Do You Have Teams?

by Kevin McManus, Chief Excellence Officer, Great Systems

What Team Characteristics Do Your Teams Have?

I have been fortunate. From the beginning of my work career over 35 years ago, I have worked in organizations that had formal process improvement teams. Because I served in a management capacity in these organizations, I also had the opportunity to serve as a team member, leader, and/or facilitator on over 300 different teams. I have also learned over these years however that while organizations do basically have three types of teams, they don’t necessarily see these teams as being ‘formal’. Additionally, they may give these teams different names. If you look at the role a given team plays in the organization’s pursuit of its performance goals, you will find that its team characteristics has a best fit with one of the three team types described on this page.

What Team Characteristics are Needed for High Performance?

High performance organizations recognize that (1) all three team types are mandatory for an effective pursuit of process excellence and (2) a defined team infrastructure which includes all three team types is a key tool for obtaining high levels of employee engagement. These organizations also employ the systems that are necessary to help ensure high levels of effectiveness for all three team types.

What does your organization do to consistently improve the effectiveness of its work (process) and focus teams? What percentage of your workforce is engaged as members of a formal process improvement team (such as a lean (kaizen) team or a six sigma project team)? How do you measure team effectiveness? What processes do you use to consistently improve the effectiveness of your team leaders?

Characteristic Process Team Project Team Focus Team
Average Team Size Depends on process design 4 to 6 people 6 to 8 people
Representation Job specific Cross functional Cross functional
Meeting Frequency Every day for 5-10 minutes Usually weekly, but varies with project need 1 to 4 times per month
Primary Focus Key processes and measures for the daily job Key project that has been selected or assigned Key performance area that the team exists to focus on
Voluntary or Mandatory? Mandatory Voluntary or mandatory Mandatory based on job design
Limits to Growth None – necessary for process support Team support resources that are available Number of key performance areas and/or systems
Performance Focus Continuous improvement Innovation / systems change Continuous improvement of key work systems via systems changes
Key Measures Key in-process measures Project cycle time, project cost, and goal attainment Key results performance indicators
Team Leader(s) Usually supervisor or lead person, but can rotate across all team members over time Depends on skill level and time available Normally a member of management (system or process owner)
Alternative Names Work teams, process teams, self-directed work teams Kaizen blitz teams, tiger teams, quality circles, process improvement teams, problem solving teams, six sigma teams Safety committee, recognition committee, leadership team, planning team, steering committee, waste reduction team, standing team

Select the type of team that you would like to learn more about from the list provided above to go directly to the team characteristics for that type. You can also review the summary matrix that is provided to gain a ‘big picture’ view of how the three team types compare to each other. Additional details on team function, purpose, and makeup for each team types are also provided on this page, below the summary matrix.


If you would like more information about the improvement tools and systems I have to offer, please send me an e-mail at