The Team Evolution Curve

Team Evolution Curve is a facilitated discussion you can use with your team about where they are now and what they need to do to evolve.

If your goal is to become a high performing team then this tool will help you get there by helping participants see what it is they need to improve.

The Team Evolution Curve
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    To agree the characteristics a team believes they share and what they think they should concentrate on to move them to where they want to be.

When Would You Use It?

  • In any team situation where the team would like to develop relationships and improve performance.

Facilitator Guidelines

  • 30-45 minutes.
  • This exercise is best done at the end of a workshop when the teams have had time to get comfortable with each other.
  • Emphasize at the start that the ultimate goal might not be to become a high performance team.
  • You have a choice when they discuss where they are and where they want to be. You either leave them to it or you facilitate the discussion (preferred).
  • Don’t spend too much time on the explanation of the curve. Just make sure they get the key points of each position.
  • Don’t tell them in advance about the cocktail party as they will not want to do it (embarrassment). You may choose to tell the client but it is your judgment.

Resources Required

  • The Team Performance curve.
  • Multiple copies of the 5 definitions of a team’s evolution (1 for each team member).
  • A large room with plenty of open space so people can easily meet privately in the ‘cocktail party’ phase.

Ground Rules for Participants

  • Be politely honest about your current state.
  • Do not get too personal with other members of your team.
  • Do not point fingers of blame at others too harshly – “we would be a ‘real team’ if you didn’t <insert negative behavior here>”.

Roles & Responsibilities



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    Leads the process.
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    Creates a safe environment to allow total honesty to emerge.
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    Focuses on getting through the process.
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    Promotes openness & honesty.
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    Focuses on getting through the process.
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    Approaches the session with an open mind.
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    Works through the process under the guidance of the facilitator.
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    Listens to the views of others.
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    Helps the team attain the goal.


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    The Facilitator shows the Participants The Team Evolution slide.
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    Each phase is explained and discussed so everyone understands the characteristics of each phase.
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    The Facilitator invites them to discuss the characteristics they believe they share and what they think they should concentrate on to move them to where they want to be.
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    The Participants draw up a 2 or 3 point high-level action plan on on what would move them forward.
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    The Facilitator finishes the session with a “cocktail party” exercise where each team member has private one-to-one standing up conversations with everyone in the room saying “What I respect about you” and “What I would like you to pay attention to”.

Secret Sauce

  • It's important that the facilitator creates a safe environment for the team if total honesty is to emerge.
  • Do not suggest they want to get to High-Performing Team. They might be happier and better where they are or having moving towards a real team as their ultimate goal.
  • The cocktail party can be very emotional (sometimes with hugs and tears). Just let it happen it is a great finish.
  • If the team is fragile then in the ‘cocktail party’ phase only concentrate on what they respect about each other..
  • The cocktail party is not a gimmick. It is an opportunity for team members to have meaningful conversations. Stay in the room but out of the way and do not listen in.

The Team Evolution Curve

The Team Evolution Curve

Characteristics of a Working Group

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    No significant incremental performance need or opportunity that would require it to become a team.
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    The members interact primarily to share information, best practices, or perspectives and to make decisions to help each individual perform within his or her area of responsibility.
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    There is no call for either a team approach or a mutual accountability requirement.

Characteristics of a Pseudo Team

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    This is a group for which there could be a significant, incremental performance need or opportunity, but it has not focused on collective performance and is not really trying to achieve it.
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    It has no interest in shaping a common purpose or set of performance goals, even though it may call itself a team.
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    Pseudo-teams are the weakest of all groups in terms of performance impact.
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    In pseudo-teams, the sum of the whole is less than the potential of the individual parts.
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    They almost always contribute less to company performance needs than working groups because their interactions detract from each member’s individual performance without delivering any joint benefits.
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    For a pseudo-team to have the option of becoming a potential team, the group must define goals so it has something concrete to do as a team that is a valuable contribution to the company.

Characteristics of a Potential Team

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    There is a significant, incremental performance need, and it really is trying to improve its performance impact.
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    Typically it requires more clarity about purpose, goals, or work products and more discipline in hammering out a common working approach.
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    It has not yet established collective accountability.
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    Potential teams abound in organizations.
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    When a team (as opposed to a working group) approach makes sense, the performance impact can be high.
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    The steepest performance gain comes between a potential team and a real team; but any movement up the slope is worth pursuing.

Characteristics of a Real Team

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    This is a small number of people with complementary skills who are equally committed to a common purpose, goals, and working approach for which they hold themselves mutually accountable.
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    Real teams are a basic unit of performance.
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    The possible performance impact for the real team is significantly higher than the working group.

Characteristics of a High Performing Team

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    This is a group that meets all the conditions of real teams and has members who are also deeply committed to one another’s personal growth and success.
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    That commitment usually transcends the team.
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    The high performance team significantly outperforms all other like teams, and outperforms all reasonable expectations given its membership.
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    It is a powerful possibility and an excellent model for all real and potential teams.

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About the Author

Freelance Business Coach and Facilitator at Uist Consulting Ltd

  • Augustine VD says:

    Thanks for the brief and the excercise. I am planning to try this in the next possible session

    • That’s great to hear Augustine. Thanks for saying thanks and let us know how your session goes.

  • […] part of a wider session using The Team Evolution Curve – just before the ‘cocktail party’ is […]

  • Thanks for posting this Alex, really like your ideas about Team Development quite unique and usefully true.

  • Raquel says:

    Thank you for this exercise it is perfect for where my team is now. What recommendations do you have to further explore and clarify the characteristics and habits of a high performing team?

    Some tangibles that my team can adopt..

  • Shilpa says:

    Fantastic! Makes so much sense! thanks

  • Louis says:

    Thanks… my first time here… very interesting

  • Paul says:

    Great stuff! Thanks so much; this ideas will definitely help our company.

  • Paulomi Desai says:

    We wanted to know about Team Evolution Curve’s authenticity and more detailed content. Kindly share more details regarding teams, ie. Psudo team, real team etc.

  • kate says:

    Your workshops are revolutionizing my staff team! I’ve now used your materials with staff, governors and now my senior management team.
    We are a school, so the impact of your materials is improving the learning and lives of hundreds of children, on a day to day basis! Thanks.

    • That’s brilliant to hear Kate. A lot of these tools were first used with schools back in 2004 so it’s lovely to see they still work well in your setting 🙂

  • Raam says:

    Wondering if you had ever used the Tuckman’s 5-stages of a team to facilitate the a conversation using a similar strategy?

  • Peter Versluijs says:

    Thanks for sharing. Was wondering: is this based on the work of Jon Katzenbach?

  • Bob Flecknell says:

    Hi and thanks for insights and framework.

    I have question about the comment that the target ” may not be to become a high performing team”. Why not? Sounds counter-intuitive. Business success depends on high performing teams and leaders.

    If we are talking about only strengthening communications and relationships, as a step in building a high performing team, then this approach may work. Cheers

    • Alex says:

      Hi Bob – Of course you are quite correct when you say businesses depend on high performing teams and ALL teams should ultimately want to be a HPT. In the context of the exercise teams may be well down the curve and their current aspiration could be to be simply function at a basic level. When working with a team with this model I was confronted with resistance to the term HPT as they were so far away they thought it farcical. So in that case I took a stepped approach and worked on a plan to support them to get to the next step.

  • […] part of a wider session using The Team Evolution Curve – just before the ‘cocktail party’ is […]

  • Tom O'Connor says:

    Excellent material thank you

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