Evidence suggests that teams out perform individuals on tasks that require multiple skills, judgment, and experience. As organizations restructure themselves to compete more effectively and efficiently, they are turning to teams as a better way to utilize the talents of employees. Management has found that teams are more flexible and responsive to a changing environment because they can be quickly assembled, deployed, refocused, and disbanded. In addition, teams promote job satisfaction through enhancing employee involvement, increasing employee morale, and promoting work force diversity. Also, superior work teams are fundamental to TQM.
Team development is a dynamic, ongoing process that can be broken into five stages: forming, storming, norming, performing, and adjourning. The first stage, forming , is characterized by uncertainty about the team’s purpose, structure, and leadership. This stage is when members begin to think of themselves as a team. The storming stage involves intragroup conflict over individual roles and leadership. This stage is complete when there is relatively clear leadership within the team. In the norming stage, close relationships and group cohesiveness develop. This stage is complete when the team’s structure solidifies and members have accepted group norms that pertain to workplace behavior. In the fourth stage, performing , the structure is fully functional and accepted by all team members. For permanent teams, performing is the last stage. For temporary teams, though, the final stage is adjourning , and the team wraps-up activities and prepares to disband.
A group is two or more interdependent individuals who interact to achieve particular objectives. A work group interacts primarily to share information and make decisions that will help group members to perform their on-the-job responsibilities. A work team generates positive synergy through coordinated effort. The figure above highlights the differences between work groups and work teams. In an effort to obtain synergy that can boost performance, many organizations have recently restructured work processes around teams. The use of teams creates the potential for an organization to generate greater outputs with no increase in inputs. But there is nothing “magical” in the creation of teams that assures the achievement of positive synergy. And merely calling a group a team does not automatically increase its performance.
Functional teams are composed of a manager and the employees in his or her unit. Functional teams are often formed to improve work-related activities or to solve specific problems within a particular functional unit. Problem-Solving Teams meet periodically to share ideas and suggest improvements to work processes and methods.
Quality circles are problem solving teams that consist of eight to ten employees and supervisors who assume responsibility for solving quality problems. These teams recommend their solutions to management for final approval. Self-managed work teams consist of ten to fifteen people who assume the responsibilities of their former supervisors: such as, controlling the pace of work, organizing breaks, determining work assignments, choosing inspection procedures, and choosing and evaluating members. These teams implement their own suggestions and take responsibility for the outcomes.
On cross-functional teams , equally ranked employees from different functional areas work together to accomplish a task. Cross-functional teams expedite the following: exchanging ideas from diverse areas within or between organizations, developing new ideas and solving problems, and coordinating complex projects. Virtual teams are an extension of electronic meetings. Team members use communication technology to meet or solve problems without concern for time or space.
Not every worker is inherently a team player. In fact, some individuals prefer to be recognized for their individual achievements. Furthermore, work environments in some organizations are such that “only the strong survive.” Finally, countries differ in terms of how conducive they are to individualism and collectivism. Teams fit well with countries that score high on collectivism, such as Japan. However, it is challenging to introduce teams into a work population that is made up of employees born and raised in a highly individualistic society, such as the United States.
While some workers will not be trainable, the most popular methods for turning individuals into team players are proper selection, employee training, and rewarding appropriate team behaviors. When hiring team members, managers should ensure that individuals can fulfill team roles as well as technical requirements. Even independent workers can be trained to become team players through workshops that cover team problem solving, communications, negotiations, conflict resolution, the five stages of team development, and coaching skills. The reward system must encourage cooperation rather than competition. For instance, promotions, pay raises, and other forms of recognition should be not only based on individual excellence but also on collaboration and team work. Also, teamwork can be its own reward because it is exciting and satisfying to be an integral part of a successful team.
One of the central characteristics of continuous process improvement is the use of teams. Ford Motor Company began its continuous improvement efforts in the early 1980s, and teams were the primary organizing mechanism. When designing the quality problem-solving teams, Ford’s management realized that the teams should be: small enough to be efficient and effective be properly trained in the skills their members will need be allocated enough time to work on the problems they plan to address be given the authority to resolve the problems and implement corrective action have a designated “champion” to help the team get around roadblocks.
Managing diversity on teams is a balancing act. Diversity typically provides fresh perspectives on issues, but it makes it harder to unify the team and reach agreements. When solving problems or making decisions, heterogeneous teams bring multiple perspectives into play, thereby increasing the likelihood that the team will identify creative or unique solutions. In addition, the lack of a common perspective causes diverse teams to spend more time discussing issues, which minimizes the chances that a weak alternative will be chosen. A potential problem with diversity is that it may be detrimental to cohesiveness. However, the relationship between cohesiveness and productivity can be moderated by performance-related norms. If the norms of the team support diversity, the team can maximize the value of heterogeneity while achieving the benefits of high cohesiveness.
8 to 10 employees and supervisors who share an area of responsibility and who meet regularly to discuss quality problems, investigate the causes of the problem, recommend solutions, and take corrective actions but who have no authority
Self-Managed Work Team
A formal group of employees that operates without a manager and is responsible for a complete work process or segment that delivers a product or service to an external or internal customer
Familiarity and success lead to contentment and complacency.
Groupthink hinders challenges among members.
All of the easy tasks have been accomplished.
Group processes function less effectively.
Teams And Continuous Process Improvement Programs
Teams are a natural vehicle for employees to share ideas and implement improvements.
Teams are well suited to the high levels of communication and contact, response, adaptation, and coordination and sequencing in work environments where continuous process improvement programs are in place.