Connections That Drive Performance: Team of Teams Assessment of Georgia CTSA

illustration of people holding puzzle pieces

The Georgia Clinical & Translational Science Alliance (Georgia CTSA) reached out to one of its own experts to employ a novel research approach to evaluate its team connections and dynamics. The aim of this research was to understand the complex web of relationships connecting managers at the top of organizations and how these relationships drive the top team’s performance and the organization’s success.

Dorothy Carter, PhD, Associate Professor of Psychology at the University of Georgia (UGA), serves as part of Georgia CTSA’s Continuous Improvement and Evaluation (ECI) team and is an expert in the science behind Team Science. Her research in Team Science focuses on leadership and team collaboration on a large scale within different organizations. Dr. Carter also serves as the director of the Leadership, Innovation, Networks, and Collaboration (LINC) Laboratory at UGA where she and her research team study leadership and teamwork across a variety of organizational contexts. Her work often seeks to identify the key factors that enable multiple teams to work together effectively as part of larger, interdependent organizational systems known as multiteam systems or ‘teams of teams.’

According to Carter, “The Georgia CTSA is a great example of a ‘team of teams.’ The Georgia CTSA is composed of multiple functional teams that each pursue their own team goals. Additionally, all of the teams need to combine their efforts to achieve the overarching superordinate goals of the Georgia CTSA as a whole.”

Dr. Carter’s research in organizational psychology emphasizes that it is important for each team within the Georgia CTSA to function strongly individually, and to work together collaboratively with other teams in the alliance. Additionally, it is essential that each team understands the overarching superordinate goals of the system and how each team’s efforts can contribute to the bigger picture. As part of her work on the ECI team, Dr. Carter recently employed a survey-based research approach she calls a “Team of Teams Assessment” to evaluate the current patterns of collaboration, communication, strategic alignment, and collective performance within the Georgia CTSA hub. Dr. Carter has conducted her Team of Teams Assessment research with organizations across many industries, including pharmaceutical, banking, oil and gas, education, and medical companies. The assessment is intended to help senior leaders gain a clearer understanding of system functioning from the perspective of the individual team members. The assessment can also highlight opportunities to enhance collaboration processes within and between teams that senior leadership might not be aware of otherwise.

The Team of Teams Assessment was distributed to each member of the Georgia CTSA in Fall 2020. Participants were asked specific questions about their communication network connections with other members, the functioning of their own functional teams, and their understanding of the strategic performance and alignment of the alliance as a whole. Dr. Carter used the results of this assessment to create a ‘debrief report’ that summarized key insights about the functioning of the team of teams. Then, she and the PI team reviewed the debrief report together to identify current collaboration strengths as well as opportunities to continually enhance collaboration and shared understanding within the Georgia CTSA. Notably, Dr. Carter hopes to collaborate with other CTSA hubs across the country to build a broader understanding of the core drivers of CTSA hub effectiveness. She encourages members of other CTSA hubs to contact her directly if they are interested in participating in the team of teams assessment. 

As part of the ECI team, Dr. Carter has also collaborated with other ECI leadership and staff on a series of projects that leverage ‘bibliometric’ approaches to understand the impact of the Georgia CTSA and the broader CTSA program. For example, their work has leveraged archival databases of published research and citation analysis to evaluate the scope, influence, and interdisciplinary collaboration patterns of publications supported by individual CTSA hubs and publications supported by more than one hub over the course of a ten year timespan.  

“I think both of these approaches (i.e., bibliometrics and the team of teams assessment) are important to fully understand the functioning and effectiveness of the CTSA program. Bibliometric approaches can help us evaluate the overall impact of the program on scientific output and collaboration patterns across scientific disciplines. Whereas, the Team of Teams Assessment evaluates us – our organizational practices, our teamwork processes. The assessment provides insight into the current functioning of the Georgia CTSA as an organizational system. Essentially, it is a diagnostic tool that helps reveal things like: Who is working well with whom? Do the teams understand the overarching goals? Where are the opportunities to enhance collaboration and communication?”

Dr. Carter will be featured as our guest speaker for the final upcoming Team Science Skills Series event on May 21, 2021, 12:00 PM – 1:30 PM EDT, where she will discuss “Evaluating and Improving Team Performance”.


The Georgia CTSA is a statewide partnership between Emory, MSM, Georgia Tech, and UGA and is one of over 60 in a national consortium striving to improve the way biomedical research is conducted across the country. The consortium, funded through the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NCATS) and the National Institutes of Health's Clinical and Translational Science Awards, shares a common vision to translate laboratory discoveries into treatments for patients, engage communities in clinical research efforts, and train the next generation of clinical investigators.