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A Theory of Team Coaching


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After briefly reviewing the existing literature on team coaching, we propose a new model with three distinguishing features. The model (1) focuses on the functions that coaching serves for a team, rather than on either specific leader behaviors or leadership styles, (2) identifies the specific times in the task performance process when coaching interventions are most likely to have their intended effects, and (3) explicates the conditions under which team-focused coaching is and is not likely to facilitate performance.
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Harvard University
Dartmouth College
After briefly reviewing the existing literature on team coaching, we propose a new
model with three distinguishing features. The model (1) focuses on the functions that
coaching serves for a team, rather than on either specific leader behaviors or lead-
ership styles, (2) identifies the specific times in the task performance process when
coaching interventions are most likely to have their intended effects, and (3) expli-
cates the conditions under which team-focused coaching is and is not likely to
facilitate performance.
Coaches help people perform tasks. Coaching
is pervasive throughout the life course, from
childhood (e.g., a parent helping a child learn to
ride a tricycle), through schooling (e.g., a teacher
coaching a student in the proper conduct of a
chemistry experiment), and into adulthood (e.g.,
a fitness coach helping with an exercise regime
or a supervisor coaching an employee in im-
proving his or her job performance). The main
body of research about coaching is found in the
training literature, and it focuses almost entirely
on individual skill acquisition (Fournies, 1978).
Except for the many popular books and articles
that extract lessons for team leaders from the
experiences of athletic coaches, relatively little
has been published that specifically addresses
the coaching of task-performing teams.
Here we propose a theory of team coaching
that is amenable to empirical testing and cor-
rection. The theory has three distinguishing fea-
tures. One, it focuses on the functions that
coaching serves for a team, rather than on either
specific leader behaviors or leadership styles.
Two, it explicitly addresses the specific times in
the task performance process when coaching
interventions are most likely to “take” and have
their intended effects. Three, it explicitly identi-
fies the conditions under which team-focused
coaching is most likely to facilitate perfor-
mance. Overall, we show that the impact of
team coaching—whether provided by a formal
team leader or by fellow group members—
depends directly and substantially on the de-
gree to which the proper coaching functions are
fulfilled competently at appropriate times and
in appropriate circumstances.
Team coaching is an act of leadership, but it is
not the only one or necessarily the most conse-
quential one. Team leaders engage in many dif-
ferent kinds of behaviors intended to foster team
effectiveness, including structuring the team
and establishing its purposes, arranging for the
resources a team needs for its work and remov-
ing organizational roadblocks that impede the
work, helping individual members strengthen
their personal contributions to the team, and
working with the team as a whole to help mem-
bers use their collective resources well in pur-
suing team purposes.
Leaders vary in how they allocate their time
and attention across these activities, depending
on their own preferences; what they believe the
team most needs; and the team’s own level of
authority, initiative, and maturity. Only the last
two sets of activities (helping individual mem-
bers strengthen personal contributions and
working with the team to help use resources
well) are coaching behaviors, however, focusing
respectively on individual team members and
on the team as a whole. In this paper we deal
exclusively with the fourth—team coaching—
which we define as direct interaction with a
team intended to help members make coordi-
nated and task-appropriate use of their collec-
tive resources in accomplishing the team’s work.
Although team coaching is a distinct and of-
ten consequential aspect of team leadership, re-
cent evidence suggests that leaders focus their
behavior less on team coaching than on other
aspects of the team leadership portfolio. In a
Academy of Management Review
2005, Vol. 30, No. 2, 269–287.
study of 268 task-performing teams in 88 organi-
zations, we (Wageman, Hackman, & Lehman,
2004) asked team leaders and members to rank
the amount of attention the team leader gave to
activities in each of the four categories listed
above (with a rank of “1” signifying the greatest
attention). For both leader and member reports,
coaching the team as a whole came in last (the
combined mean ranks were as follows: structur-
ing the team and its work, 1.75; running external
interference, 2.16; coaching individuals, 2.88;
and coaching the team, 3.02).
The lesser attention given to team coaching
could simply mean that leaders underestimate
the potential benefits of providing coaching as-
sistance to their teams. More likely, perhaps, is
that leaders do not coach their teams because
they do not know how to do so, or they have
ventured a coaching intervention or two that did
not help and thereafter focused their behavior
on seemingly more promising team leadership
strategies. By using existing research and the-
ory to identify the kinds of leader coaching be-
haviors that do help teams operate more effec-
tively, we seek here not only to advance basic
understanding about team coaching but also to
provide practitioners with some of what they
need to know to coach their teams competently.
In a review of existing research and theory,
we identified three conceptually driven ap-
proaches to team coaching and one eclectic ap-
proach that is largely atheoretical. These four
approaches, described below, point the way to-
ward a more comprehensive research-based
model of team coaching, and we draw on them
in developing propositions for the present the-
Eclectic Interventions
Eclectic coaching interventions are activities
that derive from no particular theoretical per-
spective but have considerable face validity
nonetheless, in that a lay person would be likely
to assume that they would help a team perform
well. Eclectic models are found mainly in the
practitioner literature as codifications of the les-
sons learned by management consultants
whose practice includes team facilitation (e.g.,
Fischer, 1993; Kinlaw, 1991; Wellins, Byham, &
Wilson, 1991). Although varied, these models
specify ways that team leaders can develop
members’ interpersonal skills, define members’
roles and expectations, deal with conflict and
interpersonal frictions, and help a team achieve
a level of “maturity” that lessens the team’s de-
pendence on its leader (Eden, 1985; Fischer, 1993;
Geber, 1992; Manz & Sims, 1987; Patten, 1981;
Rees, 1991; Torres & Spiegel, 2000; Woodman &
Sherwood, 1980).
Process Consultation
The process consultation approach developed
by Schein (1969, 1988) posits that competent in-
terpersonal relations are essential for effective
task performance and that group members
themselves must be intimately involved in ana-
lyzing and improving those relationships. The
consultant engages team members in analyzing
group processes on two levels simultaneously:
(1) the substantive level—to analyze how human
processes are affecting work on a specific organ-
izational problem—and (2) the internal level—to
better understand the team’s own interaction
processes and the ways that team processes
foster or impede effective group functioning
(Schein, 1988: 11–12). Decidedly clinical in orien-
tation, this type of coaching requires the process
consultant first to directly observe the group as
it works on a substantive organizational prob-
lem and then, once the group is ready, to intro-
duce systematic or confrontive interventions in-
tended to help the team deal with its problems
and exploit previously unrecognized opportuni-
Behavioral Models
Two distinct models of team coaching are
based on theories of individual behavior: (1) the
application of Argyris’s (1982, 1993) theory of in-
tervention to team-focused coaching by Schwarz
(1994) and (2) applications of operant condition-
ing to the modification of team behavior, nota-
bly those of Komaki (1986, 1998) and her col-
In his approach, Schwarz posits that coaches
should provide feedback to a team in ways that
help members learn new and more effective
team behaviors, especially in how they give and
receive feedback. The coaching process in-
volves three phases. First is observing actual
270 AprilAcademy of Management Review
group behavior both to note behaviors that are
impeding the group’s work and to identify be-
haviors not presently exhibited that might facil-
itate group work. Second is describing to the
group what has been observed and testing in-
ferences about the meanings of those behaviors.
And third is helping group members decide
whether they wish to change their behaviors
and, if so, how they might do so. The model
specifies several specific ground rules both for
the facilitators’ behaviors and for team mem-
bers’ behaviors, such as providing specific be-
havioral examples for points made, publicly
testing assumptions and inferences, and explic-
itly inviting questions and challenges.
The operant conditioning approach to team
coaching is based on the well-established prin-
ciple of individual learning that behavior is a
function of its consequences. Applied to teams,
operant coaching involves three kinds of coach-
ing behaviors: (1) providing instructions about
how to behave, (2) monitoring the team’s perfor-
mance, and (3) providing performance-contin-
gent consequences to the team (Komaki, 1986;
Smith, Smoll, & Curtis, 1979). Because the oper-
ant approach to team coaching does not specify
any particular patterns of team interaction that
facilitate effectiveness across different types of
teams and tasks, team coaches must have ex-
tensive task knowledge so that they can issue
proper instructions about desirable behaviors
and reinforce the team when it does well
(Komaki, 1998; Komaki, Deselles, & Bowman,
1989; Komaki & Minnich, 2002; Smoll & Smith,
Developmental Coaching
The distinguishing feature of the developmen-
tal approach to coaching is the central role
given to time and timing. Two premises on
which this approach is based are (1) that teams
need help with different issues at different
stages of their development and (2) that there
are times in the life cycles of groups when they
are more and less open to intervention (Kozlow-
ski, Gully, McHugh, Salas, & Cannon-Bowers,
1996; Kozlowski, Gully, Salas, & Cannon-Bowers,
A key coaching intervention in the develop-
mental approach is the “learning session,” in
which the coach and team members review the
team’s purpose, assess its progress thus far, and
identify the issues the team needs to deal with
next. The focus of learning sessions for newly
formed or “novice” groups (whose members are
mainly occupied with social issues of inclusion
and acceptance and task issues having to do
with team goals and with member skills and
roles) differs from that for more mature or “ex-
pert” groups (whose members have become
ready to learn strategies for self-regulation,
such as how best to detect and correct errors and
how best to adapt to changing external de-
mands). Because teams are unlikely to be able
to process intensive interventions when task de-
mands are also high, learning sessions are re-
served for periods of relatively low cognitive
demand. During intensive work periods, devel-
opmental coaches focus mainly on gathering
data about behavior and performance for use
guiding subsequent interventions. When task
demands diminish, active coaching resumes.
Most of the approaches to team coaching just
summarized are based on well-established psy-
chological principles and findings about human
learning and performance. Moreover, research
conducted within each tradition has been infor-
mative and, especially for the operant and de-
velopmental approaches, has generated empir-
ical findings that enrich our understanding
about coaching processes and outcomes. None
of the existing approaches, however, is sup-
ported by evidence that addresses all links in
the coaching intervention–team process–team
performance sequence. We seek here to provide
a conceptual model that does explicate all links
in that sequence, that takes explicit account of
teams’ temporal and organizational contexts,
and that provides a sound basis for generating
guidance for team coaching practice.
We begin by specifying what we mean by a
work team and what we mean by performance
effectiveness, which together bound the domain
of our model.
Work Teams
We focus only on full-fledged teams that per-
form tasks in social system contexts. Such teams
2005 271Hackman and Wageman
have three features. First, they are real groups.
That is, they are intact social systems, complete
with boundaries, interdependence among mem-
bers, and differentiated member roles (Alderfer,
1977). Members of real groups can be distin-
guished reliably from nonmembers, they are in-
terdependent for some common purpose, and
they invariably develop specialized roles within
the group. Real groups can be either small or
large and either temporary or long-lived.
Second, work teams have one or more group
tasks to perform. They produce some outcome for
which members bear collective responsibility
and for which acceptability is potentially as-
sessable. The kind of outcome produced is not
critical—it could be a physical product, a ser-
vice, a decision, a performance, or a written
report. Nor is it necessary that the outcome ac-
tually be assessed; all that is required is that the
group produce an outcome that can be identified
as its product and that it be theoretically possi-
ble to evaluate that product. Social groups and
other collectives that generate no identifiable
product fall outside our domain.
Finally, work teams operate in a social system
context. The team as a collective manages rela-
tionships with other individuals or groups in
some larger social system. Usually this social
system is the parent organization that created
the team, but it can be people or groups outside
that organization as well, such as opponents for
an athletic team or customers for a service-
providing team. What is critical is that team
members be collectively responsible for manag-
ing consequential transactions with other indi-
viduals and/or groups.
Team Performance Effectiveness
Criterion measures in empirical research on
team performance often consist of whatever
quantitative indicators happen to be available
or are easy to obtain (e.g., production figures for
industrial workgroups or number of correct re-
sponses for teams studied in experimental lab-
oratories). Such criteria of convenience do not
address other outcome dimensions, such as cli-
ent assessments of a team’s work, the degree to
which a team becomes stronger as a performing
unit over time, or the extent to which individual
members become more knowledgeable or
skilled as a result of their team experiences.
Because we believe that these dimensions also
are consequential for any team’s long-term or-
ganizational performance, we define team effec-
tiveness using the following three-dimensional
conception (adapted from Hackman, 1987).
1. The productive output of the team (i.e., its
product, service, or decision) meets or ex-
ceeds the standards of quantity, quality,
and timeliness of the team’s clients—the
people who receive, review, and/or use the
output. It is the clients’ standards and as-
sessments that count in assessing team
products—not those of the team itself (ex-
cept in rare cases where the team is the
client of its own work) or those of the team’s
manager (who only rarely is the person who
actually receives and uses a team’s output).
2. The social processes the team uses in car-
rying out the work enhance members’ capa-
bility of working together interdependently
in the future. Effective teams become adept
at detecting and correcting errors before se-
rious damage is done and at noticing and
exploiting emerging opportunities. They are
more capable performing units when they
finish a piece of work than when they be-
3. The group experience contributes positively
to the learning and personal well-being of
individual team members. Work teams can
serve as sites for personal learning and can
spawn satisfying interpersonal relation-
ships, but they also can deskill, frustrate,
and alienate their members. We do not
count as effective any team for which the net
impact of the group experience on members’
learning and well-being is more negative
than positive.
Although the three criteria vary in importance
in different circumstances, effective teams bal-
ance them over time, never completely sacrific-
ing any one to achieve the others. In the pages
that follow, we identify the coaching functions,
the temporal imperatives, and the contextual
circumstances that affect the degree to which
coaching behaviors can help a work team
achieve and sustain a high standing on all three
of the criteria.
Over four decades ago, McGrath first sug-
gested that “[The leader’s] main job is to do, or
get done, whatever is not being adequately han-
dled for group needs” (1962: 5). If a leader man-
ages, by whatever means, to ensure that all
272 AprilAcademy of Management Review
functions critical to group performance are
taken care of, the leader has done his or her job
well. Thus, a functional approach to leadership
leaves room for an indefinite number of ways to
get key group functions accomplished, and
avoids the necessity of delineating all the spe-
cific behaviors or styles a leader should exhibit
in given circumstances—a trap into which it is
easy for leadership theorists to fall.
What functions are most critical for team per-
formance effectiveness? Functions whose ac-
complishment are critical for group decision
making have been identified by Hirokawa and
Orlitzky (Hirokawa, 1985; Orlitzky & Hirokawa,
2001), and those that bear on other aspects of
group behavior have been comprehensively re-
viewed by Hollingshead et al. (in press). For our
specific and delimited purposes—that is, iden-
tification of the most critical functions served by
those who coach work teams—we focus on three
aspects of group interaction that have been
shown to be especially potent in shaping group
performance outcomes (Hackman & Morris, 1975;
Hackman & Walton, 1986).
Specifically, we posit that team effectiveness
is a joint function of three performance pro-
cesses: (1) the level of effort group members col-
lectively expend carrying out task work, (2) the
appropriateness to the task of the performance
strategies the group uses in its work,
and (3) the
amount of knowledge and skill members bring
to bear on the task. Any team that expends suf-
ficient effort in its work, deploys a task-
appropriate performance strategy, and brings
ample talent to bear on its work is quite likely to
achieve a high standing in the three criteria of
work team effectiveness specified earlier. By the
same token, teams that operate in ways that
leave one or more of these functions unful-
filled—that is, where members expend insuffi-
cient effort, use inappropriate strategies, and/or
apply inadequate talent in their work—are
likely to fall short in one or more of the effective-
ness criteria.
Associated with each of the three performance
processes are both a characteristic “process
loss” (Steiner, 1972) and an opportunity for pos-
itive synergy, which we call a “process gain.”
That is, members may interact in ways that de-
press the team’s effort, the appropriateness of its
strategy, and/or the utilization of member talent;
alternatively, their interaction may enhance col-
lective effort, generate uniquely appropriate
strategies, and/or actively develop members’
knowledge and skills.
Coaching functions are those interventions
that inhibit process losses and foster process
gains for each of the three performance pro-
cesses. Coaching that addresses effort is moti-
vational in character; its functions are to mini-
mize free riding or “social loafing” and to build
shared commitment to the group and its work.
Coaching that addresses performance strategy
is consultative in character; its functions are to
minimize mindless adoption or execution of task
performance routines in uncertain or changing
task environments and to foster the invention of
ways of proceeding with the work that are espe-
cially well aligned with task requirements.
Coaching that addresses knowledge and skill is
educational in character; its functions are to
minimize suboptimal weighting of members’
contributions (i.e., when the weight given to in-
dividual members’ contributions is at variance
with their actual talents) and to foster the devel-
opment of members’ knowledge and skill.
The three coaching functions specifically and
exclusively address a team’s task performance
processes—not members’ interpersonal rela-
tionships. This focus distinguishes our model
from the great majority of writing and practice
about team coaching, especially in the eclectic
tradition, which posits (sometimes explicitly but
more often implicitly) that coaching interven-
tions should primarily address the quality of
members’ interpersonal relationships.
The pervasive emphasis on interpersonal pro-
cesses in the team performance literature re-
flects a logical fallacy about the role of those
processes in shaping performance outcomes. To
illustrate, consider a team that is having perfor-
mance problems. Such teams often exhibit inter-
A team’s strategy is the set of choices members make
about how to carry out the work. For example, a manufac-
turing team might decide to divide itself into three sub-
groups, each of which would produce one subassembly, with
the final product to be assembled later. Or a basketball team
might decide to use modified zone defense, with one player
assigned to guard the opposing team’s best shooter. Or a
team performing a task that requires a creative solution
might choose to free associate about possible solutions in
the first meeting, reflect for a week about the ideas that
came up, and then reconvene to draft the product. All of
these are choices about task performance strategy.
2005 273Hackman and Wageman
personal difficulties, such as communications
breakdowns, conflict among members, leader-
ship struggles, and so on. Because both lay per-
sons and scholars implicitly rely on an input–
process– output framework in analyzing group
dynamics, it is natural to infer that the observed
interpersonal troubles are causing the perfor-
mance problems and, therefore, that a good way
to improve team performance would be to fix
them. As reasonable as this inference may
seem, it is neither logical nor correct. Although
serious interpersonal conflicts sometimes do un-
dermine team performance (Jehn & Mannix,
2001), it does not necessarily follow that the
proper coaching intervention in such cases is to
help members improve their interpersonal rela-
In fact, research suggests that, in some cir-
cumstances, the causal arrow points in the op-
posite direction—that is, performance drives in-
terpersonal processes (or, at least, perceptions
of those processes), rather than vice versa. For
example, Staw (1975) gave task-performing
teams false feedback about their performance
and then asked members to provide “objective”
descriptions of how members had interacted.
Teams randomly assigned to the high perfor-
mance condition reported more harmonious and
better communications, among other differ-
ences, than did groups assigned to the low per-
formance condition (see also Guzzo, Wagner,
Maguire, Herr, & Hawley, 1986).
Doubt also is cast on interpersonal ap-
proaches to coaching by action research that
seeks to improve team performance by improv-
ing the quality of members’ interactions. Some
of these studies use interventions based on the
process consultation approach to coaching re-
viewed earlier; others employ a broader set of
interventions that generally are referred to as
team building or group development activities.
Although interventions that address members’
relationships and interaction can be quite en-
gaging and do affect members’ attitudes, they
do not reliably improve team performance (for
reviews, see Kaplan, 1979; Salas, Rozell, Mullen,
& Driskell, 1999; Tannenbaum, Beard, & Salas,
1992; Woodman & Sherwood, 1980). Moreover,
those experimental studies that have directly
compared teams given task-focused and inter-
personally focused interventions have found the
former to significantly outperform the latter
(Kernaghan & Cooke, 1990; Woolley, 1998).
Proposition 1: Coaching interventions
that focus specifically on team effort,
strategy, and knowledge and skill fa-
cilitate team effectiveness more than
do interventions that focus on mem-
bers’ interpersonal relationships.
The efficacy of coaching interventions de-
pends not just on their focus, as discussed
above, but also on the time in the group’s life
cycle when they are made. Regularities in group
life cycles have been explored empirically for
many decades, beginning with Bales and Strodt-
beck’s (1951) classic study of phases in group
problem solving. In a number of conceptual
frameworks, scholars have sought to summarize
research findings about group development, the
most prominent being the “forming-storming-
norming-performing” model proposed by Tuck-
man (1965). Almost all of these frameworks have
treated group development as following a fixed
set of stages, with each successive stage being
contingent on successful completion of the prior
In recent years, research on temporal issues in
group behavior has raised doubt about the gen-
erality and validity of stage models (Ancona &
Chong, 1999; Gersick, 1988; Ginnett, 1993;
McGrath & Kelly, 1986; Moreland & Levine, 1988;
for a recent attempt to reconcile alternative tem-
poral models, see Chang, Bordia, & Duck, 2003).
Gersick’s findings are particularly relevant for
our purposes. In a field study of the life histories
of a number of project teams whose performance
periods ranged from several days to several
months, Gersick (1988) found that each of the
groups she tracked developed a distinctive ap-
proach toward its task as soon as it commenced
work, and each stayed with that approach until
precisely halfway between its first meeting and
its project deadline. At the midpoint of their
Woolley’s main effect finding was significantly condi
tioned by the timing of the intervention, and the Kernaghan
and Cook finding was obtained only for groups composed of
members with ample task-relevant abilities. We discuss the
moderating effects of timing and of group design on the
impact of coaching interventions later.
274 AprilAcademy of Management Review
lives, almost all teams underwent a major tran-
sition. In a concentrated burst of changes, they
dropped old patterns of behavior, reengaged
with outside supervisors, and adopted new per-
spectives on their work.
Following the midpoint
transition, groups entered a period of focused
task execution, which persisted until very near
the project deadline, at which time a new set of
issues having to do with termination processes
arose and captured members’ attention. Gersick
(1989) subsequently replicated these findings in
the experimental laboratory for groups that all
had the same amount of time to complete their
task (for alternative views of temporal dynamics
in task-performing groups, see Seers & Woo-
druff, 1997, and Waller, Zellmer-Bruhn, & Giam-
batista, 2002).
Gersick’s findings about the natural develop-
mental processes of task-performing groups
raise the possibility, consistent with both the
process consultation and developmental ap-
proaches to team coaching previously summa-
rized, that the readiness of work teams for coach-
ing interventions changes systematically across
their life cycles. By “readiness for coaching” we
mean (1) the degree to which the issues to be
addressed are among those naturally on team
members’ minds at the time of the intervention,
coupled with (2) the degree to which the team as
a whole is not at that time preoccupied with
more pressing or compelling matters.
We posit that coaching interventions are more
effective when they address issues a team is
ready for at the time they are made and, more-
over, that readiness varies systematically
across the team life cycle. In contrast, even com-
petently administered interventions are un-
likely to be helpful if they are provided at a time
in the life cycle when the team is not ready for
them. Indeed, ill-timed interventions may actu-
ally do more harm than good by distracting or
diverting a team from other issues that do re-
quire members’ attention at that time. We next
discuss the kinds of interventions that are most
appropriate at the beginnings, midpoints, and
ends of work team life cycles.
When team members first come together to
perform a piece of work, the most pressing piece
of business, both for members and for the team
as a whole, is for them to get oriented to one
another and to the task in preparation for the
start of actual work. This involves establishing
the boundary that distinguishes members from
nonmembers, starting to differentiate roles and
formulate norms about how members will work
together, and engaging with (and, inevitably,
redefining) the group task. These activities,
which involve simultaneous engagement with
the interpersonal and task issues that dominate
the start-up of any social system, create a high
state of readiness for anything that shows prom-
ise of reducing members’ uncertainties and
helping them get off to a good start. A coaching
intervention that helps a group have a good
“launch,” therefore, can significantly enhance
members’ commitment to the team and the task,
and thereby enhance their motivation to perform
the work of the team as well as they can.
The power and persistence of coaching be-
haviors at the launch of a task-performing team
are affirmed by Ginnett’s (1993) study of the be-
havior of airline captains during the first few
minutes of a newly formed crew’s life. The struc-
tural “shell” within which cockpit crews work is
quite detailed: the aircraft to be flown, where it
is to be flown, the roles of each crew member,
basic work procedures such as checklists, and
much more all are prespecified and well under-
stood by all crewmembers. Therefore, a new
crew should be able to proceed with its work
without spending time getting organized, which
is, in fact, what happens if a captain does not
conduct a launch briefing when the crew first
Consistent with Gersick’s results, Ginnett
(1993) found that what happened in the first few
minutes of crewmembers’ time together carried
In Gersick’s research it was not clear whether the mid
point transition was prompted externally (i.e., by reference
to a clock or calendar) or internally (i.e., by members’ sense
that about half their allotted time had elapsed). Mann (2001)
investigated this question experimentally by having groups
work in a room with a clock that ran normally, in one where
the clock ran one-third faster than normal (i.e., when thirty
minutes had passed, the clock showed that forty minutes
had elapsed), or in one where the clock ran one-third slower
than normal (i.e., at the thirty-minute mark it showed twenty
minutes). Groups with the normal clock experienced a single
midpoint transition, replicating earlier findings. But groups
with the faster and slower clocks exhibited two such transi-
tions—one at the midpoint indicated by the clock and the
other at the actual midpoint of the allotted time—showing
that groups pace their work in response to both internal and
external cues about elapsed time.
2005 275Hackman and Wageman
forward throughout a significant portion of the
crew’s life. Crews led by captains who merely
took the time in their preflight briefings to affirm
the positive features of the crew shell fared bet-
ter than those whose captains gave no briefing
at all or those whose captains undermined the
standard shell. Best of all were crews whose
captains went beyond mere affirmation and ac-
tively elaborated the shell—identifying, com-
menting on, and engaging their crews in a dis-
cussion of the unique circumstances of the trip
that was about to begin. These captains trans-
formed a highly competent set of individual pi-
lots into a motivated flight crew.
Because most work teams do not have struc-
tures as detailed and elaborate as those of cock-
pit crews, what happens as members come to-
gether and come to terms with their work should
shape their trajectories even more profoundly
than was the case for Ginnett’s crews. Begin-
nings provide a unique opportunity for motiva-
tional coaching interventions that breathe life
into a team’s structural shell—no matter how
rudimentary or how elaborate that shell may
be—and thereby help get a team off to a good
start with high motivational engagement by all
In contrast, and perhaps surprisingly, begin-
nings are not good times to help teams formu-
late work strategy. When they are just starting
out, teams are not yet ready to address ques-
tions of strategy, as Hackman, Brousseau, and
Weiss (1976) inadvertently discovered in an ex-
perimental study of team performance. These
researchers asked a subset of participating
teams to take a few minutes to reflect on their
performance strategy—that is, to consider vari-
ous ways of carrying out the task— before actu-
ally starting work on it. The investigators hy-
pothesized that these teams would perform
better than teams that were encouraged to
plunge immediately into the work— but only on
tasks for which the most obvious and natural
way of proceeding was not the optimum task
performance strategy.
To test their hypothesis, the researchers struc-
tured their experimental task in two different
ways. In one version of the task, the most obvi-
ous and natural way of proceeding was, in fact,
optimum for team performance; in a second ver-
sion, that way of proceeding would introduce
inefficiencies and result in suboptimal perfor-
mance. As expected, the “plunge right in”
groups did better than the “discuss your strat-
egy first” groups on the version of the task for
which the obvious way of proceeding was the
optimum strategy, and the reverse was true
when the obvious way of proceeding was sub-
Perhaps the most significant finding of the
study, however, is buried in the discussion sec-
tion of the research report—namely, that it was
nearly impossible to get the experimental
groups to actually have a discussion of perfor-
mance strategy at the start of the work period.
Only by structuring the strategy intervention as
a “preliminary task” and explicitly requiring the
team to check off each step as it was completed
could the experimental groups be induced to
have more than a perfunctory discussion of their
performance strategy at the beginning of the
work period. Beginnings are not a good time for
strategy discussions, but, as will be seen next,
midpoints are.
A second window for coaching interventions
opens around the midpoint of the team’s work.
At that point the team has logged some experi-
ence with the task, providing data for members
to use in assessing what is working well and
poorly. Moreover, the team is likely to have ex-
perienced an upheaval, driven in part by mem-
bers’ anxieties about the amount of work they
have accomplished relative to the time they
have remaining, that opens the possibility of
significant change in how the team operates
(Gersick, 1988, 1989). For these reasons, readi-
ness for a strategy-focused coaching interven-
tion is high at the temporal midpoint of a team’s
We posit that ongoing teams having no dead-
line, and therefore no temporal midpoint, also
experience increased readiness for strategy-
focused interventions when they are about half-
way finished with the work—for example, when
they have consumed half of their available re-
sources, have progressed halfway to their goal,
or have arrived at some other natural break
point in the work. At that time members are
more likely than previously to welcome and be
helped by interventions that encourage them to
assess their work progress, to review how they
are applying members’ efforts and talents to the
work, and to consider how they might want to
276 AprilAcademy of Management Review
alter their task performance strategies to better
align them with external requirements and in-
ternal resources.
The increased receptivity to coaching inter-
ventions that encourage reflection on team work
strategies by teams that have logged some ex-
perience, relative to those that are just starting
out, is a tenet of developmental theories of team
coaching (e.g., Kozlowski, Gully, McHugh, Salas,
& Cannon-Bowers, 1996) and is empirically sup-
ported by the findings of Woolley (1998), men-
tioned earlier. Woolley created an experimental
version of an architectural task that involved
constructing a model of a college residence hall
out of LEGO® bricks. Groups were informed in
advance how the structures they created would
be evaluated (criteria included sturdiness, aes-
thetics, and various technical indices). She de-
vised two coaching-type interventions— one in-
tended to improve members’ interpersonal
relationships and one that provided assistance
to the team in developing a task-appropriate
performance strategy. Each team received only
one intervention, administered either at the be-
ginning or at the midpoint of its work period.
Woolley’s findings, shown in Figure 1, confirm
that strategy interventions are especially help-
ful when they come near the midpoint of a
team’s work cycle. When the strategy interven-
tion was provided at the beginning of the work
period, it did not help, further affirming that
members need to log some experience before
they are ready to have a useful discussion of
how best to proceed with their work. This con-
clusion deals specifically with the timing of ex-
ternal interventions intended to foster team
strategy planning. When work teams spontane-
ously engage in planning activities in their ini-
tial team meetings, process management norms
sometimes emerge that are subsequently help-
ful in pacing and coordinating team activities
(Janicik & Bartel, 2003).
In both the Woolley (1998) study and the ex-
periment by Hackman et al. (1976) described ear-
lier, it was difficult but possible to introduce a
strategy-focused intervention at the beginning
of a task cycle. In other cases it is impossible to
do so. Total quality management programs, for
example, involve use of such techniques as Pa-
reto analyses, control charts, and cost-of-quality
analyses to develop improved production strat-
egies (for details, see Hackman & Wageman,
1995). These techniques simply cannot be used
until a record of experience with existing strat-
egies has been amassed— once again affirming
that consultative coaching is more appropri-
ately provided around the middle of a task cycle
than at its beginning.
The third special opportunity for coaching oc-
curs at the end of a performance period, when
the work is finished or a significant subtask has
been accomplished (Kozlowski, Gully, Salas, &
Cannon-Bowers, 1996). The end of a task cycle is
Woolley’s Findings About the Focus and Timing of Coaching
Adapted from Woolley (1998).
2005 277Hackman and Wageman
the time when a team has as much data as it is
likely to get for members to use in exploring
what can be learned from the collective work
just completed. Moreover, a team is likely to be
far more ready at this point than previously to
capture and internalize the lessons that can be
learned from their work experiences, for several
reasons. The anxieties that invariably surface in
getting a piece of work organized, executed, and
finished on time dissipate once that work is
completed—significant, because people do not
learn well when brimming with anxieties (Ed-
mondson, 1999; Zajonc, 1965). Moreover, once the
task has been finished, there often is time for
reflection, which typically is in short supply in
the rush to completion. The postperformance pe-
riod, therefore, is an especially inviting time for
educational coaching interventions (see also
Blickensderfer, Cannon-Bowers, & Salas, 1997;
Butler, 1993; Ellis, Mendel, Nir, & Davidi, 2002).
Such interventions not only build the team’s res-
ervoir of talent, which increases its performance
capabilities for subsequent tasks, but also con-
tribute directly to the personal learning of indi-
vidual team members.
Absent coaching interventions, team mem-
bers are not likely to take initiatives after the
work has been completed to capture and inter-
nalize the lessons that could be learned from
their experiences. If the team has succeeded,
members may be more interested in celebrating
than in reflecting, and if it has not, they may be
driven more to rationalize why the failure was
not really their fault than to explore what might
be learned from it. Moreover, even if members
do take the time to reflect on possible explana-
tions for the team’s level of performance, coach-
ing may be required to bring those explanations
into alignment with reality.
In a field study of team attribution-making
processes, Corn (2000) collected a diverse sam-
ple of task-performing teams in organizations,
some of which had performed well and some of
which had not, and asked members of each
team to explain why the team had performed as
it did. The majority of those explanations fo-
cused on the behaviors or dispositions of indi-
vidual members or of the team leader. This at-
tributional bias diverts members’ attention from
the ways that less salient structural or contex-
tual factors may have shaped their interaction
and performance. Moreover, it invites the psy-
chodynamic phenomenon of “splitting,” which
can result in having leaders assigned a dispro-
portionate share of the credit for team successes
and minority members a disproportionate share
of the blame for team failures (Smith & Berg,
1987: Chapter 4). Competent, well-timed coach-
ing can help members work through such im-
pulses and generate collective learning that
strengthens the team’s capabilities as a task-
performing unit.
We have seen that work teams are especially
open to coaching interventions at three times in
the group life cycle: (1) at the beginning, when a
group is engaging with its task; (2) at the mid-
point, when half the allotted time has passed
and/or half the work has been done; and (3) at
the end, when a piece of work has been finished.
Moreover, each of the three coaching functions
discussed in the previous section of this article
is uniquely appropriate at one of those three
times: motivational coaching at beginnings,
consultative coaching at midpoints, and educa-
tional coaching at ends.
The time dependence of the coaching func-
tions is summarized in our second proposition.
Proposition 2: Each of the three coach-
ing functions has the greatest con-
structive effect at specific times in the
team task cycle. Specifically, (a) moti-
vational coaching is most helpful
when provided at the beginning of a
performance period, (b) consultative
coaching is most helpful when pro-
vided at the midpoint of a perfor-
mance period, and (c) educational
coaching is most helpful when pro-
vided after performance activities
have been completed.
This proposition could be viewed as suggest-
ing that coaching is irrelevant or ineffectual
during the great majority of a team’s time—that
is, in the extended periods that lie between its
beginning, midpoint, and end. It is true that
teams are remarkably impervious to interven-
tions, made during times of low readiness, that
seek to alter their established trajectories. Even
so, it often is possible for coaching to make
small but significant contributions to the team
and its work during between-marker periods.
278 AprilAcademy of Management Review
One such contribution is to help members co-
ordinate their activities and thereby minimize
the risks of tacit coordination identified by Wit-
tenbaum, Vaughan, and Stasser (1998). Leaders
who take on too much of the responsibility for
coordination do run the risk of becoming so in-
volved in the actual work that they overlook
opportunities to help the team develop into an
increasingly competent performing unit. And
team members may eventually abdicate to the
leader their own responsibilities for managing
team performance processes. Still, when task
complexity is very high and/or when members
are relatively inexperienced, helping members
coordinate their activities can be an appropriate
and helpful coaching intervention.
A second kind of between-marker coaching
that can be helpful to work teams is the use of
operant techniques to reinforce constructive but
infrequently observed team behaviors, such as
verbally reinforcing a team for exhibiting good
work processes (Komaki et al., 1989). Consistent
with the tenets of the operant model of team
coaching summarized earlier, these initiatives
can both increase the frequency of desirable
behaviors and decrease the frequency of unde-
sirable behaviors. However, such initiatives
may be especially helpful for teams whose ba-
sic performance processes—that is, their man-
agement of team effort, strategy, and talent—
are already strong. Even well-designed and
well-executed reinforcement of desirable team
behaviors cannot compensate for the absence of
well-timed motivational, consultative, and edu-
cational coaching interventions.
Most of the research evidence supporting the
proposition that teams are especially open to
motivational, consultative, and educational in-
terventions at their beginnings, midpoints, and
ends comes from teams that have a single task
to complete by a specified deadline. The task
cycles of such teams are coincident with their
life cycles, and, therefore, temporal markers are
easy to identify. For many work teams in orga-
nizations, however, tasks and deadlines are not
so clear and well defined. For example, some
teams have multiple tasks to perform, perform
the same task multiple times, or have work that
requires members to manage multiple task cy-
cles simultaneously in the service of larger per-
formance goals (Marks, Mathieu, & Zaccaro,
2001). Opportunities for temporally appropriate
coaching interventions are abundant for such
teams, because they experience multiple begin-
nings, midpoints, and ends.
Still other teams operate continuously, with-
out any official beginnings or ends whatsoever.
Many industrial production teams, for example,
keep on turning out the same products month
after month, indefinitely into the future. Even
teams with continuous tasks, however, usually
have beginnings, midpoints, and ends. They
have them because the teams, or their manag-
ers, create them.
There appears to be a human compulsion to
create temporal markers, even when no such
markers are actually needed. In a semiconduc-
tor manufacturing plant that operated continu-
ously all year (except for an annual holiday
break when the entire plant closed down), for
instance, production activities were organized
around six-week performance periods, and team
dynamics were highly responsive to the begin-
nings, midpoints, and ends of these entirely ar-
bitrary temporal markers (Abramis, 1990; Hack-
man, 2002). The creation of quarters to demark
financial reporting periods and semesters (or
quarters) to organize educational activities in
schools have the same character: they are arbi-
trary but nonetheless powerful in shaping the
rhythm of collective activity.
Temporal rhythms are deeply rooted in hu-
man experience, and if temporal markers are
not naturally provided (e.g., through human bi-
ology or seasonal cycles), we create them and
then use them to pace our activities. Such mark-
ers identify the beginnings, midpoints, and ends
of team life cycles, and they thereby create op-
portunities for coaching interventions that oth-
erwise would not exist.
The impact of motivational, consultative, and
educational coaching depends not just on the
time in the task cycle at which interventions are
made but also on the degree to which two other
conditions are in place. The first of these condi-
tions is the degree to which key performance
processes are externally constrained, and the
second is the degree to which the group itself is
a well-designed performing unit.
2005 279Hackman and Wageman
Task and Organizational Constraints
Not all of the coaching functions specified
here are salient for all team tasks, since for
some tasks only one or two of the three perfor-
mance processes drive performance outcomes.
For an arithmetic task with a self-confirming
answer, for example, the performance of a team
that has accepted and engaged with its task is
almost entirely a function of the knowledge and
skill its members apply in their work. In con-
trast, performance on a simple, self-paced pro-
duction task, such as moving materials from one
place to another, is almost entirely a function of
the level of effort members expend.
Thus, if one of the three performance pro-
cesses is constrained (i.e., if variation in that
process is controlled or limited by the task or the
organization), then any attempts by members to
manage that particular process will be ineffec-
tual. If, however, a performance process is not
constrained, then how well members manage
that process can substantially affect their
team’s eventual performance.
The salience of effort is constrained by the
degree to which work inputs are under external
control. When the arrival of the materials a team
processes is controlled externally (e.g., by cus-
tomer demand or machine pacing), a team can
only respond to whatever it receives and will be
unable to increase its output by working espe-
cially hard. In such circumstances the relation-
ship between team effort and performance is
severely restricted.
The salience of strategy is constrained by the
degree to which performance operations are ex-
ternally determined. When work procedures are
completely prespecified (e.g., by mechanical re-
quirements or by a manual that specifies ex-
actly how the work is to be done), a team has
little latitude to develop a new or better task
performance strategy. In such circumstances the
relationship between team performance strate-
gies and performance is severely restricted.
Finally, the salience of knowledge and skill is
constrained by the degree to which performance
operations are simple and predictable (versus
complex and unpredictable). When task perfor-
mance requires the use of skills that are well
learned in the general population on tasks that
are well understood, a team is unable to im-
prove its performance by bringing additional
knowledge or skill to bear on the work. In such
circumstances the relationship between the
team’s utilization of member talent and team
performance is severely restricted.
In some organizational circumstances all
three of the performance processes are uncon-
strained, and all three, therefore, are salient in
affecting performance outcomes. Consider, for
example, the work of product development
teams. The pace of the work is largely at the
discretion of the team, performance procedures
are mostly unprogrammed, and the work re-
quires use of complex skills to deal with consid-
erable uncertainty in the environment. Motiva-
tional, consultative, and educational coaching
interventions, if competently provided, all can
be helpful in fostering the performance effec-
tiveness of such teams.
In other circumstances some performance pro-
cesses are constrained and others are not. Sur-
gical teams are one example (Edmondson, Boh-
mer, & Pisano, 2001). There is little constraint
regarding the use of knowledge and skill by
team members but moderate constraint on both
strategy (some but not all procedures are pro-
grammed) and effort (some but not all task in-
puts derive from the nature of the surgical pro-
cedure and the response of the patient as the
operation progresses). Finally, there are some
circumstances in which all three performance
processes are constrained, as for a team work-
ing on a mechanized assembly line where in-
puts are machine paced, assembly procedures
are completely programmed, and performance
operations are simple and predictable. A team
assigned such a task would be a team in name
only, since performance would depend so little
on how members interacted.
Teams can be helped by coaching interven-
tions that focus specifically on reducing process
losses and/or on fostering process gains only for
those aspects of team performance processes
that are relatively unconstrained. Coaching in-
terventions that address team processes that
are substantially constrained will be ineffec-
tual, since they seek to improve team processes
that are not salient for how well the team per-
forms. Such interventions can even compromise
performance because they consume members’
time and direct their attention away from more
salient aspects of their interaction.
Proposition 3: Coaching interventions
are helpful only when they address
280 AprilAcademy of Management Review
team performance processes that are
salient for a given task; those that ad-
dress nonsalient processes are, at best,
Group Design
Certain features of a team’s design, including
properties of the social system context within
which it operates, can negate the impact of
coaching interventions, even those that are well
executed and that address appropriate team
performance processes. Moreover, design fea-
tures can exacerbate the effects of good and
poor coaching on team effectiveness, heighten-
ing the benefits of good coaching and making
even worse the problems brought about by poor
Each of the three performance processes that
form the core of our model—the level of effort the
team expends on its task, the appropriateness of
its performance strategies, and the amount of
knowledge and skill it applies to the work—is
shaped not only by coaching interventions but
also by how well a team is structured and by the
level of contextual support provided (Hackman,
Wageman, Ruddy, & Ray, 2000).
The effort a team expends on its work is influ-
enced by the design of its task (a structural
feature) and by the reward system of the orga-
nization in which the team operates (a contex-
tual support). A motivating team task is a whole
and meaningful piece of work for which mem-
bers share responsibility and accountability
and one that is structured so that members re-
ceive regular and trustworthy data about how
they are doing. Well-designed team tasks foster
high, task-focused effort by team members
(Hackman & Oldham, 1980). Team effort is en-
hanced by organizational reward systems that
recognize and reinforce team excellence—and
that avoid the common, if usually unintended,
problem of providing disincentives for collabo-
ration among team members by placing them in
competition with one another for individual re-
wards (Wageman, 1995).
The task appropriateness of a team’s perfor-
mance strategy is influenced by its core norms
of conduct (a structural feature) and by the or-
ganizational information system (a contextual
support). Collective expectations about accept-
able behavior are either “imported” to the group
by members or established very early in its life
(Bettenhausen & Murnighan, 1985; Gersick,
1988), and they tend to remain in place until and
unless something fairly dramatic occurs to force
a rethinking about what behaviors are and are
not appropriate (Gersick & Hackman, 1990; Louis
& Sutton, 1991). When those upfront norms of
conduct actively promote continuous scanning
of the performance situation and proactive plan-
ning of how members will work together, they
facilitate the development of task performance
strategies that are appropriate for the team’s
task and situation (Hackman et al., 1976; Wool-
ley, 1998). The appropriateness of a team’s per-
formance strategies also depends, however, on
the degree to which the organizational informa-
tion system makes available to the team what-
ever data and projections members may need to
select or invent ways of proceeding that are well
tuned to their circumstances (Abramis, 1990; Bik-
son, Cohen, & Mankin, 1999).
The level of knowledge and skill a team
brings to bear on its work is influenced by the
composition of the team (a structural feature)
and by the organizational education system (a
contextual support). Well-composed teams have
members who bring to the group a rich array of
task-relevant knowledge and skills, and they
are structured so that members’ talents can be
drawn on readily in pursuing team purposes.
Such teams are as small as possible, given the
work to be accomplished, they include members
who have appropriate skills, and they have a
good mix of members—people who are neither
so similar to one another that they are like peas
from the same pod nor so different that they risk
having difficulty communicating and coordinat-
ing with one another (Ancona & Caldwell, 1992;
Campion, Medsker, & Higgs, 1993; Druskat, 1996;
Goodman & Shah, 1992; Jackson, 1992).
Even well-composed teams, however, may not
have within their boundaries all of the talent
required for excellent performance. Organiza-
tional education systems can supplement inter-
nal resources by making available to teams, at
the teams’ initiative, technical or educational
assistance for any aspects of the work for which
members are not already knowledgeable,
skilled, or experienced, including, if necessary,
assistance honing members’ skills in working
together on collective tasks (Stevens & Yarish,
Research evidence clearly establishes the pri-
ority of structural and contextual features over
2005 281Hackman and Wageman
coaching behaviors as influences on team per-
formance processes and outcomes (Cohen, Led-
ford, & Spreitzer, 1996). For example, Wageman
(2001) found, in a study of field service teams at
the Xerox Corporation, that team design fea-
tures, including those described just above, con-
trolled significantly more variance in both the
level of team self-management and in perfor-
mance effectiveness than did team leaders’
coaching behaviors. For team self-management,
design features controlled 42 percent of the vari-
ance, compared to less than 10 percent for mea-
sures that assessed the quality of leaders’
coaching activities; for team performance, de-
sign controlled 37 percent of the variance, com-
pared to less than 1 percent for coaching. These
findings are consistent with other evidence,
cited earlier, showing that even highly compe-
tent process-focused coaching by team leaders
or consultants rarely generates substantial or
enduring improvements in team processes or
performance, and with the more general finding
that coaching cannot prevail against strong
structural and contextual forces (Hackman,
1987). It is nearly impossible to coach a team to
greatness in a performance situation that under-
mines rather than supports teamwork.
When, then, can coaching make a constructive
difference in team performance processes? We
propose that coaching makes relatively small
adjustments to an already defined trajectory.
When a team’s performance situation is favor-
able, competent coaching can be helpful to
members in minimizing process losses and cre-
ating process gains. When a team’s structure is
flawed and/or its context is unsupportive, how-
ever, even competent process-focused coaching
may do more harm than good.
Proposition 4: Competent coaching in-
terventions (i.e., those that foster col-
lective effort, task-appropriate perfor-
mance strategies, and good use of
member knowledge and skill) are
more beneficial for groups that are
well structured and supported than for
those that are not; poor coaching in-
terventions (i.e., those that subvert
team performance processes) are more
detrimental for teams that are poorly
structured and supported than for
those that are well designed.
Further findings from the Wageman (2001)
study described above provide evidence in sup-
How Team Design and Leader Coaching Jointly Affect Team Self-Management
282 AprilAcademy of Management Review
port of this proposition. As seen in the left panel
of Figure 2, competent coaching (e.g., conduct-
ing a problem-solving process) helped well-
designed teams exploit their favorable circum-
stances but made little difference for poorly
designed teams. Poor coaching (e.g., identifying
a team’s problems and telling members how
they should solve them), in contrast, was much
more deleterious for poorly designed teams than
for those that had an enabling team structure
and a supportive organizational context (right
panel of Figure 2).
The interaction between a team’s design and
the efficacy of coaching interventions may help
explain the finding from “brainstorming” re-
search that the pooled ideas of individuals
working alone generally exceed in both quan-
tity and quality the product of interacting brain-
storming groups (Taylor, Berry, & Block, 1957).
Studies of brainstorming typically use either ad
hoc groups created especially for research pur-
poses (e.g., Cohen, Whitmyre, & Funk, 1960) or
existing organizational groups whose members
are asked to take time from their regular work to
participate in the research (e.g., Osborn, 1963).
On the one hand, if the participating teams’
design features are suboptimal—not unlikely
for ad hoc or serendipitously obtained groups—
it would not be surprising to find that brain-
storming fails to facilitate creative team perfor-
mance. For teams that have enabling structures
and supportive contexts, on the other hand, this
particular coaching intervention—as well as
others that require teams to be able to use non-
traditional and unfamiliar group process tools—
might well generate substantial performance
In sum, even competent coaching is unlikely
to be of much help to groups that have poor
structures and/or unsupportive organizational
contexts. Favorable performance situations,
however, can yield a double benefit: teams are
likely to have less need for coaching (because
they encounter fewer problems that lie beyond
their own capabilities), and the coaching that
they do receive is likely to be more helpful to
them (because they are not preoccupied with
more basic, structurally rooted difficulties). Over
time, such teams may become skilled at coach-
ing themselves and may even enter into a self-
fueling spiral of ever-increasing team capabil-
ity and performance effectiveness (Lindsley,
Brass, & Thomas, 1995).
In the present model we posit that team
coaching can foster team effectiveness only
when four conditions are present. Two of these
conditions have to do with organizational cir-
cumstances and two with coaches’ actions.
1. The group performance processes that are
key to performance effectiveness (i.e., effort,
strategy, and knowledge and skill) are rela-
tively unconstrained by task or organization-
al requirements.
2. The team is well designed and the organi-
zational context within which it operates
supports rather than impedes team work.
3. Coaching behaviors focus on salient task
performance processes rather than on mem-
bers’ interpersonal relationships or on pro-
cesses that are not under the team’s control.
4. Coaching interventions are made at times
when the team is ready for them and able to
deal with them—that is, at the beginning for
effort-related (motivational) interventions,
near the midpoint for strategy-related (con-
sultative) interventions, and at the end of a
task cycle for (educational) interventions
that address knowledge and skill.
When these four conditions are present, skill-
fully provided coaching can yield substantial
and enduring improvements in team effective-
ness. Yet these conditions are not commonly
found in traditionally designed and managed
work organizations. Organizational work de-
signs often constrain one or more of the three
performance processes that drive team perfor-
mance; organizational systems do not provide
the supports that work teams need; and coaches,
when trained at all, are taught the leadership
styles preferred by trainers rather than helped
to learn how to provide well-timed and appro-
priately focused interventions using their own
preferred styles (Hackman, 2002; Hackman &
Walton, 1986).
One could conclude, therefore, that few schol-
arly resources should be expended on research
on team coaching because it is of so little con-
sequence. Moreover, one could view the reports
from the field (cited in the introduction to this
paper) that team leaders spend less time on
team coaching than on any other category of
leader behavior as a sign of team leaders’ wis-
dom. Rather than spend time on an activity that
so rarely makes a difference, leaders might be
better advised to focus on aspects of their lead-
2005 283Hackman and Wageman
ership portfolio for which there is a greater re-
turn from effort expended.
We believe such conclusions would be too
pessimistic—for scholars and practitioners
alike. Scholars with an interest in senior execu-
tive leadership have for many years debated
just how much of a difference CEOs make in the
performance of their firms. These disputes,
which probably can never be resolved empiri-
cally, have now given way to a more tractable
question—namely, under what conditions does
senior leadership matter (Wasserman, Anand, &
Nohria, 2001)? We suggest that a similar refram-
ing of research questions about team coaching
may be warranted. That is, instead of asking,
“How much difference does team coaching
make?” scholars might more productively ex-
pend resources in further research on the struc-
tural and contextual conditions under which
competent team coaching does (and does not)
significantly affect team performance.
The conduct of such research poses several
significant challenges. For one thing, it is far
from straightforward to measure leader behav-
iors and group processes reliably as they unfold
in real time in fluid organizational circum-
stances. And since the effects of team coaching
are determined jointly by factors that exist at
multiple levels of analysis (i.e., the organization-
al, team, and individual levels), it is necessary
to locate or create research settings where there
is ample variation at all three levels (Hackman,
2003). Studies of coaching effectiveness cannot
simply take as given whatever structural and
contextual features are commonly found either
in the experimental laboratory or in organiza-
tional life.
Indeed, it may be necessary in research on
team coaching, as sometimes must be done in
other scientific fields, such as medical research
and subatomic physics, to first create one’s phe-
nomenon of interest before conducting research
on its dynamics (Argyris, 1969). Research in lab-
oratory settings, for example, could involve the
construction and administration of model-
specified coaching interventions at times either
consistent or inconsistent with the model’s prop-
ositions and then assessment of the conse-
quences for group dynamics and performance.
And action research in field settings could as-
sess the impact of educational programs in-
tended to help team coaches design interven-
tions specifically tailored to the task and
organizational circumstances within which
their teams operate. It is highly doubtful that
any single laboratory or field study could com-
prehensively assess all the propositions of the
present model. But studies that test individual
propositions by creating specific coaching inter-
ventions and documenting their effects in con-
texts that are thoughtfully created or selected
can, over time, provide the knowledge required
to correct and refine the model.
The challenges for coaching practitioners are
just as great as for scholars, and for the same
reasons. Rather than simply taking as given the
circumstances in which their teams operate,
practitioners who lead work teams should give
first priority to determining whether the basic
structural and contextual conditions that foster
team effectiveness are in place (Hackman, 2002).
If they are not, team leaders would be well ad-
vised to exercise influence with their own peers
and supervisors to create those conditions, and
thereby to make competent team coaching pos-
sible. We hope the model of team coaching set
forth in this article is of some use to practition-
ers in orienting and prioritizing such initiatives,
as well as to scholars in conducting informative
research about work teams and the behaviors of
those who lead them.
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J. Richard Hackman is professor of social and organizational psychology at Harvard
University. He received his bachelor’s degree in mathematics from MacMurray Col-
lege and his Ph.D. in psychology from the University of Illinois. His research interests
include social influences on behavior in organizations and analysis of the conditions
that foster work team effectiveness.
Ruth Wageman is an associate professor at the Tuck School of Business, Dartmouth
College. She received her bachelor’s degree in psychology from Columbia University
and her Ph.D. in organizational behavior from Harvard University. Her research
interests include power dynamics in teams, leader development and behavior, and
the performance of senior management teams.
2005 287Hackman and Wageman
... Teambuilding can be defined as "interventions designed to improve effectiveness in working together by confronting and resolving problems (Boss 1983). Hackman and Wageman (2005), refined this improvement of effectiveness to refer to "productive output, social processes and wellbeing of individual team members. These three outcomes of teambuilding are enlarged by a fourth dimension, organizational alignment as proposed by Thompson (2004). ...
... Communication enables teammates to exchange information to affect the team's attitudes, behaviors, and cognition. Coaching is a leadership behavior to help teammates achieve team goals (Fleishman, et al., 1991;Hackman and Wageman, 2005). Cognition allows teams to have a shared understanding of how to engage in the tasks (Salas et al., 2015). ...
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Effective leadership and organizational performance are concepts that continue to receive widespread attention in the business world. This book explores the importance of strategic leadership and the value it adds to organizations. It focuses on strategies to achieve market success and organizational performance as well as the challenges of leading in a fluctuating market. The book looks at recent trends in leadership development and the different styles of leadership. It dispels existing myths about leadership and offers an understanding of principles which will allow leaders to be more adaptable and effective and steer businesses and organizations into a more stable future. This book will be of interest to researchers and students working in the field of business, organizational communication, business management, human resource management and business studies.
This scoping review offers a comprehensive synthesis of the literature on team PsyCap. Based on a sample of 31 studies, our review indicates that (1) researchers have been somewhat inconsistent in how they operationalize team PsyCap, (2) gaps still remain in the nomological network of team PsyCap, (3) previous studies have mostly relied on time-insensitive designs, and (4) there is a thin use of theory when it comes to the explanation of the emergence of team PsyCap. In response, we highlight how issues pertaining to composition models contribute to clarify the nature of the team PsyCap construct, we propose interesting avenues for future research, and we introduce a temporal and recurring phase model of the emergence of team PsyCap.
Background Effective teams are essential to high-quality healthcare. However, teams, team-level constructs, and team effectiveness strategies are poorly delineated in implementation science theories, models, and frameworks (TMFs), hindering our understanding of how teams may influence implementation. The Exploration, Preparation, Implementation, Sustainment (EPIS) framework is a flexible and accommodating framework that can facilitate the application of team effectiveness approaches in implementation science. Main Text We define teams and provide an overview of key constructs in team effectiveness research. We describe ways to conceptualize different types of teams and team constructs relevant to implementation within the EPIS framework. Three case examples illustrate the application of EPIS to implementation studies involving teams. Within each study, we describe the structure of the team and how team constructs influenced implementation processes and outcomes. Conclusions Integrating teams and team constructs into the EPIS framework demonstrates how TMFs can be applied to advance our understanding of teams and implementation. Implementation strategies that target team effectiveness may improve implementation outcomes in team-based settings. Incorporation of teams into implementation TMFs is necessary to facilitate application of team effectiveness research in implementation science.
As organizations become more crisis-ridden, they are struggling with limited resources for business survival and continuity in crisis management. Lately, Covid-19 imposed social distancing which reflects on alternative ways of performing jobs through virtual teams and online jobs. Traditional leadership theories seem inadequate in these new job contexts, proactive crisis theories are still minor, and new leadership theories consistently proved the need to switch to team leadership approaches as shared leadership. The authors aim through this chapter to address the need for novel approaches to crisis management through team proactivity, self-efficacy, and shared leadership. The authors develop a conceptual theoretical framework that outlines the relationships between the concepts of team proactivity, self-efficacy, and shared leadership. This study extends the literature review through exploring team proactivity which is marginally studied in comparison to individual proactivity.
Assigned 18 logistics units in the Israel Defense Forces to either experimental (team development [TD]) or control conditions to determine the effect of TD on team organization and functioning. The 9 experimental units underwent a 3-day TD workshop. 30 subordinates in each unit completed questionnaires describing their unit before and after TD. Although subjective after-only reports of the command personnel who had participated in the workshops were positive, more rigorous before–after comparisons among both command personnel and subordinates demonstrated that TD failed to improve organizational functioning. It is suggested that instead of using a dichotomous approach to evaluation (either the intervention worked or it did not), a battery of ordered evaluation criteria should be used to show how far an intervention went. (21 ref)
The objective of this chapter is to change the focus of crewmembers from solely a perspective of competent individuals coming together to do work to a perspective that acknowledges that a crew, group, or team has certain unique characteristics that cannot be explained at the individual level. Further, these group concepts are critical for performance and should be understood and leveraged by anyone who considers leading a crew. The study presents some examples of crew failure and then introduces a few critical group-based concepts. Paramount among these will be group dynamics and leadership. It details four specific areas in which the captain can create effective conditions for crew work. It briefly reviews a NASA-funded research project and examines the importance of leadership during the formation process of crews and discusses some of the unexpected results of that study. The concept of organizational shells is also introduced to explain the surprising findings. Lastly, the implications for effective crew leadership are discussed.
Little League Baseball coaches were exposed to a preseason training program designed to assist them in relating more effectively to children. Empirically derived behavioral guidelines were presented and modeled, and behavioral feedback and self-monitoring were used to enhance self-awareness and to encourage compliance with the guidelines. Trained coaches differed from controls in both overt and player-perceived behaviors in a manner consistent with the behavioral guidelines. They were also evaluated more positively by their players, and a higher level of intrateam attraction was found on their teams despite the fact that they did not differ from controls in won-lost records. Children who played for the trained coaches exhibited a significant increase in general self-esteem compared with scores obtained a year earlier; control group children did not. The greatest differences in attitudes toward trained and control coaches were found among children low in self-esteem, and such children appeared most sensitive to variations in coaches' use of encouragement, punishment, and technical instruction.