What are the differences between groups and teams in the business context?

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M.P. Ossa | College Teacher | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

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The differences between teams and groups in the business field are multiple. Although they both entail the gathering of individuals, the purpose, dynamics, and even productivity of groups and teams are greatly contrasting.

Business grouping happens in different ways. When the group is "dependent" the scenario is that of your typical workplace with one person in charge and making all the decisions and rules. In this type of scenario we do not see any participation from the group members; they merely do what they are told. This is the precise scenario that embodies the words "a team is a group but not every group is a team".

When the group is independent, each person has as assigned task and, as such, everybody does their own job. The umbrella of the business itself does not entail that each independent member of the group needs the other; in this scenario, most of the independent tasks are separate from each other. Take, for instance, a bank. The teller, the loan officer, the accountants, the receptionist, the secretary, and even the bank President work for the same business and yet they have nothing to do with each other.

However, when the opposite happens and the group does need the input, support, performance, experience, expertise, or even the physical presence of other members of the same group, you have what is called an "interdependent" group. In turn, this interdependence creates the esprit the corps that is unique to....teams!

Hence, a "team" is an interdependent group made of individuals whose jobs are both independent and mutually important to the good of the business.

Teams are more interactive and dynamic than traditional groups because they often operate with one same goal in mind. As a result, teams tend to convoke more meetings, are in constant change as goals are met, and consistently review their action plans to add or take away interventions.

Since teams are the opposite of an independent or dependent traditional group, it means that roles and rules, are discussed and voted on by the members of the team. Through tone, rules, and roles the team creates its own sense of identity; similarly, the productivity level that comes from the interdependence of duties results in that the final product that comes from the team is shared equally; not one single person will take credit from what was done, but the team as one.

Concisely, one must be careful not to use the terms "groups" and "teams" interchangeably, for the connotations and implications contained in both words are completely different.

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