Recently I wrote an article about Google’s 2016 Project Aristotle and how it identified psychological safety as the preeminent predictor of success and productivity in a workplace team. In this piece, we’ll look at some of the other factors identified by Google’s project.
In 2012 Project Aristotle was initiated with the objective of identifying why some of Google’s teams worked well, while others faltered. The project team included statisticians, organisational psychologists, sociologists, engineers and researchers.
The inputs to the project covered reviews of decades of academic studies on team dynamics and productivity, followed by extensive analysis of teams within Google and the individuals in them.
They identified that the answer lay in group norms (a group’s traditions, behavioural standards and expectations) and that the norms creating psychological safety were the most vital to the success and productivity of a team.
However, there were other factors and effective group management relies on attention to them as well – so let’s look at the next four.
Second to psychological safety was dependability. This may seem self-evident, but it’s easy to overlook the importance of team members being able to rely on each other to complete tasks on time and to the standards agreed by the group.
Third, was structure and clarity, that the group had a clearly defined structure and that members knew their roles, plans, goals and responsibilities within it. An implicit assumption is that the structure of the group was effective and efficient.
The fourth factor, and I find this particularly interesting, was meaning. This was explained as the relationship between the work and the group members, that they found it personally involving and important. There’s an obvious connection between meaning, as so defined, and motivation.
Rounding out the top five factors was impact. This is the belief that group members had in the results off their work and its ability to initiate or promote positive change.
Looking at the top five factors; psychological safety, dependability, structure and clarity, meaning and impact, there’s a logical sequence that moves from the most individual and internal – feeling safe – through the team’s operational performance – structure, clarity and dependability – to the more external areas of meaning and impact.
There are learnings in this analysis for organisations and individuals, in terms of what they can do to develop leadership and recruitment strategies that use these factors to optimise group structures and performance. I’ll talk about these in a future article.
If you’d like to discuss the implications for your company, leadership roles or how executive coaching can drive positive change for you, please contact Melinda Fell.