High-Performance Teams

In general, most teams possess the following characteristics:

  1. They are united by priorities and goals that align with organizational priorities.
  2. Communication within the team is clear, streamlined, and collaborative. Conflict, when it does occur, is always seen as a way to improve.
  3. The most important tasks are completed first, with the team able to distinguish between urgency and impact.
  4. There is a strong culture of trust where members are respected for their unique skills and are encouraged to be themselves or take risks. 
  5. All high-performance management teams have a growth mindset. They look for opportunities to improve and have the ability to accept and use feedback to their advantage.

Concept OverviewHigh-Performance Teams (HPTs) are groups of individuals who collaborate and work together seamlessly to achieve exceptional results and exceed expectations. These teams are characterized by their ability to consistently deliver outstanding performance, innovation, and productivity. HPTs are not limited to a specific industry or field; they can be found in various sectors, from business and sports to healthcare and the arts. Understanding the dynamics and principles behind HPTs is crucial for organizations aiming to excel in a competitive global landscape.
Key PrinciplesHPTs are guided by several key principles:
1. Common Goals: Team members share a clear and compelling vision, mission, and set of goals that guide their actions.
2. Trust and Collaboration: Trust and open communication are essential for building strong relationships among team members. Collaboration is encouraged, and conflicts are addressed constructively.
3. Complementary Skills: HPTs often consist of individuals with diverse skills, experiences, and backgrounds that complement each other.
4. Clear Roles and Responsibilities: Each team member understands their role and responsibilities, which are aligned with the team’s goals.
5. Accountability: Team members are accountable for their performance and hold each other responsible for achieving objectives.
6. Adaptability: HPTs are agile and adaptable, capable of adjusting to changing circumstances and opportunities.
7. Continuous Improvement: A commitment to ongoing learning and improvement is inherent in the team culture.
CharacteristicsHigh-Performance Teams typically exhibit the following characteristics:
1. Exceptional Results: They consistently achieve and often surpass their performance targets.
2. Innovation: HPTs are innovative, seeking out new approaches and solutions to challenges.
3. High Morale: Team members are motivated and engaged, leading to high levels of job satisfaction.
4. Effective Communication: Open and effective communication is a hallmark of HPTs.
5. Adaptability: These teams are resilient and can pivot quickly in response to changing circumstances.
6. Shared Vision: Team members are aligned with a shared vision and purpose.
7. Trust and Cohesion: Strong interpersonal relationships and trust bonds the team together.
Formation and Development– High-Performance Teams are not formed overnight; they typically go through stages of development, such as forming, storming, norming, performing, and adjourning. – Building an HPT requires intentional effort, including team-building activities, training, and ongoing support. Leadership plays a crucial role in guiding and nurturing the team throughout its journey.
Benefits and ImpactHigh-Performance Teams offer several benefits and impacts:
1. Competitive Advantage: They provide a competitive edge by consistently delivering superior results.
2. Innovation: HPTs are often hubs of creativity and innovation.
3. Employee Satisfaction: Team members enjoy a high level of job satisfaction due to their sense of achievement and camaraderie.
4. Organizational Success: HPTs contribute significantly to the overall success and performance of organizations.
5. Learning and Development: Team members have opportunities for growth and skill development.
Challenges and PitfallsChallenges in maintaining HPTs include conflicts and disagreements, which can arise during the “storming” phase of team development. Additionally, sustaining high levels of performance can be demanding and may lead to burnout if not managed properly. Leadership turnover or changes in team composition can also disrupt HPTs.

General Electric

When General Electric set a goal to produce the largest commercial jet engine in the world, the stakes were high. The engine, dubbed the GE90, was the first such engine GE had designed from scratch in more than twenty years. What’s more, the development of the GE90 had cost $1.5 billion before it had even progressed to the manufacturing stage.

Then-CEO Jack Welch recognized that factory manager Robert Henderson could not accomplish this gargantuan task on his own: “We know where productivity comes from. It comes from challenged, empowered, excited, rewarded teams of people.” Despite this realization, both Henderson and Welch understood that factories were mostly unempowered workplaces where individuals felt like small cogs in a vast machine.

To develop high-performance teams within a factory environment, Henderson visited other establishments with high employee autonomy for inspiration. He then hired employees with Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) mechanic’s licenses instead of simply hiring general mechanics. This resulted in a far superior team that was capable of making crucial decisions on their own, which increased productivity and morale.

Henderson also stressed the importance of decluttering and contracted out non-job-related tasks such as bathroom and breakroom cleaning. The goal of this initiative was to allow factory employees to focus their skills and expertise where it mattered most.


As a company operating in the dynamic and disruptive consumer electronics industry, Apple relies on high-performance teams to innovate and maintain the company’s market dominance.

Apple’s research and development arm consists of a high-functioning and a largely self-managed team of designers, quality control experts, and professional engineers. To attract the best talent, the company relies on a rigorous recruitment process that was instituted by Steve Jobs.

In the early days of the company, candidates would start at 9 in the morning and spend the whole day meeting everyone in the building at least once. The hiring team would then convene and decide whether the candidate would progress to the next stage. This involved showing them a Macintosh prototype, with Jobs only hiring those who were genuinely excited and enthusiastic about the new piece of technology before them.


Boeing uses high-performance teams to make the company a better place to work via employee involvement. In a 2004 interview for the company magazine, Chief People and Administration Officer Laurette Koellner noted that “Competitors can duplicate our technologies and processes; however, they can’t duplicate our people. Our people are our competitive advantage.

At its core, employee involvement at Boeing means staff can influence decisions that affect their work. Instead of the top-down, hierarchical approach, high-performance teams take responsibility for managing their workspaces and making process or workflow improvements. This means teams are afforded more autonomy and free access to important data and technology that makes their life easier.

One example of this process at work is the self-managed team that used to manufacture the struts for a Boeing 757. Based far away from company headquarters in Wichita, Kansas, teams at the strut factory were given the training, resources, and responsibility to manage the factory as if it were a standalone business

Key takeaways:

  • High-performance teams are characterized by collaborative communication and goals that align with organizational objectives. Team members also trust and respect one another and adopt a growth mindset.
  • General Electric relied on high-performance teams to build the world’s largest commercial jet engine. Apple, on the other hand, relies on high-performance teams to maintain a competitive advantage.
  • At Boeing, teams can influence decisions that affect their work and are given more autonomy and control over their areas of expertise.

Key Highlights of High-Performance Teams and Their Examples:

  • Characteristics of High-Performance Teams:
    • Alignment: Teams share priorities and goals consistent with organizational objectives.
    • Clear Communication: Collaborative and streamlined communication with a positive view of conflict.
    • Task Prioritization: Ability to distinguish between urgency and impact, focusing on critical tasks first.
    • Trust and Respect: Strong culture of trust where individual skills are valued, and risks are encouraged.
    • Growth Mindset: Openness to improvement and utilization of feedback.
  • General Electric (GE):
    • GE aimed to develop the largest commercial jet engine, the GE90.
    • CEO Jack Welch recognized the power of empowered teams for productivity.
    • Factory manager Robert Henderson empowered teams, hired skilled personnel, and streamlined processes.
    • Emphasis on decluttering and focusing expertise for improved productivity.
  • Apple:
    • Apple’s R&D team consists of self-managed experts to drive innovation.
    • Rigorous recruitment process to attract top talent.
    • Early recruitment process involved meeting everyone in the company and assessing genuine enthusiasm.
  • Boeing:
    • Boeing leverages high-performance teams to improve employee involvement.
    • Employee involvement enables decision-making that affects work processes.
    • Autonomy and access to technology provided to teams for improved productivity.
    • Example of a self-managed team in a Boeing 757 strut factory.

Read Next: High-Performance Management.

Read Also: Eisenhower MatrixBCG MatrixKepner-Tregoe MatrixDecision MatrixRACI MatrixSWOT AnalysisPersonal SWOT AnalysisTOWS MatrixPESTEL AnalysisPorter’s Five Forces.

Types of Organizational Structures

Organizational Structures

Siloed Organizational Structures


In a functional organizational structure, groups and teams are organized based on function. Therefore, this organization follows a top-down structure, where most decision flows from top management to bottom. Thus, the bottom of the organization mostly follows the strategy detailed by the top of the organization.



Open Organizational Structures




In a flat organizational structure, there is little to no middle management between employees and executives. Therefore it reduces the space between employees and executives to enable an effective communication flow within the organization, thus being faster and leaner.

Connected Business Frameworks

Portfolio Management

Project portfolio management (PPM) is a systematic approach to selecting and managing a collection of projects aligned with organizational objectives. That is a business process of managing multiple projects which can be identified, prioritized, and managed within the organization. PPM helps organizations optimize their investments by allocating resources efficiently across all initiatives.

Kotter’s 8-Step Change Model

Harvard Business School professor Dr. John Kotter has been a thought-leader on organizational change, and he developed Kotter’s 8-step change model, which helps business managers deal with organizational change. Kotter created the 8-step model to drive organizational transformation.

Nadler-Tushman Congruence Model

The Nadler-Tushman Congruence Model was created by David Nadler and Michael Tushman at Columbia University. The Nadler-Tushman Congruence Model is a diagnostic tool that identifies problem areas within a company. In the context of business, congruence occurs when the goals of different people or interest groups coincide.

McKinsey’s Seven Degrees of Freedom

McKinsey’s Seven Degrees of Freedom for Growth is a strategy tool. Developed by partners at McKinsey and Company, the tool helps businesses understand which opportunities will contribute to expansion, and therefore it helps to prioritize those initiatives.

Mintzberg’s 5Ps

Mintzberg’s 5Ps of Strategy is a strategy development model that examines five different perspectives (plan, ploy, pattern, position, perspective) to develop a successful business strategy. A sixth perspective has been developed over the years, called Practice, which was created to help businesses execute their strategies.

COSO Framework

The COSO framework is a means of designing, implementing, and evaluating control within an organization. The COSO framework’s five components are control environment, risk assessment, control activities, information and communication, and monitoring activities. As a fraud risk management tool, businesses can design, implement, and evaluate internal control procedures.

TOWS Matrix

The TOWS Matrix is an acronym for Threats, Opportunities, Weaknesses, and Strengths. The matrix is a variation on the SWOT Analysis, and it seeks to address criticisms of the SWOT Analysis regarding its inability to show relationships between the various categories.

Lewin’s Change Management

Lewin’s change management model helps businesses manage the uncertainty and resistance associated with change. Kurt Lewin, one of the first academics to focus his research on group dynamics, developed a three-stage model. He proposed that the behavior of individuals happened as a function of group behavior.

Organizational Structure Case Studies

Airbnb Organizational Structure

Airbnb follows a holacracy model, or a sort of flat organizational structure, where teams are organized for projects, to move quickly and iterate fast, thus keeping a lean and flexible approach. Airbnb also moved to a hybrid model where employees can work from anywhere and meet on a quarterly basis to plan ahead, and connect to each other.

eBay Organizational Structure

eBay was until recently a multi-divisional (M-form) organization with semi-autonomous units grouped according to the services they provided. Today, eBay has a single division called Marketplace, which includes eBay and its international iterations.

IBM Organizational Structure

IBM has an organizational structure characterized by product-based divisions, enabling its strategy to develop innovative and competitive products in multiple markets. IBM is also characterized by function-based segments that support product development and innovation for each product-based division, which include Global Markets, Integrated Supply Chain, Research, Development, and Intellectual Property.

Sony Organizational Structure

Sony has a matrix organizational structure primarily based on function-based groups and product/business divisions. The structure also incorporates geographical divisions. In 2021, Sony announced the overhauling of its organizational structure, changing its name from Sony Corporation to Sony Group Corporation to better identify itself as the headquarters of the Sony group of companies skewing the company toward product divisions.

Facebook Organizational Structure

Facebook is characterized by a multi-faceted matrix organizational structure. The company utilizes a flat organizational structure in combination with corporate function-based teams and product-based or geographic divisions. The flat organization structure is organized around the leadership of Mark Zuckerberg, and the key executives around him. On the other hand, the function-based teams based on the main corporate functions (like HR, product management, investor relations, and so on).

Google Organizational Structure

Google (Alphabet) has a cross-functional (team-based) organizational structure known as a matrix structure with some degree of flatness. Over the years, as the company scaled and it became a tech giant, its organizational structure is morphing more into a centralized organization.

Tesla Organizational Structure

Tesla is characterized by a functional organizational structure with aspects of a hierarchical structure. Tesla does employ functional centers that cover all business activities, including finance, sales, marketing, technology, engineering, design, and the offices of the CEO and chairperson. Tesla’s headquarters in Austin, Texas, decide the strategic direction of the company, with international operations given little autonomy.

McDonald’s Organizational Structure

McDonald’s has a divisional organizational structure where each division – based on geographical location – is assigned operational responsibilities and strategic objectives. The main geographical divisions are the US, internationally operated markets, and international developmental licensed markets. And on the other hand, the hierarchical leadership structure is organized around regional and functional divisions.

Walmart Organizational Structure

Walmart has a hybrid hierarchical-functional organizational structure, otherwise referred to as a matrix structure that combines multiple approaches. On the one hand, Walmart follows a hierarchical structure, where the current CEO Doug McMillon is the only employee without a direct superior, and directives are sent from top-level management. On the other hand, the function-based structure of Walmart is used to categorize employees according to their particular skills and experience.

Microsoft Organizational Structure

Microsoft has a product-type divisional organizational structure based on functions and engineering groups. As the company scaled over time it also became more hierarchical, however still keeping its hybrid approach between functions, engineering groups, and management.

Read Next: Organizational Structure

Read Also: Business Model

Main Free Guides:

About The Author

Scroll to Top