The concept of a team is not unfamiliar to us. From athletics to school assignments to volunteer activities, we are trained to become members, active participants and, even, leaders of teams.

Most people recognize that teams are crucial to the success and progress of businesses and organizations.

High-performance teams are more than a group of people working together to accomplish a common task. They share a common vision and purpose that inspires their performance. They feel accountable for their work, solve problems, make decisions and fully invest themselves in the organization. In order for a team to achieve high performance, they must be allowed the time to set their purpose, operating norms, characteristics and desired performance results.

High-performance teams have been defined as self-managing, multi-functional groups of people who are organized around a whole process and empowered with full responsibility for their own success. To achieve this, certain elements must be present.

Within the high-performance team model, there are three elements that must be understood by team members. These include the charter, design, and relationship.

  1. The CHARTER (or the “why”) is the definition of why the team is in existence and provides clarity for team members. It focuses on the customers, purpose, team goals and team vision.
  2. The DESIGN (or the “what”) is the architecture of the systems and structure of the team. It focuses on the core work processes, roles and responsibilities, procedures and norms, and systems.
  3. The RELATIONSHIP (or the “how”) is the area in which team members understand how to relate to each other. In this element, the focus is on trust and respect, communications, cohesion, and synergy.

In high-performance teams, these areas are not independent. They all impact each other and the outcomes expected of the team. However, there is a sequence that must drive their development. The charter must be clear before a team can be designed and a team must be designed well to reduce relationship problems.

Once the team’s charter, design, and relationship are established and agreed upon, the team will show the following characteristics:

  • A shared mission
  • Autonomy and authority
  • Interdependence and shared leadership
  • Broadly defined jobs
  • Meaningful participation in decisions
  • Higher performance

In a high-performance team environment, the group is enabled to become self-governing with facilitative guidance. This is possible because it is organized around core processes and employees possess multiple skills, are governed by principles and view each other as partners. They also demonstrate an atmosphere of shared leadership and are able to make decisions.