Team familiarity can give your organization a competitive edge

In the game of football, the familiarity between players’ styles of playing plays a huge role in team performance. That is why new players take a while to adjust to new teams. Research has shown that the performance of pro basketball teams varies according to how long players have been together; in short familiarity between team players. Could this aspect of familiarity be true for teams working in offices? Research by Harvard psychology professor Richard Hackman shows teams perform better when the members become familiar with each other. 

So what is familiarity and how does it work? Let’s try to understand the intricacies and nuances of team familiarity in an organization based on studies.

  • Team familiarity can be defined as the degree to which two members of a team identify themselves to be familiar based on the experience with work they had in the past.
  • The familiarity between team members helps the team members to work on independent tasks as well as efficiently communicate and coordinate. It can also be defined as the information or knowledge that the members present in a team consist of or have an idea on the independent or unique tasks and activities in their area of work.
  • It is the collaboration, coordination, and communication between the members of a team. Team members who work together for a long time can actually have more familiarity within themselves and the tasks.
  • Team familiarity can help teams cope with contingencies such as coordination complexity and diversity in the members’ prior experiences.

Why do teams with better familiarity among its members perform better? Here’s why:

  • They demonstrate efficient coordination of activities
  • They have a better understanding of individual knowledge
  •  They have an increased ability to adapt to change
  • They demonstrate more integration of knowledge to drive innovation
  • They have a stronger competitive advantage

Most of these advantages of team familiarity are obvious and yet, a number of team managers and organizations ignore this aspect and fail to build team familiarity. Now let’s look at ways in which teams can build familiarity.

Most teams go through four key stages on the way to becoming familiar.

1. Forming: the coming together of the members

2. Storming: find a way through differences of opinions and approaches

3. Norming: settle in with compromise and/or collaboration

4. Performing: by this stage, the teams are familiar and show signs of comfort and ease

Here are some cues and tips to build team familiarity:

  • Building team familiarity is a process and one should not expect an instant result.
  • The HRs role is key. Hire talent that will stay in the organization. If members keep joining and leaving the organization, familiarity is hard to build.
  • Like any other aspect of a business, familiarity too must be tracked and measured. How to measure familiarity? Here’s how:

– Track which members work together on which projects. This can be done by keeping simple records of who worked with whom for which project and what was the result.

– This could work as a metric to assess which team members might work well on what kind of projects and their familiarity levels.

  • Encourage engagement and collaboration across the organization. 
  • Set shared goals.
  • Present each team with a specific goal to accomplish together as a team.

So now, look around your workplace. Are you familiar with your team members? Are you aware of their knowledge and capabilities? Are there members in your organization that you would like to work with? Have you told your team leader or your boss about it? Most likely, your answers to all the above questions would be ‘no’. Isn’t it time to take a check on your team familiarity then?