Over two years Google conducted 200+ interviews with Googlers and looked at more than 250 attributes of 180+ active Google teams.
They were pretty confident that they would find the perfect mix of individual traits and skills necessary for a stellar team — take one Rhodes Scholar, two extroverts, one engineer who rocks at AngularJS, and a PhD. Voila. Dream team assembled, right?
They discovered they were dead wrong.
Who is on a team matters less than how the team members interact, structure their work, and view their contributions. So much for that magical algorithm.
They learned that there are five key dynamics that set successful teams apart from other teams at Google:
- Psychological safety: Can we take risks on this team without feeling insecure or embarrassed?
- Dependability: Can we count on each other to do high quality work on time?
- Structure & clarity: Are goals, roles, and execution plans on our team clear?
- Meaning of work: Are we working on something that is personally important for each of us?
- Impact of work: Do we fundamentally believe that the work we’re doing matters?
Psychological safety was far and away the most important of the five dynamics we found — it’s the underpinning of the other four.
If you answered “yes” to the five questions above, congrats! You’re probably on a high-performing team. And if not, not all hope is lost. This is a shortcut to help you figure out where to focus, how to get better, and a way to talk about this concept with your teammates in a structured way.
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