Project Management

What Google Learned from Its Quest to Build the Perfect Team

No two teams are quite alike, because they are all made of different people with different perspectives and motivations. So what definitively distinguishes a good team from a mediocre one? It is Perfection. In an article for The New York Times Magazine, Charles Duhigg explores the new data that reveals why some groups are more successful than others.

Feeling Out Perfection

Many firms engage in “employee performance optimization,” or the analysis and improvement of individual workers. Though this practice does yield some results, it does not do enough. Globalization is demanding for more team environments and collaborative efforts.

Google, a company notorious for studying their workers to increase productivity, took on the task of building the perfect team. They have spent millions of dollars studying every small detail of their employees’ lives. What they soon discovered was that it did not matter how they arranged their teams, because the composition made little difference in team success. For example, some of the highest-performing teams were those who socialized together outside of work, but so were some of the teams who operated like strangers.

One element that did keep reoccurring in research was this idea of “group norms.” Norms govern how people function, and can vary from one group to another. They may also be an unspoken code or an explicitly known law. After looking through hundreds of groups, the research team arrived at the consensus that the secret to improving Google’s teams was to encourage and enforce these group norms.

In a study conducted years ago, researchers discovered two important behaviors that distinguished good groups of people from the bad. First, the good groups allowed for everyone to speak roughly the same amount of time. It did not matter who was the executive or who was the lowly intern; everyone had the same opportunity to voice opinions. The second discovery was that the group consisted of people who were skilled at inferring how someone felt by clues in their voice or demeanor.

Once the Google researchers uncovered these psychological behaviors that defined groups, everything began to align. People often talked about how the team “felt.” The social norms that the group agreed upon is what ultimately differentiated them and made the team happy to be involved, and successful in their endeavors. Think about how you can use these discoveries to improve success within your own team.

You can read the full article here:

Danielle Koehler

Danielle is a staff writer for CAI's Accelerating IT Success. She has degrees in English and human resource management from Shippensburg University.

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