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Enter the latest trend-or-tool, depending on one's view: Teamwork. Corporations and workers alike now recognize that two heads really are better than one, and just as it takes a team of doctors to operate or a team of players to move a football, it takes team effort to compete effectively in today's marketplace. We have always had teams, but now they are a significant part of how we do business.
Teaming has been applied to everything from the formation of strategic alliances to the creation of facilities designed specifically to help reduce product cycles and bring goods to market faster. Reducing the product cycle has obvious corporate benefits since the cost of development is reduced. A major pharmaceutical company notes that every day that can be saved in getting a drug on the market saves the corporation $60 million dollars in operating expenses.
Corporations are also using teams to create learning organizations. When we work with others and open ourselves up to a variety of viewpoints and ideas, we learn from one another. The mutual interdependence required of team structures promotes a natural give and take of ideas, methods and processes, promoting an environment for an exchange of knowledge and understanding.
Statistics support the benefits of teaming. A recent survey of corporate managers found that 76% felt teams improved employee morale and 62% said teams improved management morale. As many as 80% thought teams contributed to increased profits, while 90% felt that teams improved the quality of the product or service. Significantly, 81% of those surveyed believed that teams contributed to improved productivity.
A team is defined by Webster as “a group of people formed around a common goal” and possessing three attributes: a purpose (defined goal); a duration (a pre-conceived notion of how long the team will exist); and membership (a sense of belonging). Although many groups traditionally have a purpose and membership, the key to defining a team is duration. Without duration, the necessity to work interdependently loses priority.
Today’s corporation may have many different types of teams, each varied in organizational structure, membership and tangibility. We can identify certain attributes that allow us to categorize teams into generalized groupings. These are sequential, matrixed and enabled.
A sequential team is linear in nature. The team members work on a process and each person works on one part of the whole. In many situations, team members are cross-trained and switch roles during the week. However, the entire process requires information to be “handed-off” in a sequential manner.
The matrixed team consists of members who belong primarily to another department or group but join forces at defined moments to accomplish a specified task. The key identifiers of matrixed teams are that they are cross-functional, multi-disciplinary and typically decentralized when not meeting as a team. They are most evident in organizations that have undergone reorganization or re-engineering to create what is often referred to as product lines or service lines of business.
The third distinct team formation is the enabled team. This team, like the matrixed team, is multidisciplinary but possesses a greater intensity. The enabled team member is almost always co-located (within the department and in the defined team space) and may be recognized more within the organization as a member of the team than as a component of his or her discipline. The focus is primarily to get a given task accomplished utilizing the best of the combined brain power on the team.
Organizations today are made up of combinations of these teams, which are created and aligned in accordance with staffing resources and business needs-the primary goal being to make the most of the collective brain power available. For this reason, team structures, in terms of both people and place, are elastic. Effective core team size does have boundaries, howe