"Task Cohesion" is More Important Than "Group Pride"

Want to motivate a group of people to do something amazing? You don't need a group cheer, and you don't need to fly a flag. The individual members of your team don't even have to like each other (although that makes it a hell of a lot more fun).

Things like group cheers, crazy hats and other "tribal" identifiers are great at building social cohesion among like-minded individuals, and can be powerful tools. However, social cohesion is not a great predictor of a successful outcome.

If you want to succeed in a difficult task, the most important step you can take is to get everyone committed to it. In the military this is called "Task Cohesion", and studies have shown it's the most important factor in determining whether or not a difficult mission gets completed.

So, how do you create task cohesion? It's not easy, but it's relatively simple. The key aspects are:

  • Define the task in realistic and concrete terms. Make it memorable and inspiring.
  • Create a sense of significance. Allow them to understand the "why" behind the mission.
  • Encourage communication from the bottom up and leverage heterogenous skill sets.
  • Emphasize "getting the job done" above all else.

This isn't ground breaking advice, and you've probably heard a lot of it before. But, it's worth remembering. Work is about accomplishing what you set out to do. If you're leading a project team, the best thing you can do is set a clear goal and get everyone's buy in. It's great to have fun along the way, but if the mission fails. It won't matter.

Written by Adam Harrell on August 31, 2010

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