Creating excellent teams – TU Delft

In its own perspective on Recognition & Rewards, TU Delft identified two main levers for change towards the national goals. These were ‘Building on talent’ (for individual employees), and ‘Creating excellent teams’.

For the latter, we broadened our approach by not just focusing on team science, but by defining TU Delft teams as ‘teams with shared goals for research, education and valorisation that work towards positive synergy’. This entails that the collective level of performance is greater than the sum of the individual members’ performance. Team members contribute with their:

  • different (scientific) disciplinary backgrounds,
  • different career path accents (research, education, valorisation, support and/ or leadership),
  • different career stages, genders, ages, and ethnic and cultural backgrounds.

Organisation Behaviour Management

Within the project on stimulating teamwork, we undertook both desk and field research: we identified existing best practices and held interviews with nine high-performing TU Delft teams using a method called Organisation Behaviour Management. One of the outcomes showed that employees often participate in multiple teams simultaneously. In addition, these teams may differ in ‘location’ (the spectrum ranging from primary team to international team) and the degree of collaboration (from monodisciplinary to transdisciplinary). Furthermore, to do justice to the complexity of university teamwork, we identified potential dilemmas and paradoxes on the level of individuals, teams, team leaders and organisation.

Success factors

In order to counter these dilemmas and paradoxes, we identified success factors for the high-performing teams’ current rewards of teamwork (see illustration). These teamwork rewards turned out to be mostly social- and work- content related rewards, rather than tangible ones (such as teaching the next generation and making scientific discoveries).

Teamwork toolbox

We then invited university staff to join focus groups to share their ideas, needs and wants on a Teamwork toolbox. As teamwork is a responsibility of all employees, most tools are designed to be used by all employees, rather than just for team leaders. The tools will be developed in batches and serve to implement the success factors and rewards. Examples of such tools that are currently being developed are:

  1. A discussion tool to determine the fitting amount and type of team collaboration (related to the success factors, ‘Leadership style’ and ‘Shared mission’).
  2. A manual on how to recognise and reward teamwork, based on scientific principles and the aforementioned TU Delft rewards to choose from (related to the success factors, ‘Positive reinforcement’ and ‘Autonomy’).
  3. A method for solving Wicked Problems using the teams’ thought diversity (related to the success factors, ‘Group growth mind set’ and ‘Collaborative contributions’).

More information about this good practice, please contact Floor Driessen at She is project leader Teamwork at TU Delft.

Not only in Delft are they creating excellent teams. In this video Tanya Bondarouk, professor in Human Resource Management at the University of Twente explains her vision on the Recognition & Rewards programme and teamwork as important element in this programme.