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In this chapter, we explore the different types of work teams that are encountered in health care. This is not an exercise in classification for its own sake. Different types of teams have different capabilities, different limitations, and different needs for planning, participation, training, and management. Knowing the type of team at hand helps team members, leaders, and sponsors to ensure that the team is performing as effectively as it can. As they seek to perform well in their own roles, team members, leaders, and sponsors as well as senior leaders all benefit from understanding the characteristics of different types of teams.

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Many different taxonomies have been offered by writers on teams. An early and influential classification was offered by Sundstrom and colleagues (1990), who proposed 4 categories: (a) advice and involvement teams, (b) production and service teams, (c) project and development teams, and (d) action and negotiation teams. An example of an advice and involvement team in health care is a quality improvement team, which serves to recommend process changes in a healthcare practice or hospital and to engage people in making the changes successfully. Sundstrom's category of production and service teams includes all clinical teams. Project or development teams are exemplified by teams charged with implementing electronic health records in hospitals. And a team of health system executives and attorneys seeking a merger with another system is an action or negotiation team. Sundstrom's interest was in identifying very general factors that influence team effectiveness and, in particular, in showing that factors beyond internal team processes affect team performance. His 4 categories—and examples under each heading—served to make his analysis concrete and plausible. With respect to teams in health care, however, this classification will not provide much help in understanding the functions and needs of different teams. For example, all clinical teams, from primary care teams to international air ambulance teams, are lumped into the single category of production and service teams. The needs of primary care teams and air ambulance teams are quite different. It is helpful to tease out the characteristics that make them different and place these teams in different categories in order to clarify the differences in their needs.

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Taxonomies are devised for a variety of purposes. Sometimes the purpose is simple description. For example, real estate listings commonly classify houses for sale as single-family homes, duplexes, townhouses, and so on. These categories enable potential buyers to decide quickly whether they wish to consider a particular house. Researchers usually use team taxonomies to formulate hypotheses and eventually to generate new knowledge about team functioning and about factors that affect team performance. If a researcher studies a sample of teams with widely differing characteristics, he or she is not likely to obtain results that are reproducible, much less results that are useful in improving the performance of any particular kind of team. The researcher needs to focus on a single kind of team or to take ...

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