While all teams are groups of individuals, not all groups are teams. Team members work together toward a common goal and share responsibility for the team's success. A group is comprised of two or more individuals that share common interests or characteristics, and its members identify with each other due to similar traits. Groups can range greatly in size and scope. For example, members of the millennial generation are a group, but so is a small book club formed by neighbors who enjoy reading.
Groups differ from teams in several ways:
- Task orientation: Teams require coordination of tasks and activities to achieve a shared aim. Groups do not need to focus on specific outcomes or a common purpose.
- Degree of interdependence: Team members are interdependent since they bring to bear a set of resources to produce a common outcome. Individuals in a group can be entirely disconnected from one another and not rely on fellow members at all.
- Purpose: Teams are formed for a particular reason and can be short- or long-lived. Groups can exist as a matter of fact; for example, a group can be comprised of people of the same race or ethnic background.
- Degree of formal structure: Team members' individual roles and duties are specified and their ways of working together are defined. Groups are generally much more informal; roles do not need to be assigned and norms of behavior do not need to develop.
- Familiarity among members: Team members are aware of the set of people they collaborate with, since they interact to complete tasks and activities. Members of a group may have personal relationships or they may have little knowledge of each other and no interactions whatsoever.
Sometimes it is difficult to draw a distinction between a team and a group. For instance, a set of coworkers might meet on occasion to discuss an issue or provide input on a decision. While such meetings typically have an agenda and thus a purpose and some structure, we would not necessarily think of those in attendance as a team. The activity scope and duration is just too small to involve the amount of coordination of resources and effort that teamwork requires.