and Process Issues
Primary Care Toolkit for Family Physicians
The College of Family Physicians of Canada
What is a Team?
The word "team " carries many meanings, most involving people who join together to accomplish a task. We may speak about a department "acting as a team " or the "team effort " displayed by other groups of people. But a team is more than teamwork. A team is a specific structural unit in an organization and teamwork may be a value attributed to the team. Teams can have flexible membership and "organization " does not necessarily refer to a location or building. Teams can be virtual (not all members co-located) and the organization can be system organization as well as institutional for example.
A team consists of at least two people and has specific goals or performance objectives to be attained. Coordination of activity among members is required and is facilitated by members with complementary skills committed to a common purpose. Manion et al defines a healthcare team as:
A small number of consistent people committed to a relevant shared purpose, with common performance goals, complementary and overlapping skills, and a common approach to their work. Tea members hold themselves mutually accountable for the team's results or outcomes.
Teams out perform individuals when:
- The task is complex
- The path forward is unclear
- Creativity or free-thinking is needed
- More efficient use of resources is required
- The implementation of a plan requires the cooperation of others
- The task or process is cross-functional
- High commitment is desirable
- Fast learning is necessary
The criteria for teams to work effectively have been examined by several researchers and generally, appear to be the need for teams to:
- Have clearly defined purposes and goals
- Have clearly defined parameters within which to work
- Be able to communicate effectively
- Have people with the necessary knowledge and skills to accomplish their tasks
- Know how they are going to accomplish their tasks
(See Other Resources more sources of information about developing and managing teams.)