Data Analysis and Team Work

Data Analysis proves: It is the Humans that make teams work!

Who knew it would take a data driven analytic company like Google to tell the world that it is human behaviour that makes the difference for effective teams! HR professionals have always known that it is the soft skills that make teams work and that the development of employee soft skills is a Human Resources specialty.

Google, the world’s best known data analysis company, wanted to know what makes one team more effective than another.  In true Google fashion, the company started to look for the answers somewhere in the data.

If the answer for what makes one team more effective is found, is it possible to replicate and make all teams equally effective? Hence, the birth of the Googles’ team research project, Project Aristitole. Google invested two years and extensive manpower into analyzing data from more than 180 teams!

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Google was convinced that team effectiveness would be based on the intelligence and talent of the individual team members and they would find the concrete data to support that theory.  However, that was not the result; Instead the research showed Google the importance of employee soft skills. The data-based evidence revealed that it is not who was on the team that made it successful, but the relationships between the team members that was most critical. In other words, the human side is the most critical skill for effective team relationships. This again stresses the importance of the Human side of Human Resources.

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The most effective teams have successful relationships or a great understanding of their group norms.  Effective teams are able to answer the following questions:

  • What makes the team tick?
  • How is the team structured?
  • How do team members communicate with each other?

Developing positive group norms are keys to successful teams. Another term that is important to team effectiveness is the feeling of “psychological safety”, a concept which was first studied by Professor Amy Edmondson of Harvard University. The importance of making teams’ effective lies with HR. In order to make sure that groups have a solid understanding of Tuckmans’ stages of teams: forming, storming, norming, and performing,  HR must:

  • Take a lead role in ensuing groups norms are developed by a focused strategy and not by default
  • Develop a team structure that works specifically for that team
  • Stress the importance of inter-team communications

As for Google’s data based discoveries, it takes courage to admit when one has made a mistake. In this case, Google, while getting it all wrong from a data perspective, got it right by recognizing the importance of the human side of the data based equation.

Discussion Question:

  1. Upon becoming aware of the results of Google’s ‘Project Aristotle”, what would you include in a team building orientation training program?