Growing appreciation for the power of teams and teamwork has created an explosion in team talk. But many so-called teams aren’t teams. Most are organizational units, committees, or task forces that have been grouped together.

The team problem generally starts at the top. Many management groups leading a corporation, division, department, or branch often has team in its title. Too often group behaviors are riddled with silos, turf protection, and individual accountability. Conflicts often simmer just below façades of political correctness and civility. Potshots and “zingers” between group members surface at meetings wrapped in destructive humor. Moose-on-the-table issues or fundamental differences are politely painted over (lathering lip stick on the moose) and talked about in the hallways after the meeting.

A recent post, Five Common Team Building Pitfalls and Traps identified problems many teams get themselves into and touched on a few of their causes. At the bottom of that post, reader Brock Criger, added some of his experience.

Here’s a broader list of root causes on why many groups aren’t teams:

  1. Lack of shared vision and objectives.
  2. Ineffective meeting/decision processes.
  3. Infrequent/ineffective meetings/communication.
  4. Unclear expectations of each other.
  5. Fuzzy roles and goals.
  6. Misaligned structure/systems/processes.
  7. Priority overload and tyranny of the urgent.
  8. Operations-improvement imbalance.
  9. Weak feedback and learning loops.

Get your team members to each anonymously identify which three they think are holding back your team from being even more effective. You need to create a safe environment to ensure you’re getting honest answers. You could post this list and ask each member to write down their three choices by number on a piece of paper and hand it in. Or you could post this list on a survey service like and have each team member complete it.