Principles for Measuring Teamwork: A Summary and Look Toward the Future

Early team theories attempted to establish underlying team processes and behaviors that impact team performance. These behaviors then were the basis for measurement tools.

More recently, theories of teamwork have evolved to include other variables (e.g., knowledge requirements, cognitive skills, etc.) in addition to team behavior. In a comprehensive review of the team literature, Cannon-Bowers et al. defined teamwork to consist of a series of team competencies that can be distinguished from individual competencies. These researchers suggest that team competencies can be thought of as the requisite knowledge (i.e., principles and concepts underlying a team's task performance), skills (i.e., psychomotor and cognitive behaviors necessary to perform the team task correctly), and attitudes that result in effective team performance. Competencies can be generic or specific to a team or generic or specific to a task.

From the standpoint of team performance measurement, new theories about the cognitive requirements for teamwork present the most challenge. This research hypothesizes that team members develop and rely on shared knowledge structures (referred to as shared mental models) to enhance coordination and that these models are directly related to team performance. According to Cannon-Bowers et al., shared mental models are organized bodies of knowledge that are shared across members of a team. They suggest that such models have the potential to affect teamwork at two levels. First, when communication channels are limited, shared mental models enable team members to anticipate other team member behaviors and information requirements. Second, shared mental models of a team task enable team members to perform team functions from a common frame of reference.

Recent work, presented in this volume, is directly related to our first principle. Of these chapters, Dickinson and McIntyre focus on team knowledge and attitudes, and Kraiger and Wenzel focus on team mental models.