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High Performance Teams (HPTs) is a term of art referring to teams, organizations, or virtual groups that are highly focused on their goals.


In less than a year, HPTs achieved a quantum leap in business results in all key success dimensions, including customer-, employee-, shareholder- and operational value-added dimensions. First described in detail by the Tavistock Institute, Great Britain, in the 1950s, HPTs gained popular acceptance in the United States by the 1980s, with adoption by organizations such as General Electric, Boeing, Digital Equipment Corporation (now HP), and others. In each of these cases, major change was created through the shifting of organizational culture, merging the business goals of the organization with the social needs of the individuals.

Due to its initial success, many organizations attempted to copy HPTs. However, without understanding the underlying dynamics that created them, and without adequate time and resources to develop them, most of these attempts failed. With this failure, HPTs fell out of general favor by 1995, and the term High Performance began to be used in a promotional context, rather than a performance-based one.

Recently, some private sector and government sector organizations have placed new focus on HPTs, as new studies and understandings have identified the key processes and team dynamics necessary to create all-around quantum performance improvements. With these new tools, organizations such as Kraft Foods, General Electric, Exelon, and the US government have focused new attention on High Performance Teams.

In Great Britain, high performance workplaces are defined as being those organizations where workers are actively communicated with and involved in the decisions directly affecting the workers. By regulation of the Department of Trade and Industry, these workplaces will be required in most organizations by 2008. While high performance workplaces are not HPTs, virtually all HPTs are high performance workplaces.


  • Center for Collaborative Organizations, University of North Texas, Denton, Texas
  • Hanlan: High Performance Teams: How to Make them Work, Praeger Press, 2004
  • High Performance Workplaces - Informing and Consulting Employees, UK DTI, 2003
  • Katzenbach et al: The Wisdom of Teams, HarperBusiness, 2003
  • Wellins et al: Empowered Teams: Creating Self-Directed Work Groups..., Jossey-Bass, 1991
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