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5 attributes of successful teams

The way we work has changed. Today, winning in business requires constant innovation, and this innovation in turn requires collaboration across disciplines, geographies, and cultures. Prior to this seismic shift in the workplace, the atomic unit of productivity was the individual. Now it’s the team. A high-performing team brings together talented individuals and operates as more than the sum of its parts. It draws on the strengths of each member and compensates for individual limitations. But in an increasingly distributed and fast-paced world, even the perfect team chemistry isn’t enough. Today’s teams also need collaboration tools that help them put that chemistry to work. They need technology that can reach across space and time and help team members feel like they’re just a few feet away, even when they’re worlds apart.

At Microsoft, we’re on a mission to help every team become a successful team. And so, we partnered with IDEO, a global design company known for its human-centered, interdisciplinary approach. Together, we researched successful workplace teams to find out what they had in common. Then we used what we learned to create The Art of Teamwork—a new digital curriculum built around the five attributes of a successful team.

And that’s not all. We’re also using the findings from the research to refine Microsoft Teams, the hub for teamwork in Microsoft 365. What’s clear from the data is that the future of workplace collaboration won’t be defined by any one technology. Instead, successful teams need collaboration tools that combine a wide range of technologies in new and innovative ways. Teams brings together chat, meetings, calling, document collaboration, and workflow into a single app—and this unique combination is catching fire.

In fact, today Teams has more than 20 million daily active users. What’s more, while these users start with simple text-based chat, they quickly move on to richer forms of communication and collaboration. For instance, last month Teams customers participated in more than 27 million voice or video meetings and performed over 220 million open, edit, or download actions on files stored in Teams.

The five attributes

Partnering with IDEO, we researched diverse workplace teams—including astronauts, chefs, television producers, and nurses—to understand what high-performing collaborators have in common. With a variety of workplace teams as our subjects, we used in-context observation, expert interviews, secondary research, and prototype activities to identify the specific dynamics that high-performing teams had in common. We found that successful teams shared five attributes:

  1. Team purpose—Keeps teams focused, fulfilled, and aligned on achieving their objectives.
  2. Collective identity—Fosters a sense of belonging and helps team members work together as a unit.
  3. Awareness and inclusion—Enables teams to navigate interpersonal dynamics and value everyone’s perspective.
  4. Trust and vulnerability—Encourages interpersonal risk-taking in teams.
  5. Constructive tension—Serves as a generative force for new ideas, driving better outcomes.

Teams customer success stories

With Teams, our customers are breaking through the artificial boundaries created by standalone or loosely coupled collaboration tools and working together in new ways. Their stories bring the five attributes of successful teams to life and paint a picture of what is possible.

Bold beauty: L’Oreal

At L’Oreal, the global beauty company, Chief Technology and Operations Officer, Barbara Lavernos explains, “Our momentum is driven by people interacting, putting ideas on the table, and jumping on them through spontaneous discussion. The new technology that allows for personality, contributions, and real innovation is Microsoft Teams.” With Teams, L’Oreal employees have a space to be creative while moving at the speed and scale needed to deliver over 7 billion products to customers annually.

From the factory floor to the C-Suite: Alcoa

Firstline Workers at Alcoa, a global leader in bauxite, alumina, and aluminum production, have embraced Teams to access business information on their own mobile devices while working at their remote Iceland facility. Before using Teams, when managers needed someone to come in for a shift, they had to call them, often late at night. Now with Teams, managers schedule plant employees using Shifts, which they can access on their mobile devices. With Shifts, the problem of workers missing scheduled assignments has resolved, with the absentee rate falling to nearly zero. “Shifts in Teams is much more efficient for organizing people,” says Friopjófur Tómasson, a plant supervisor. “If I had to use one word to tell you what Teams means to me, it’s ‘efficiency.’ Shifts saves me at least an hour a day.”

Simplified collaboration: Telefónica

At telecommunications company Telefonica, employees conduct business-building projects in Teams. An offsite meeting of executives can now be coordinated in a highly secure, centralized hub. This simple meeting used to be a coordination nightmare, with up to 20 colleagues from several departments focusing on various workstreams. “Before Teams, we had to integrate different aspects of a project that had been created in isolation from each other. Now, a group of colleagues can build on the documents in a collaborative way and edit the project directly. This process used to take four weeks, now we can accomplish it in a matter of days,” says Jamie Rodriguez-Ramos Fernandez, Director of Strategic Analysis at Telefónica.

Putting patient care first: St. Luke’s University Health Network (SLUHN)

St. Luke’s University Health Network providers are replacing different third-party collaboration apps with Teams, simplifying their lives with a single workspace for anytime, anywhere conversations about patients. “Even as we look to secure text messaging as one of the advantages of the ubiquitous cellphone, we still have to comply with HIPAA and other privacy requirements,” says Dr. James Balshi, MD, Chief Medical Information Officer and Vascular Surgeon at SLUHN. “But we don’t have to worry about that with Teams. It’s equally functional on the smartphone, tablet, and desktop computer. I use the camera technology on the phone to share patient information in a more secure and HIPAA-compliant manner with colleagues during a Teams video call. I’ve also shared EMR notes and X-ray images.”

Connecting across the globe: Trek

Trek is a leading bicycle designer, manufacturer, and retailer that is adapting quickly to a fast-changing environment. Some U.S.-based employees work in locations other than the company’s Waterloo, Wisconsin, headquarters, including at other facilities, home, or retail locations. Trek’s international business has also grown quickly with the company expanding its operations to 17 established offices around the world. “Having good connectivity and digital meeting experiences is critical in making the way we work a success,” says Nathan Pieper, IT Business Applications and Collaboration Manager at Trek. The meetings capabilities in Teams “was the carrot that got people in,” says Pieper. “Teams adoption grew because people used it, told other people to use it, and invited them to online meetings on it.”

A high-performing team can do what otherwise would be impossible. And with Teams, there’s no limit to what you and your team can achieve at work. To improve teamwork in your organization, check out the digital teamwork guide at the Art of Teamwork home page. And if you’re not using Teams yet, get started today!

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Note: Customers are ultimately responsible for their own HIPAA compliance.