Article Overview

In this article, we will examine the twelve-team characteristics that seem to point toward ineffectiveness.

Table of Contents

  1. No Processes for Gaining Consensus or Resolving Conflicts
  2. Team Members Who Lack a Commitment to the Goal
  3. Lack of Camaraderie
  4. Lack of Openness and Trust
  5. Vague Role Definitions
  6. No Commonality or Cohesiveness
  7. Conformity and Mind Protection
  8. Low Tolerance for Diversity
  9. Insufficient Resources
  10. Lack of Management Support
  11. Listless Team Members
  12. A Discontinuity Between Individual Expectations and Group Expectations
  13. Closing Thoughts

An ineffective team is conflict-ridden, filled with distrust, unfocused, and reeking of negative competition. These conditions manifest themselves in high turnover and absenteeism, considerable frustration levels, poor communication, and intolerance.

Teams featuring these twelve characteristics often have little hope of success, especially if the conditions persist for any length of time. The proactive project manager must recognize these conditions and take corrective action as quickly as possible.

No Processes for Gaining Consensus or Resolving Conflicts

Team conflicts and overt and covert discussions are ongoing occurrences, making cooperation difficult, even impossible. When this happens it appears that the project manager has lost all control of the team and that indeed may be the case. Getting back on track becomes more difficult the longer this persists.

Team Members Who Lack a Commitment to the Goal

No one has an emotional attachment to the goal. And without that goal focus, there is no real drive for the team - no ownership of tasks and pride in successful outcomes. Soon, no one really cares.

Lack of Camaraderie

The team members do not feel that they are part of a team. Instead, everyone acts in his or her own interests. This is a bad direction for a team to head as it can lead to rogue actions and behavior, conflict, and even straying from completing one's tasks.

Lack of Openness and Trust

Everyone is guarded, protective of his or her own interests. Openness and truthfulness are perceived as yielding to someone, giving a competitive advantage, or exposing vulnerabilities. When this happens, idea sharing is at a minimum and that is never good if you want to be part of a successful, cohesive team on a successful project.

Vague Role Definitions

The reporting structures and responsibilities are unclear, causing conflicts. Territorial disputes and power struggles occur often. If this happens, the responsibility falls completely on the shoulders of the project manager. Communication, assignments, delegation, authority, and the definition of project roles begin and end with the project manager.

No Commonality or Cohesiveness

The team is an unorganized grouping of people. No one feels a sense of community. No common ground exists other than to meet periodically to work. This results in lost synergy. When this happens, you may find one person taking an active leadership role, but the rest of the team may be completely unfocused. It is highly unlikely that a team with this problem will reach successful project completion.

Conformity and Mind Protection

Insecurity permeates people for fear of being different or ostracized. People do not speak or share information unless it reinforces behavior or thoughts. If openness and creativity is not cultivated on the team, then productivity may be sacrificed in the long run.


Low Tolerance for Diversity

The pressure to conform is so intense that anyone different in thinking or work style is ostracized or not taken seriously. Whistle-blowers and creative types, for instance, may be viewed with suspicion. Under such circumstances, no opportunity is available to capitalize on people's strengths and address their weaknesses.

Insufficient Resources

Whether it's people, equipment, supplies, facilities, time, or money, insufficient resources make teams ineffective. The situation can also lead to conflicts, even revolts. If resources are not distributed in an objective, meaningful manner, then differences can magnify into severe conflicts. Members of the team can quickly become polarized.

Lack of Management Support

If team members perceive whether justifiably or not that management is not supportive of the project, then motivation can plummet. People will feel that work is not valuable to the organization. When this happens, it may take an act of God - or at least executive management - to right the ship.


Listless Team Members

The goals are vague or nonexistent. Even if the goals are defined, no one, including the project manager, seems to focus on them. Instead, everyone is aimless. And a team without focus or direction is lost - leaving the project with little to no chance to succeed. Either the project needs to be canceled or the project manager needs to be replaced.

A Discontinuity Between Individual Expectations and Group Expectations

There is a misalignment between the two, with the latter not valuing the former. A symbiotic relationship between the two just does not exist.

These expectations must be in alignment for a strong, cohesive team to exist and for forward project momentum to continue.

Closing Thoughts

My hope is that we can all gain insight from this list and work to correct these situations if we see them in our own teams. And please feel free to comment and share your own thoughts on ineffective team behavior or characteristics.