Tammy Erickson writes at HBR about her research on teams at the BBC, Reuters, and elsewhere. She argues that leaders should take great care to clearly define individual roles on a team, while leaving the approach to achieving the team's goals more ill-defined. Why? According to Erickson,
improves when the roles of individual team members are clearly defined
and well understood — in fact, when individuals feel their role is
bounded in ways that allow them to do a significant portion of their
work independently. Without such clarity, team members are likely to
waste energy negotiating roles or protecting turf, rather than focusing
on the task."
Erickson also finds that a little less clarity or definition on the path to achieving the team's goals can be beneficial. Why? Individuals perceive the task as something requiring them to be creative, and they feel empowered to provide their input as how to achieve the team's objectives. In other words, define the shared goal very clearly, but give the team members some freedom to figure out the best way to get there.