Extra-Dependent Teams - The Book

Seeing two types of teams solves many problems

David Kesby

If you're like me, you will have formed an opinion about teams based on working in some great, and some awful teams earlier in your career.

For me, that experience came during my first career in the armed forces. But whilst I knew good from bad, I couldn't say what made the difference.

My second career was in leadership development and I quickly became familiar with some important research on teams. Most of this research identified that about 50% of teams were ineffective. That's a huge proportion of organisational work being less productive than the sum of the parts.

The research seemed clear - Don't be a group; become a team; be interdependent; specialise in your role, work together; have a common goal.

It seemed easy, but it wasn't.

For instance, I was in a team of coaches. We all did similar work, didn't ever work together and didn't really have a common goal. Yet we felt like we were a team. If we had followed the experts' advice we would have spent a lot of time working together, and less time with our clients - being productive.

Thankfully I'd studied organisational learning at Lancaster University, which had opened my eyes to Communities of Practice. I had a light bulb moment:

What if the team I was in was a community of practice rather than an interdependent team?

This question led me to many years of research, experimentation, writing and re-writing.

The result was a book that challenged the conventional wisdom of teams. It acknowledged that many teams need to be interdependent, but not all. Some need to form as communities of practice. I called these teams Extra-Dependent Teams because they depended on people outside the team, not inside, and they are more formal than communities of practice.

Two types of teams in organisations.

Recognising two types of teams starts to answer a lot of questions that only recognising one-type can't answer. Like why some teams find it so hard to be interdependent; how to find alignment when you're in multiple teams; why reward systems create dysfunction in some teams rather than productivity; how teams can help each other rather than competing against each other, and how to form a team of teams without needing domineering leadership by a senior manager.

Once you recognise Inter-Dependent and Extra-Dependent Teams, what they look like, how they differ from each other and how they complement each other in organisations, you'll start to see them everywhere. People who have read the book now can't not see them!

That's because these teams already exist.

The book isn't about creating Extra-Dependent Teams since most organisations have already unwittingly structured them into the system. Instead, the book is about recognising, appreciating, developing and leading Extra-Dependent Teams.

It's therefore a book to be read by:

  • Leaders of Extra-Dependent Teams
  • People in HR and Organisational Development
  • Coaches and Team Coaches
  • Trainers, tutors, facilitators and lecturers of leadership and teams

Personally, I think it should be read by every leader because once you understand Extra-Dependent Teams, it actually helps to better appreciate the true nature of Inter-Dependent Teams, and just as importantly, how both types of teams collaborate to benefit the whole of the organisation, their stakeholders and customers.

Extra-Dependent Teams 3D Book


"What makes this book work— and what makes it different from so many others in the field — is that it combines depth of engagement with freshness of perspective. As a result, it is not only engrossing but also immensely valuable."

Professor Alex Haslam, Co-Author of "The New Psychology of Leadership: Identity, Influence and Power"

"A fascinating synthesis of the work on teams and communities of practice. It will help managers benefits from key insights and approaches from both sides."

Bev and Etienne Wenger-Traynor (co-authors of Learning in landscapes of practice)

David combines academic rigour and depth with a practical guide for the application of this new mental model in real business situations. A must read for all Team Leaders, Managers and Team Members

Gina Lodge CEO The Academy of Executive Coaching

"I found myself wishing I'd been able to read it years ago! A great contribution to the topics of team, leadership & coaching."

Sally Tanski, Director, Oakley Learning Ltd