STAR Diagram

The STAR Diagram offers a way of seeing and understanding the conditions that shape a generative team. Whether you use it to plan for an effective team or to intervene when things go awry, the STAR diagram offers a way to see, understand, and influence the patterns in your teamat home, at work, or in your community.


The STAR Diagram, initially framed by Brenda Zimmerman, represents four conditions that influence the nature of interaction and work in a group that comes together for a common purpose.

  • Same and Different Coherent, generative groups need enough similarity to hold them together and enough difference to create patterns and tension for energy and change.

  • Talking and Listening When people come together to accomplish a task, whether in the short term or across time, its critical that each person is allowed to contribute and that each person listens to the contributions of others.
  • Authentic Work Teams need to do real work together. The challenges they face, the products they create, the opportunities they exploreall must be of real value to each of them and to the larger system of which they are a part.
  • Reason for Being Groups need a compelling reason for working together, both in short-term, periodic meetings, and in longer term of their overall purpose.

So What?

Patterns of interaction and decision making in highly functioning, generative teams reflect a balance among all four points of the STAR. The conditions are balanced and functioning well. You can use the STAR Diagram in a number of ways.

  • Assess current patterns to infuse energy into a team that has become stagnant or dysfunctional.

  • Identify when a team has finished its work and is ready to sunset.
  • Engage members of the group in understanding their own patterns and checking for balance among the conditions.
  • Set shared expectations and commitments as a new team forms.

Now What?

Use the STAR Diagram when you engage with teams/groups of all kinds to ensure generative, productive engagements.

  • Define the patterns you have and/or the patterns you want.
  • Discuss implications of those patterns for the individuals engaged in that team and identify actions that can set the conditions for the patterns you want.
  • Engage with each other to set those conditions to build a generative team.
  • Assess your progress regularly and adapt as necessary.

Related Resources

Teams have the potential to accomplish much more than any one individual. The start up of a team can be full of energy as team members sort out individual expectations and form a direction that is for the benefit of all. Over time, however, every team encounters challenges. These challenges can either help the team focus and work together, or they can threaten the working relationships that support the work of the team.
All human systems are self-organizing, and teams are a great example. Individual agents come together from different places with different skills and expectations. They interact in meetings and over email. Over time, patterns form of high performance or wasted effort.
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