Teams are a part of business. They make things, accomplish tasks, provide services, offer advice and seek to meet other goals. While people have used teams to come together and accomplish tasks since we were hunters and gatherers, the concept is always evolving. And, today, more and more companies are incorporating teams—of a variety of sizes and types—into their workflows.

It’s a good idea for any business leader to understand the types of teams and the distinctions among them. Different ways to break teams into categories exist, but the following are a few common ways to think about them.

Functional Teams

These types of teams, also called functional teams, perform specific functions in an organization. They include members from the same department or work area who meet regularly. A manager holds the primary responsibility, with subordinates reporting to this person. Often, these are permanent.

Cross-Functional Teams

Workers across functions, or specialties, of the organization make up these types of teams. People with separate areas of expertise work together; they are usually at about the same hierarchical level and can often make decisions without management. Often, these are temporary.

Leadership Teams

Management takes a strategic role in guiding business decisions. They are made up of leaders from varied departments. The goals of leadership teams are generally aligned with the mission and vision of the company.

Self-Directed Teams

Also called self-managed teams, these groups operate without managers, and no one is in a position of authority. They are designed to give employees a feeling of empowerment and ownership of the job. These types of teams are newer: they’ve been around in the U.S. for decades and originated in Great Britain and Sweden in the 1950s. Research has shown that employees in self-managed teams have higher job satisfaction, increased self-esteem, and grow more on the job, but these teams aren’t without their drawback.

Virtual Teams

These are comprised of members who are not located in the same physical place; they may be in different cities, states, or even separate countries. They use technology and specific skills to achieve a common goal. They tend to be more task and projectoriented and less about social interaction.

Quality Circles

These individuals seek to become aware of, analyze and address problems within the workflow of the organization. Overall, they hope to improve performance and make management aware of any issues. This idea originated in Japan by large firms striving for quality. Usually, these are made up of three to 12 people who do similar work.

Task Forces

These teams are experts—generally a cross-section of people—joined together to solve a well-defined and temporary assignment. They have a sense of autonomy and don’t need to constantly consult superiors to get things done.

In a 1993 article for the Harvard Business Review, Jon Katzenbach and Douglas Smith wrote that there are three distinct types of teams:

  1. Teams that recommend things.
  2. Teams that make or do things.
  3. Teams that run things.

When thinking about teams, size is another important element to consider. Research has shown that with 12 members, teams begin to lose their effectiveness, so consider this when forming your own teams within your company.

What types of teams are critical to your company’s success this year?

Photo via Flickr user kevin dooley