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James Coakes

There is more than one version of The Four Cs of Teamwork. Jon R. Katzenbach proposed that they were communication, cooperation, collaboration and compromise whereas Lou Carloni suggested communication, cooperation, contribution and commitment. In either case analysing a team’s position on the four Cs is a useful exercise and these two examples have communication and cooperation in common. Perhaps we should settle on six Cs of Teamwork.


Katzenbach and Carloni both agreed that good communication was an essential ingredient of teamwork. Arguably communication is at the core of all processes within business. The basics of communication require that roles and responsibilities are discussed and assigned within the team and that information is effectively shared. Beyond this you must ask whether disagreements and conflicts are constructively handled and finally whether team members are open and honest. Trust is the key to effective teamwork.


Good teamwork requires that team members cooperate fully with each other. Cooperation is a result of good communication and it requires clarity and, crucially, trust. Effective cooperation should be a harmonious process and again the quality of communication will determine this. A measure of cooperation is that when a member of a team is under pressure others offer to help out and the key word is offer. Begrudgingly lending a hand having been told to do so is not the same.


It is quite difficult to differentiate between cooperation and collaboration. The definition of both words have much in common. Cooperation is more commonly used to describe an association of people for economic gain. Collaboration is typically an intellectual effort and it can also describe a treasonable association, for example with an enemy. It may suggest a form of very close and committed teamwork, but in this particular case I feel it is the weakest, or the least useful of the Cs.


Compromise is very important in any relationship. It is rare for any outcome to be perfect; it is important that team members accept this and do not put colleagues under pressure particularly when a best effort is acceptable. There are conditions when perfectionism is necessary for example in engineering or when a less than perfect outcome presents danger. However, one of the most debilitating behaviours within a group effort is unnecessary nit picking or arguing over detail when it causes the team to lose focus on the objective.


In most teams each individual will contribute a different set of skills to the group effort. The team must understand the role of each team member and they must understand how it contributes to the team’s objectives. Ideally everyone will understand and recognise the importance of each colleague’s skills. If one team member is perceived as being less important or not working as hard as others this will be a problem. If this is an issue between two colleagues the problem will need to be addressed by the team leader. If the feeling is a general consensus then serious questions need to be asked of the team member whose contribution is being questioned.


Is the team committed to a common objective? Is the team, and particularly the leadership, committed to developing the individuals within the team? Are team members committed to one and other and do they share common values regarding the work they are doing? The first step towards encouraging commitment within a team is to make sure that they understand their objectives and how those objectives fit into the goals of the whole company. Teams need to know that the work that they are doing is important and valued elsewhere in the company.

How can you use this information to the benefit of your team?

Like many such theories this is essentially a discussion piece. You can take each word in turn and throw it out to your team members in an open session for discussion. Your objective is to see what issues come out of the discussion. You may find that other words and ideas come out of the discussion and you may find that there are other words which are more relevant to your team. There are also some useful online surveys based around this; again they are designed to stimulate discussion rather than reach a set conclusion.

James Coakes is managing director of Progressive Resources, organisers of fun team building events for corporate clients at hotels and stately homes around the UK. http://www.teambuilding.co.uk

Category : Team Building


Company Away Days September 29, 2009

I like your 6C’s idea better. I agree with you on the note that although these 6C’s of teamwork is important, it will always depend on the type or nature of the team on which of these 6 areas must be strengthened or of less value. Every team is unique – in their aspirations, expectations and goals – which make the balance of communication, Cooperation, Contribution, Commitment, Collaboration, Compromise unique.

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