Change Focus: Team Development 

Project Aristotle for Effective Teams

Project Aristotle was a piece of research conducted by Google to explore the common characteristics of an effective team.
Project Aristotle Effective Teams Mutomorro
Download a free Project Aristotle for Effective Teams template

Project Aristotle was a piece of research conducted by Google to explore the common characteristics of an effective team.

What is Project Aristotle?

Google’s re:work team set out to understand if there were common characteristics for effective teams across their organisation globally.

They wanted to explore if, regardless of team type/size/objective, there were still similar characteristics which helped teams perform effectively. And if so, what they were.

Their methodology included defining what they meant by effective, how they could measure it and they common traits they were able to spot in effective teams.

How is Project Aristotle used to improve team effectiveness?

Google is a huge organisation, with a great deal of complexity and differing team types. This research is interesting because, despite this, the researchers were still able to find common characteristics in effective teams.

It’s useful for teams looking to improve performance or carry out some self-analysis to see where they could improve or develop. It’s also a useful tool for organisations looking to develop or set guidelines for their departments and teams.

They followed a thorough research methodology that mixed quantitive and qualitative approaches, with an aim to get a clear and complete picture of team dynamics, behaviour and results.

Uses for Project Aristotle:

  • Self-analysis of our team and how we could improve.
  • To use as a template to build a team development plan.
  • To use for larger change management plans to diagnose team readiness.

The 5 Characteristics of Effective Teams according to Project Aristotle

The research team uncovered five, distinct characteristics of effective teams. These traits were evident regardless of the type of team or their role.

1. Psychological Safety

Google's Project Aristotle - 1. Psychological Safety

All effective teams displayed evidence of psychological safety. This characteristic was the foundation for how they worked together, shared and solved problems.

They felt safe within each other’s company and comfortable with sharing their thoughts, ideas and vulnerabilities.

Psychological safety is becoming increasingly well recognised as an essential part of a high-performing and effective team.

2. Dependability

Google's Project Aristotle - 2. Dependability

Next was the team’s ability to deliver their service or role reliably. This looked at how the team performed at getting things delivered on time and how other team’s relied on them.

This area explored not only the team’s ability to be reliable and deliver on time but also what enabled them to do that consistently.

In effective teams there was always a sense that “when a teammate says they’ll do something, I know they’ll deliver”.

3. Structure & Clarity

Google's Project Aristotle - 3. Structure and Clarity

Structure and clarity relates to the individuals in the team having a clear understanding of their role, responsibilities and objectives.

Within effective teams, there was a clear understanding of people’s roles, their expectations and the importance of performance. It was also clear how these individual objectives aligned to the wider team objectives and the part everyone played.

The goals on an individual and team basis were generally specific, challenging and attainable.

4. Meaning

Google's Project Aristotle - 4. Meaning

Meaning refers to individuals being personally invested in the work they do.

Within effective teams work was personally important and had intrinsic value to team members. This could be related to the work itself or the output of the work.

Although the “meaning” was very personal to each individual and differed across teams – there was a direct link to this “meaning” from the team’s activity and outputs.

5. Impact

Google's Project Aristotle - 5. Impact

Finally, all effective teams were able to see a clear and direct link between the work they did and the impact they made.

Impact refers to the subjective belief that the work the team did was making a difference, and that that difference was important on some level.

This didn’t need to be a profound impact. Simply seeing that the teams work contributed towards business goals was useful in helping teams see the impact they were having.

Summary of Google’s Project Aristotle – The Characteristics of an Effective Team

Project Aristotle was a snapshot of what makes teams effective at Google. It outlines 5 characteristics of an effective team according to Google’s research. You can read more about Project Aristotle by following this link.

Google’s Project Aristotle PDF Template

Feel free to download the PDF below and run through the characteristics of an effective team with your own organisation or group.

Project Aristotle PDF Template

Click the link to download the PDF and explore how effective your team is against Google’s list.

Google's Project Aristotle

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 James Freeman-Gray 

I'm James. A change consultant and organisational development specialist. I've been working in people-centred change for over 15 years. I partner with causes, champions, teams & leaders on projects for social, environmental, technological & human good. If you think I can support in making your change a success, drop me a message. 

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