What is a team?


We’ve been having a little bit of a discussion lately. The topic is simple but has some hidden depth. The question is “What is a team?”

Is it just a group of people working together? What if they are just doing their own thing and throw everything over the wall? How does a team exist without a shared vision? Is cross-functionality mandatory and can you start with specialists alone?

Another question that comes up is does your concept of team shift/change as you move further away from the coalface of delivering product? How so?

What do you think? Let’s start simple; what is a team?


Wow! What wonderfully thought provoking questions!

For me a team is a group of people working towards a common purpose. I don’t think there needs to be an explicit vision, but definitely a shared understanding of the direction of travel. For instance, when I’m the ScrumMaster of a team I try to avoid building an understanding of the software that is being built by the team. As a former developer, I find that knowing anything about the product distracts me from holding the space that allows the product to be built. I consider myself part of the team, but one that is blind to the output.

I’ve never had the pleasure of working with a team that is truly cross-functional. I’ve always started with specialists who I encourage to work towards becoming specialist generalists. When thinking about this question beyond software development, I think of medical teams who have different levels of knowledge in different areas that together complement each other. Some members could do the jobs of others, who in turn couldn’t do the job of those members. Which of these members are specialist and which cross-functional? Is that ok?

I’ve seen teams who are purely R&D and therefore have no product to be delivering. (Unless you consider their results a product.) I think a team is a team, regardless of the environment.


Nice. I think a cross functional team doesn’t mean that everyone is Criss functional, rather we (the team) have the skills we need to get to where we are going. We have a shared value and some destination in mind AND we work together to get there. The unity is something that is important. Without ties that bind we are just a bunch of people making a bit of noise.


We had a bit of a chat about it and caught the results.

What other things spring to mind? What did we miss?


I also ran across this little gem as well… The First Question to Ask When Building Teams – Is This Really a Team?