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How to Create an Effective Team According to Google's Project Aristotle


Photo by Giammarco Boscaro on Unsplash

Trust is the foundational characteristic of great teams

"The whole is greater than the sum of its parts." - Aristotle

Google is one of many organizations where teams and collaborative work are critical to success. In their quest to continually improve employees and teams, Google has studied what makes great managers with Project Oxygen and now what makes great teams with Project Aristotle.

Teams are a big part of their culture, so Google undertook this research to understand teamwork, why teams fail, why teams succeed, and how to replicate the best elements for future teams. Their definition of a team is a highly interdependent group of employees who work together and need each other to complete their tasks. 

Dubbed Project Aristotle, the research had one goal: to define what makes a team at Google effective.

This project studied teams of all kinds—from 3 to 50 members, across the organization, throughout the world, and with varying levels of seniority. And the researchers found quite the surprise in their results: the team’s effectiveness isn’t tied to individual IQ or team size or any number of factors.

The factors that held significant importance for teams across the organization, on both qualitative and quantitative measures, center around how the team worked together.


The 5 behaviors of effective teams at Google were: psychological safety, dependability, structure and clarity, meaning, and impact.

  • Psychological Safety: How much risk team members perceive and what consequences they believe they may face when asking a question, suggesting a new idea, or owning up to a problem (in essence, the team members’ ability to trust others on the team)
  • Dependability: Members are able to rely on each other to complete required tasks
  • Structure and clarity: Each individual on the team has a specific role, understands his or her long and short-term goals, and sees how it contributes to the team’s overall objectives
  • Meaning: Personal fulfillment derived from the person’s role or the team’s overall accomplishments
  • Impact: Members of the team feel their work is making a difference


These days, we’re all working on teams more and more. The work we do is complex and interconnected, making good teamwork skills even more important than ever. 

You may not have Google’s expert People Analytics team to analyze your teams, but we have a recommendation based on our years of experience in team effectiveness.

The Five Behaviors of a Cohesive Team™ program is one way that you can build effective working relationships with team members in five foundational areas:

  • Trust: the ability of team members to be transparent and honest with one another, the foundation of teamwork
  • Conflict: the unfiltered, constructive debate of ideas, made possible by the vulnerability and trust established by the team
  • Commitment: buy-in, which is more easily achieved when all team members have offered ideas and opinions, then selected the best option to move forward
  • Accountability: a clear plan of action and division of roles, which allows team members to hold each other to the established standards
  • Results: driving ROI and business success, the final goal of teams is unlocked when team members intentionally engage in the other four behaviors


The similarities between Google’s findings and The Five Behaviors of a Cohesive Team™ are clear. Teams need similar basics, no matter what they work on: trust, openness, and accountability.

Looking for more information on creating a productive, high-functioning team? Join us for our webinar, Five Behaviors that Engage Executive Teams, on March 27.


Remember, teamwork begins by building trust. And the only way to do that is to overcome our need for invulnerability.” – Patrick Lencioni

Five Behaviors that Engage Executive Teams

Tracy Puett

Tracy Puett is a consultant at FlashPoint. He provides expertise in the areas of curriculum design and facilitation, assessments, and coaching at all levels.