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Results–Driven Structure

A second important characteristic of high performing teams is a results–driven structure. This characteristic reflects the need of every team to organize itself in a way that will enable it to be productive and, ultimately, to achieve what it has set out to do.

As teams are establishing themselves and initiating their collaborative work, members often ask what their team should “look like.” That is, should the team have a chair? Or co–chairs? A designated facilitator? Should the team organize itself into subcommittees? What is the “right” number of people to have on the team? Is it eight people? Or twelve people, or more or less? The answers to all of these questions depends on what specifically the team is trying to achieve. All teams must have a structure – it is not effective to be disorganized – but the structure should reflect the results that the team intends to achieve.

Although the organizing of teams often happens by default, the structure of every team must be examined and discussed by all team members. One industrious and motivated team member might agree to develop a meeting agenda or record and distribute the meeting minutes. Someone else – perhaps the person who calls the meeting – serves as the team leader and/or its facilitator. However, conversations rarely occur about the development of a team structure that will enhance and support the efforts of the group over time. These are discussions that teams must have as they embark on their collaborative endeavor.

The ways in which teams structure themselves to conduct their work vary based on their mandates and their reasons for being. In their work, Larson and LaFasto [TeamWork: What Must Go Right/What Can Go Wrong, Newbury Park, CA: Sage Publications (1989)] identified three different kinds of teams, each of which has a different purpose and, therefore, a unique structure. They are:

Many communities/jurisdictions/agencies have several different types of teams in place that focus on a variety of specific criminal and juvenile justice issues. In these cases, it is important for each team to not only be clear about its own function and purpose, but also to understand how its work is related to and impacts the efforts of other teams, and the larger criminal or juvenile justice system.

While there is no single structure that is appropriate for all teams, there are elements or features of team structure that need to be considered and in place in order for teams to be maximally effective. The following are the four necessary features of team structure that are defined by Larson and LaFasto.

Tools for Teams

Click here for a teamwork exercise that will guide your team through a discussion of roles and responsibilities.

Click here for the worksheets that accompany this teamwork exercise.

Click here for a discussion on developing subcommittee charters.


Adapted from concepts in TeamWork: What Must Go Right/What Can Go Wrong (1989), by Carl E. Larson and Frank M. LaFasto (Newbury Park, CA: Sage Publications).