There is an intuitive assumption that cohesive teams are more successful than non-cohesive ones. Another assumption is that collaboration’s quality is correlated to the level of cohesion.

On the other hand, there are several studies such as the one written by Kip Kelly from the Kenan-Flager Business School, demonstrating how collaboration in an organization improves various outcomes key to its competitiveness: engagement, retention, innovation, etc.

Collaboration is present in any organization, where a product or service has to be delivered. You may even have to collaborate when you don’t want to. At the end, the key elements to successful collaboration are the frequency and quality of communications among a couple of persons or between, and within teams. That is mostly determined by the organization’s cohesion.

What is cohesion?

Cohesion: “Dynamic process that is reflected in the tendency for a group to stick together and remain united in the pursuit of its instrumental objectives and/or for the satisfaction of member affective needs”.

(Carron, A.V., Widmeyer, W.N., & Brawley, L.R. - 1985. The development of an instrument to assess cohesion in sports teams: The group environment questionnaire. Journal of Sport Psychology, 7, 244-266 )

Why focus on cohesion?

The relationship between team cohesion, collaboration and the business performance is difficult to measure. Although business studies exist, the critical success factors may be subjective and sometimes biased. Fortunately, there is much research in other disciplines such as sport. A conceptualization of cohesion among different disciplines may be delicate but they offer some interesting outcomes.

The importance of cohesion for teams is normally attributed to factors such as:

  • Increased team cooperation,
  • Enhanced social support,
  • Increased satisfaction and,
  • Minimized rivalry

(Teymori, Khaki and Nikbakhsh, 2014)

Although not all of these have being investigated, the positive impacts of these elements have been confirmed.

Also is outlined the influence it causes on a team’s capacity to learn and its members’ confidence levels. Those latest elements are key to a learning organization.

In other words, the highest level of cohesion will generate the purest kind of collaboration. When collaborating, members won’t hide information in order to reach a higher position, will transmit knowledge in order to minimize weaknesses of the clan, will be happy for others’ success… That may sound collaboration’s heaven but it happens in sports’ teams.

How to increase cohesion?

The road to reaching cohesion in a team is more difficult than just collaborating, especially in business environments where competition between members is the norm. Cohesion is at the end the result of a management system and a measure of collaboration’s maturity. We provide below a list of the most common recommendations found during our research but the topic itself deserves additional academic material from where we could retrieve more information.

Caron, Widmeyer and Brawley have outlined two major factors that facilitate cohesion among team members and they go beyond simple collaboration:

  • Recognition of the uniqueness or positive identity of the team, i.e. “it’s a privilege to be part of that group” and,
  • The individual understanding and acceptation of each team members’ role. A key element for a group to work as a working system.

Other investigations have also pointed the following elements:

  • Interaction frequency
  • Group’s homogeneity
  • Group’s maturity
  • Clear objectives
  • Level of success: a group that outclasses others will tend to create and confirm that trend.