Notes on team cohesion

I’ve been trying to understand what makes some teams work well together over long runs. There’s hundreds of parameters that have been studied, but I came across the concept of cohesion in the context of military performance and it made sense to me.

Team cohesion — how well can teams work together, while keeping their productivity balanced with their emotional health? One can break it down into two key drivers

  1. Task cohesion — Team alignment with a well defined and understood strategy. Team is motivated by a common mission such as a defeating rival troops, winning a big market opportunity, breaking through a technical barrier or solving for a type of customer they are passionate about.
  2. Social cohesion — Team is connected through strong social bonds. Team members show a high degree of trust, emotional affinity, engagement, and high support to each other.

Both task and social cohesion take time and dedicated investment to build. You can build task cohesion by clearly communicating your mission/vision, encouraging your team to directly interface with customers, building and following rigorous execution practices that work for your team etc etc.

Similarly you can build social cohesion by investing in culture, encourage empathy, create shared challenges and a positive work environment.

Balancing the two makes the big difference. Ignoring either one for long will cause instability and collapse.

High Task cohesion without social cohesion and you’re left dealing with excessive wear , burnout , low morale / disengagement and most fatally — churn.

High social cohesion without task cohesion will lead to low productivity, group thinking, diminishing performance and eventually dysfunction.

If you are in a role where you manage or influence or coordinate a team, the framework might be helpful to understand and guide team cohesion. Hopefully you can figure out if and where an imbalance exists and work with your team to solve for it!