Can groups really work well together?

There is much talk in organizations about the difference between teams and groups. Some of the most cited work in this area is from a Katzenbach & Smith piece in the Harvard Business Review (1993) entitled “The Discipline of Teams”. They defined the groups as having (amongst other things) individual accountabilities and individual work products whilst teams have shared accountability and collective work product.

In sport, lots of focus and effort is driven towards the forming of teams as opposed to groups. It could be argued that in these days of uber celebrity sports people building a true team is getting more and more difficult but irrespective of pay and rations they all wear the same colours, are selected or not based largely on talent and definitely identify with one set of followers over the others…

The anomaly to this is scratch teams or invitation only teams that get formed on occasion. The one best know to us is the Barbarians or Baa-Baas, an invitation only rugby team that is formed on occasion and anyone is eligible to be invited if they fulfill 2 criteria:

1. Their rugby is of a high enough standard

2. They behave themselves on and off the field

So a group of people who don’t work together on a regular basis, who all have different core loyalties and affiliations come together to form a “team” wearing a black and white hooped jersey but retaining their own club coloured socks to play rugby. If there was ever an example of a group that has shared accountabilities and collective work product this is a great one. Maybe it’s the pride of the invite or the fact that despite being a group they are similarly identified through what they wear I’m not sure but maybe organizations could learn yet another lesson from sport with the results this team often delivers.

Probably one of the most famous moments in Barbarian history is from 1973 and it’s this:





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