into teams?

Develop Common Goals and Vision

Unless a common goal is held for a given venture and each individual holds the one vision of the shared destination, the journey will be confusing and the travellers hobbled. Lacking direction, such a group will fragment as energies are spent in moving against each other rather than as a team.

To create common goals and vision, consider the following strategies:

  • With your team members, individually record your perception of the team's common goals and vision, then consider the differing perceptions you detect. This will provide a simple measure of the degree to which your team shares common goals and visions.

  • In developing common goals and visions, start by asking what goals and visions (which are also desirable for the organization) the team members can get truly passionate about. In an increasingly competitive world, only those destinations passionately sought will ever be reached.

  • Ensure the team members are clear on the distinction between their common 'goals' and their individual 'roles'. We can share the same goal and vision, but take on differing roles in a collaborative venture. The captain of a steam ship and the stoker share the same destination, but perform vastly different tasks along the journey. Ask your team members to express their individual role in terms that articulate how that role contributes to the common goals and vision.

  • When setting collaborative goals, consider both a 'benchmark' goal and a 'stretch' goal. The former can be defined as 'the minimum we will accept from ourselves as professionals', while the latter could be described as a 'reach for the stars' goal and should carry significant uncertainty as to its achievability. This will allow a team to keep energized and strive for improvement even beyond perceived limitations.

Value and Harness Diversity

The diversity of people on a team can be its greatest asset or its greatest threat. The determining factors will be the team's ability to understand diversity, value it, and manage it. Diversity harnessed can be an awesome engine for achieving high goals. As a team leader, consider the following strategies:

  • Undertake a team survey that highlights the diverse work-styles and roles within your team. Use the data to draw a 'team map' that clarifies which preferences and roles are well-represented and which are not. Ask your team to take an outside perspective on the 'team map' - what strategic advice would they give to themselves in developing the team further? Excellent instruments for this exercise include the Team Management Profile (TMP) designed by Charles Margerison and Dick McCann (Team Management Systems) and the well used Myers-Briggs Type Indicator® (MBTI®) assessment1.

  • Target 'understanding and managing diversity' in your team's training and development schedule.

  • When it comes to diversity, lead by example. If you do not value and are not seen to value diversity in your people, your team members certainly will not.

Foster Effective Communication

Most of our communication energy is expended on telling others what we need them to hear when we need them to hear it. Effective communication requires us to balance this with what they need to hear from us, and when they need to hear it. As a team leader, consider the following strategies:

  • Formulate a survey of satisfaction ratings on different forms and directions of communication within your team. Use the data to target aspects of communication that have the greatest potential for improvement. Avoid embarrassment by telling people why you are doing it!

  • Encourage paraphrasing as a strategy to enhance active listening.

  • Try to finish conversations with the question "Is there anything else you want to talk about?" to provide opportunities for others to ask about what they need to hear.

While many factors will make a team better, common goals and vision, the ability to harness diversity, and the mastery of communication will be key differences between a group and a team.


1 MBTI, Myers-Briggs, and Myers-Briggs Type Indicator are trademarks or registered trademarks of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator Trust in the United States and other countries.

Copyright © Ron Jungalwalla. All rights reserved.

Ron Jungalwalla is a Director of Quest Group Australia Pty. Ltd., a company specializing in team enhancement, leadership development and management training, frequently incorporating innovative experiential learning models and methods. Each of the Quest Group Australia team of trainers, facilitators and consultants specialize in given training and development needs. The company regularly incorporate the Team Management Systems (TMS) suite of instruments in their programs, and are able to offer high level expertise, including Ian Gillies, Team Management Systems Master Trainer. Ron and his Team design and deliver custom programs throughout the Asia Pacific region. They can be contacted on Tel. (+613) 5772 1211 or by e-mail on

This article was originally published in Vol 17 No 2 February 2000 of Executive Excellence. For subscription information please contact Executive Excellence on phone: (+612) 9439 6077 fax: (+612) 9439 4511 or email:

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