The dynamics of fluid teams

In my recent post “Making time for teamwork when there’s too much to do” I explored how to keep up with changes to the world of work. This is becoming more relevant since many more of us are not only working in teams, but are part of multiple teams. As we identify new problems to solve, our teams become more fluid, shifting and shaping to make sure the right people are working on the right challenge at the right time.

How does working in fluid teams affect our performance? Unless a team is doing the same task over and over again with the same people, then team dynamics will change. If a team is caught unaware of how this can impact them, they may find that they hit a roadblock, derailing their productivity and flow.

Same team, different project

If a team has performed highly on one project, it’s easy to assume that they will continue to work well together on future projects. But new research provides evidence against the concept that teams build up “collective intelligence”. Even a well-bonded team may not have the same success on a different task. A new challenge will bring different problems and assumptions, causing the team dynamics to change.

Introducing new team members

A study of Broadway musical productions into team make-up and dynamics found that the best teams had a mix of old colleagues who retain some of the history and memory of working together, and new colleagues that bring fresh ideas and creativity. Regular changes to team membership lead to better results.

However, there’s a risk of losing these valuable insights and perspectives if there is no space for new team members to share their knowledge. When Buffer realised that their 45-day onboarding “bootcamp” was preventing new team members from contributing ideas, they revised it to ensure they welcomed more input. Now the new programme creates more opportunity for conversation, diversity and creating psychological safety.

Changes in team dynamics can bring either challenges or opportunities, and teams can prepare themselves for when this happens.

Image by Ethan Weil on Unsplash.

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