Google’s surprising discovery about effective teams

Author: Stéphanie Thomson
Commentator: Steve Fairman

Posted in: Thinking Differently
From: Issue 14

WHAT WE THINK

A core purpose for The Edge is to bring ideas from other countries and other industries which we can apply to our own healthcare context.

With this in mind I was delighted to find this brief article, written by a commentator for the World Economic Forum, on some research carried out by Google on their own staff. Google is a company renowned for having very high ‘bars’ in terms of staff employment, capabilities and expectations of those staff once employed. They do a lot of research on their own workforce, constantly seeking ways they can improve. They have a very interesting site (https://rework.withgoogle.com/) where they post much of their work.

This piece stems from Google realising that although they research their staff a lot, the focus has nearly always been on the Directors and managers, who make up only 15% of their workforce. This piece looked at all members of teams and sought to identify what made the great ones great. Google hypothesised that the answer would be about how bright, or highly qualified, or the personality types of team members, but found this was far from the truth. Actually, their most successful teams are defined by completely different things. All their best teams had 5 clear characteristics:

1. Psychological safety – felt they were able to take risks and be vulnerable with each other (this was overwhelmingly the most important of the five)
2. Dependability – get things done on time to high standard
3. Structure and clarity – members understand their roles and goals
4. Meaning – the work has personal importance to team members
5. Impact – members think their work matters

There are important lessons here for all of us trying to lead, create, or work in effective teams within healthcare. How many of our teams really display the level of psychological safety needed to work at their best for patients?

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Steve, until very recently, was Managing Director of NHS Improving Quality in England. He is now wor...


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