CHAPTER 10 SUMMARY
Self-directed work teams (SDWTs) complete an entire piece of work requiring several
interdependent tasks and have substantial autonomy over the execution of these tasks.
Sociotechnical systems theory (STS) is the template typically used to determine whether
SDWTs will operate effectively. STS identifies four main conditions for high-
First, SDWTs must be a primary work unit, that is, they are an intact team that
makes a product, provides a service, or otherwise completes an entire work process.
Second, the team must have collective self-regulation, meaning that that must have
sufficient autonomy to manage the work process. Third, high-performance SDWTs have
control over “key variances”. This refers to the idea that teams control the disturbances or
interruptions that create quality problems in the work process. Fourth, STS states that a
balance must be struck between the social and technical systems to maximize the
Sociotechnical systems theory has been widely supported since its origins in the
1950s. However, it is not very helpful at identifying the optimal alignment of the social
and technical system. Moreover, SDWTs face several barriers to implementation. These
high-performance teams tend to operate best in cultures with low power distance and
high collectivism. Supervisors often resist SDWTs because of fears that empowering
teams will remove the power of supervisors. Supervisors must also adjust from their
traditional hands-on “command-and-control” style to hands-off facilitators. Employees
oppose SDWTs when they worry that they lack the skills to adapt to the new work
requirements. Labor unions sometimes oppose SDWTs because of the risk of higher
stress and the need to removing job categories that unions have negotiated over the years.
Virtual teams are teams whose members operate across space, time, and
organizational boundaries and are linked through information technologies to achieve
organizational tasks. Their main distinction with conventional teams is that virtual teams
are not co-located and that they rely on information technologies rather than face-to-face
Virtual teams are becoming more common because information technology and
knowledge-based work makes it easier to collaborate from a distance. Virtual teams are
becoming increasingly necessary because they represent a natural part of the knowledge
management process. Moreover, as companies globalize, they must rely more on virtual
teams than co-located teams to coordinate operations at distant sites.
Several elements in the team effectiveness model stand out as important issues for
virtual teams. High-performance virtual teams require a variety of communication media,
and virtual team members need to creatively combine these media to match the task
demands. Virtual teams operate better with structured rather than complex and
ambiguous tasks. They usually cannot maintain as large a team as is possible in
conventional teams. Members of virtual teams require special skills in communication
systems and should be aware of cross-cultural issues. Virtual team members should also
meet face-to-face, particularly when the team forms, to assist team development and
Trust is important in team dynamics, particularly in virtual teams. Trust occurs
when we have positive expectations about another party’s intentions and actions toward
us in risky situations. The minimum level of trust is calculus-based trust, which is based
on deterrence. Teams cannot survive with this level of trust. Knowledge-based trust is a
higher level of trust and is grounded on the other party’s predictability. The highest level
of trust, called identity-based trust, is based on mutual understanding and emotional bond
between the parties. Most employees join a team with a high level of trust, which tends to
decline over time.
Team decisions are impeded by time constraints, evaluation apprehension,
conformity to peer pressure, groupthink, and group polarization. Production blocking –
where only one person typically speaks at a time – is a form of time constraint on teams.
Evaluation apprehension occurs when employees believe that others are silently
evaluating them, so they avoid stating seemingly silly ideas. Conformity keeps team
members aligned with team goals, but it also tends to suppress dissenting opinions.
Groupthink is the tendency of highly cohesive groups to value consensus at the price of
decision quality. Group polarization refers to the tendency of teams to make more
extreme decisions than individuals working alone.
Three rules to minimize team decision-making problems are to ensure that the
team leader does not dominate, maintain an optimal team size, and ensure that team
norms support critical thinking. Five team structures that potentially improve team
decision making are constructive conflict, brainstorming, electronic brainstorming,
Delphi technique, and nominal group technique. Constructive conflict occurs when team
members debate their different perceptions about an issue in a way that keeps the conflict
focused on the task rather than people. Brainstorming requires team members to speak
freely, avoid criticism, provide as many ideas as possible, and build on the ideas of
others. Electronic brainstorming uses computer software to share ideas while minimizing
team dynamics problems. Delphi technique systematically pools the collective knowledge
of experts on a particular subject without face-to-face meetings. In nominal group
technique, participants write down ideas alone, describe these ideas in a group, then
silently vote on these ideas.
Team building is any formal activity intended to improve the development and
functioning of a work team. Four team-building strategies are role definition, goal setting,
problem solving, and interpersonal processes. Some team building events succeed, but
companies often fail to consider the contingencies of team building.