“People collaborate precisely because they don’t know how to””or can’t””deal effectively with the challenges that face them as individuals.”–  Etienne Wenger in Communities of Practice: Learning, Meaning, and Identity(1998)

As people made in Imago Dei, we are not designed to live, grow, or work alone.  God designed us, like Him, to be in relationship,

kcollaborate, and live in community with others. And, of course, organizations of all shapes and sizes, realizing the benefits of collaborative work structures, have increasingly turned to work teams (some estimates suggest that nearly 80% of corporations utilize work teams of some sort) to, among other things, produce products, innovate new ways of working, implement services, and lead organizations.  Churches and ministry organizations have followed suit, as today’s churches are marked by layers upon layers of leadership and ministry teams.

But, if you haven’t yet began to use teams in your organization, or if you just followed the trend without understanding exactly why teams are so beneficial, here’s my Top Ten List* to justify the use of teams for all organizations, but especially for church and ministry organizations:

  1. Enhanced Opportunity: Teams offer people a way to accomplish something they wouldn’t be able to do by themselves.
  2. Greater Productivity: Teams consisting of people fully operating out of their various gifts, talents, and strengths toward a common goal, instead of trying to mitigate their individual weaknesses, are able to accomplish much more than set of individuals acting alone.
  3. More Safety and Accountability: Teams provide strength in numbers, increase opportunities for cross-training, and promote mutual accountability, offering stability to organizations in times of distress or change, and keeping checks and balances in place.
  4.  More Creativity and Innovation: Teams enable individuals to build upon one another’s ideas to create solutions that go beyond one person’s limited vision of possibilities.
  5. Greater Joy and Satisfaction Among Team Members: Teams offer a space for people to be social as they work, thereby finding greater enjoyment of the task and the joy that comes from being in real relationship.
  6. Better Information Processing: Teams potentially have more information (because of the knowledge of each member) and should be able to process it better that individuals.
  7. Broader Perspective: Modern challenges are awfully complex, and so teams bring together multiple perspectives and insights into how to respond to those issues.
  8. Increased Representation: Teams allow multiple stakeholder groups to be represented, resulting in outcomes benefitting those groups, rather than just the most dominant group.
  9. Increased Equality: Teams level the proverbial playing field (at least somewhat) so that participants with lower status can more freely offer their ideas, knowledge, and concerns.
  10. More Dialogue: Teams offer a site where people can voice their feelings, disagreements, opinions, and ideas

For these reasons and more, team experts/consultants Jon Katzenbach and Douglas Smith argued in their seminal text, The Wisdom of Teams, that teams:

should [emphasis added] be the basic unit of performance for most organizations, regardless of size . . . [because] in any situation requiring the real-time combination of multiple skills, experiences, and judgments, a team inevitably gets better results than a collection of individuals operating within confined job roles and responsibilities.”

If you haven’t yet given teams a try, I encourage you to give them a shot. And if you have, my guess is that you are not realizing all of the benefits listed above. But if you stay at it and work to develop your teams over time, you can achieve great things through your teams.

Which of the Top Ten Lists of Reasons for Teams have you not yet experienced in teams in your organization?

*These insights are not my own.  They are derived from a rich literature investigating teams and collaboration, including, but not limited to, the books, chapters, and articles listed here. 

Photo Credit: Pratt Institute

Reprinted with permission from www.ryanhartwig.com

Dr. Ryan T. Hartwig serves as chair and associate professor in the Department of Communication Studiesat Azusa Pacific University. He has taught courses in group, organizational and leadership communication for over a decade, and he has led, trained and developed teams for more than fifteen years in universities and churches.