These Four Things Lead to Team Success

Topic(s): performance, teams
Publication: Harvard Business Review, 2016
Article: The Secrets of Great Teamwork
Authors: M. Haas, M. Mortensen
Reviewed by: Susan Rosengarten

Great basketball players know that no matter how good a shot they are, they need to pass the ball sometimes to achieve team success. They are not always going to have a clear look at the basket, and at times they may be fully surrounded by members of the opposing team. Rather than risk a failed shot, they would be wise to pass the ball to teammates who can bring home victory.

Work-teams—much like sports teams—are a collection of distinct individuals with a common goal: success. Whether that work-team is a cluster of students working on a class assignment, or a group of c-suite executives supporting their CEO, teammates must be able to trust each other and must be committed to the betterment of the group.

The authors (Haas & Mortensen, 2016) describe today’s work-teams as “4-D” – diverse, dispersed, digital, and dynamic. Based on their research and experience they offer four enabling conditions that encourage team effectiveness, and will set up your team for success.


Compelling Direction

At the core of every team and collection of people is their shared goal. This is the team’s collective mission and purpose, or the end result its members are trying to achieve. Goals need to be challenging (but attainable) outcomes that team-members care about. They should be objectives that team members can feel energized and motivated to work towards.

Strong Structure

Every good team functions under a set of rules, whether explicitly outlined or implied. For example, a team may create screening criteria, or set a cap on the number of new joiners it will allow at a given time. Team members may be expected to complete assigned tasks, and to treat other teammates respectfully.

Supportive Context

You can’t do your best work if you don’t have access to the information you need, or when you’re working with ineffective tools and technologies. Positive reinforcement and effective training can go a long way to support high performance and inspire dedication.

Shared Mindset

Fostering community and a shared understanding is key. Team members must feel like they are each valued contributors working toward a common goal. A shared mindset encourages members to move past their differences and frustrations, and to see the big picture and end goal.


Team effectiveness can be evaluated in many ways, but the authors suggest rating your team on the following three criteria: output, collaborative ability, and individual development. Are your team’s clients, customers, or stakeholders happy with your output? How well does your team work together? To what extent are team members learning and growing?

Winning teams make full use of the unique talents of each of their members to achieve synergistic ends. You don’t need a referee to make this call. Team for success and set your team up for a slam dunk!


Haas, M. & Mortensen, M. (2016). The Secrets of Great Work Teams. Harvard Business Review, 94(6), 71-76.