In Agile Coaching, Organisational Design, Team and Leadership, Team Development

Previously I discussed why teams need a compelling purpose, this is one essential condition of “real teams” based on Richard Hackman’s work in creating high-performing successful teams.

In this blog post I will discuss the overarching model that is “real teams”, and explore the fundamental principles outlined by Hackman and their significance in fostering high-performing teams.

Hackman emphasises the importance of “real teams” as opposed to work groups. According to him, “real teams” share specific characteristics that differentiate them and contribute to their effectiveness. For a team to be a “real team” they need essential conditions to be in place, once they are in place a “real team” needs enabling conditions.  Here are the key aspects of “real teams”.

Essential Conditions

  1. Real Team: The duration of team membership is critical to team effectiveness. Teams that stay together long enough to develop a deep understanding of each other’s strengths, work styles, and communication preferences tend to perform better. Continuity in team membership fosters trust and enhances the team’s ability to overcome challenges, as such teams need to be stable, they need to be interdependent on one another to complete the work, and need to be a bounded group of people who can work together to accomplish a goal.
  2. Compelling Purpose: A “real team” needs a compelling purpose that provides a clear and inspiring goal that motivates team members. This overarching purpose serves as a guiding force, aligning the efforts of individual team members toward a common objective. You can read my blog post on compelling purpose here.
  3. Right People: To achieve the purpose a “real team” is made up of people who have the right skills, perspectives, experience, and demonstrable teamwork skills and can work together and contribute to achieving the purpose of the team.

Enabling Conditions

  1. Enabling Structure: Hackman highlights the importance of an enabling team structure. This involves providing the team with the right resources, support, and autonomy to accomplish its goals. A well-designed structure allows for clear communication, efficient decision-making, team norms, and the flexibility needed for adaptation in dynamic environments. You can read more about team norms in my blog post here.
  2. A Real Team Task: The nature of the task assigned to a team plays a crucial role in defining it as a “real team”. The task should be challenging, consequential, and interdependent. A task that requires collaboration and collective problem-solving creates a sense of shared responsibility and encourages team members to leverage each other’s strengths.
  3. Adequate Size: “Real teams” are typically small enough to facilitate effective communication and collaboration while being large enough to bring a diversity of skills and perspectives. The ideal team size varies depending on the nature of the task, but maintaining a balance is essential and generally, a team consisting of members in single digits is most effective.
  4. Supportive Organisational Context: For a team to thrive, it must operate within a supportive organisational context. This includes factors such as an organisational culture that values teamwork, effective leadership at the organisational level, and appropriate recognition and rewards for team accomplishments with the ability for the team to monitor and manage their own work so that they can understand how well they are doing.
  5. Appropriate Rewards and Recognition: Real teams require appropriate rewards and recognition to sustain their motivation and commitment. Recognising and celebrating team achievements reinforces the value of collaborative efforts and encourages a positive team culture.
  6. Expert Coaching: Real teams benefit from expert team coaching during their formative stages. Effective leaders provide guidance, support, and coaching to help team members navigate challenges and build a cohesive working relationship. This coaching role is especially critical during the initial stages of team development.


“Real teams” provide a blueprint for building and sustaining high-performing teams. By focusing on a compelling direction, challenging tasks, enabling structures, a supportive organisational context, expert coaching, appropriate team size, membership duration, and rewards and recognition, organisations can cultivate teams that not only meet their goals but also contribute to a positive and collaborative workplace culture. These key aspects, when integrated and implemented thoughtfully, lay the foundation for the success of “real teams” in the ever-evolving landscape of organisational dynamics.

The next time you are involved in creating or building teams I would highly encourage you to use “real teams” as your model, I think you will be surprised with the success that you achieve.

Contact Us

We're not around right now. But you can send us an email and we'll get back to you, asap.

Not readable? Change text. captcha txt
direction purpose north star