Commo Check! Does Communication Impact Team Performance?
Theory and practice, since the beginning of time, tend to all align upon a universal truth—that effective communication is the essential ingredient in driving team performance. But what are we supposed to do with that? What, exactly, does effective communication even mean and are there dimensions of communication that contribute to team performance more than others?
WTH is a Meta-Analysis?
Thankfully, a team of scholars have cracked the code and The Open Kimono is about to share its intel. Before we do, though, let us shout out to the world that this study was a meta-analyses. In the simplest of terms, a meta-analyses looks at all studies ever published on a topical area and uses some fancy math to combine the results. In many ways, it’s a single study of all the studies ever published on a topic. For that reason, meta-analyses are often used to “settle a question” once and for all and, in our case, to finally understand what all the academic studies have to say about team communication and performance. For this meta-analysis, the researchers dusted off 150 previous studies covering 9,702 teams to do their statistical work. Love correlation coefficients and effect sizes? Click HERE to learn more.
The Kimono Revealed!
This super-study is packed with so much information that there’s no way we can chew it all at once. For that reason, we’re going to limit our discussion here to three key findings:
First, as the maxim holds, communication, in general, is correlated with better team performance. If the Kimono story stopped here, we’d ask you all to unsubscribe. But, of course it doesn’t.
Second, by combing through all of those other studies and manipulating the correlation coefficients, they found that the relationship is strongest between team communication and team performance when there’s high familiarity between team members. Said differently, if the team members know each other well, they also know each other’s knowledge strengths and weaknesses. This makes communication more targeted and efficient as we only communicate with team members that know something about the problem we’re dealing with. Better performance follows closely along.
Third, this brain trust hypothesized that communication plays a greater role in team performance when the team is face-to-face versus virtual. They toss around a bunch of hunches that we all know to be true: communication delays in virtual teams impact performance, team members often will misinterpret written text common in virtual teams, and the lack of instantaneous body cues (like a simple head nod) detracts from communication and negatively impacts team performance. Their hunches held. Mostly. The relationship between communication and team performance was much higher and stronger compared to virtual teams. Interestingly, there was little statistical difference between face-to-face teams and hybrid teams (a bit of virtual plus some face-to-face).
What’s this all mean in Kimono-speak?
We’ve got our takeaways: Notably, team characteristics influence the relationship between communication and performance. When team members are face-to-face and know each other well, expect communication to more directly and potently influence performance. The opposite is true. Virtual team members that don’t know each other well can communicate all they want, but the link to team performance is going to be weak.
Communication works best to drive performance when the team members operate in a face-to-face or, even, hybrid situations. Lastly, we know that putting talkative strangers together may result in high communication but it won’t lead to top team performance. Instead, and if you can, put some teammates together that already know each other since familiarity seemed to rev up the relationship between communication and performance.
There’s more to this story, but, for now, we’re keeping our Kimono closed.