High-Performance Teams: What the research says

High-Performance Teams - Special Report

How to develop high-performance teams: The research evidence

Many people in organisations talk about developing high-performance teams and organisations strive to understand how to develop them. In this Oxford Review special report, we have a look at what the research evidence actually says about the characteristics of high-performance teams.

Most of us work in teams at some point

The importance of teams to many organisations is obvious. A 2013 study of 831 companies around the world found that employees on average tend to spend 54% of their time working within teams. It was found that employees in China spend higher amounts of time than average in teams where employees tend to spend an average of 64.8% of their time in a team setting. The country with the lowest average time spent working in a team is South Africa, where the average is 47%. America had an average of 51.4% of an employee’s time being spent in teams.

The average amount of time employees in teams by country

A recent survey found the average amount of time employees spend working in teams differs from country to country with employees in China topping the chart:

  • China 64.8%
  • India 59%
  • Germany 58.7%
  • Russia 58.6%
  • France 56.9%
  • Brazil 55.8%
  • Argentina 54.5%
  • UK 52.8%
  • Italy 52.8%
  • Australia 52.6%
  • Indonesia 51.8%
  • United States 51.4%
  • Japan 48.3%
  • Canada 47.5%
  • South Africa 47%

Virtual teams

Additionally a 2016 study found that approximately 46% of organisations across the world use virtual teams, with an average of 66% of organisations outside of America making use of virtual teams. It is expected that these figures have grown significantly since the publication of that study in 2016.

What is a high-performance team?

Whilst just about all of us have worked in teams before, very few have worked in high-performance teams. But what is a high-performance team?

Put simply, a high-performance team is one that exceeds all reasonable expectations and produces extraordinary results.


High-Performance Teams - Special Report

Studies have found that the problem with having a tighter definition of a high-performance team is that it is highly contextual. Using a measure, like achieving goals or outcomes, only works where those goals and outcomes are achievable and where they stay static. For instance, a team working through a disaster may need to change their goals and expectations. And yet, in the circumstances, if they exceed all reasonable expectations, even though they failed to meet the original (outdated) goals, they will still be a high performing team.


A new report

As mentioned above, whilst there is a lot written about high-performance teams, much of the thinking is conjecture and assumption with little if any valid research to back it. It add to the lack of research evidence used, many of the people who have published books and opinions about high-performance teams have zero experience of being in one.


The Oxford Review has just published a new special report entitled : High-Performance Teams: What the research says

High-Performance Teams - Special ReportHigh-Performance Teams - Special Report

As the author of the report, David Wilkinson (editor of The Oxford Review) explains

“When we set out to review the research and evidence base for the characteristics of a high-performance team, we were struck by the sheer diversity of ideas around which elements contribute to creating such a high-performance team. The interest in this topic has been high, not just with our members, but also in the research community and within organisations. There are over 8,100 peer reviewed research papers that directly look at high-performance teams. Once you have removed the low-quality papers with little validity or reliability, there are just under 4,700 research papers to consider, which is a vast amount of data to look at. Removing repeat studies and revalidation studies, one is still left with more than 2,300 papers.”


elite teams


The evidence-based characteristics of high performance teams

The researchers found the once they started to categorise the papers into evidence for characteristics, you end up with three broad groups of research:

  1. The characteristics of the team members
  2. The characteristics of the team
  3. The contributing or environmental characteristics which enable or support a high performing team

When triangulating the characteristics in this way, one ends up with:

11 characteristics that the team members should possess
19 characteristics that the team as a whole should possess
8 contributing or environmental factors.

Out of these lists of characteristics there are 12 key elements of high-performing teams which crop up consistently across much of the research. These are listed and explored in greater detail in the report

Additionally the research shows how to develop high-performance teams.

This fully referenced report can be downloaded here: https://oxford-review.com/downloads/high-performance-teams-special-report/


Be impressively well informed

Get the very latest research intelligence briefings, video research briefings, infographics and more sent direct to you as they are published

Be the most impressively well-informed and up-to-date person around...

Powered by ConvertKit
Like what you see? Help us spread the word

David Wilkinson

David Wilkinson is the Editor-in-Chief of the Oxford Review. He is also acknowledged to be one of the world's leading experts in dealing with ambiguity and uncertainty and developing emotional resilience. David teaches and conducts research at a number of universities including the University of Oxford, Medical Sciences Division, Cardiff University, Oxford Brookes University School of Business and many more. He has worked with many organisations as a consultant and executive coach including Schroders, where he coaches and runs their leadership and management programmes, Royal Mail, Aimia, Hyundai, The RAF, The Pentagon, the governments of the UK, US, Saudi, Oman and the Yemen for example. In 2010 he developed the world's first and only model and programme for developing emotional resilience across entire populations and organisations which has since become known as the Fear to Flow model which is the subject of his next book. In 2012 he drove a 1973 VW across six countries in Southern Africa whilst collecting money for charity and conducting on the ground charity work including developing emotional literature in children and orphans in Africa and a number of other activities. He is the author of The Ambiguity Advanatage: What great leaders are great at, published by Palgrave Macmillian. See more: About: About David Wikipedia: David's Wikipedia Page