Tuesday, April 27, 2010
E = Everyone
A = Achieves
A team comprises a group of people linked in a common purpose. Teams are especially appropriate for conducting tasks that are high in complexity and have many interdependent subtasks.
A group in itself does not necessarily constitute a team. Teams normally have members with complementary skills and generate synergy through a coordinated effort which allows each member to maximize his or her strengths and minimize his or her weaknesses.
Thus teams of sports players can form (and re-form) to practice their craft. Transport logistics executives can select teams of horses, dogs or oxen for the purpose of conveying goods.
Theorists in business in the late 20th century popularized the concept of constructing teams. Differing opinions exist on the efficacy of this new management fad. Some see "team" as a four-letter word: overused and under-useful. Others see it as a panacea that finally realizes the human relations movement's desire to integrate what that movement perceives as best for workers and as best for managers. Still others believe in the effectiveness of teams, but also see them as dangerous because of the potential for exploiting workers — in that team effectiveness can rely on peer pressure and peer surveillance.
Compare the more structured/skilled concept of a crew, and the advantages of formal and informal partnerships.
Team size, composition, and formation
Team size and composition affect the team processes and outcomes. The optimal size (and composition) of teams is debated and will vary depending on the task at hand. At least one study of problem-solving in groups showed an optimal size of groups at four members. Other works estimate the optimal size between 5-12 members. Less than 5 members results in decreased perspectives and diminished creativity. Membership in excess of 12 results in increased conflict and greater potential of sub-groups forming.
David Cooperrider suggests that the larger the group, the better. This is because a larger group is able to address concerns of the whole system. So while a large team may be ineffective at performing a given task, Cooperider says that the relevance of that task should be considered, because determining whether the team is effective first requires identifying what needs to be accomplished.
Regarding composition, all teams will have an element of homogeneity and heterogeneity. The more homogeneous the group, the more cohesive it will be. The more heterogeneous the group, the greater the differences in perspective and increased potential for creativity, but also the greater potential for conflict.
Team members normally have different roles, like team leader and agents. Large teams can divide into sub-teams according to need.
Many teams go through a life-cycle of stages, identified by Bruce Tuckman as: forming, storming, norming, performing and adjourning.
Types of teams
Independent and interdependent teams
Of particular importance is the concept of different types of teams. A distinction is usually drawn between "independent" and "interdependent" teams. To continue the sports team example, a rugby team is clearly an interdependent team:
No significant task can be accomplished without the help of any of the members
Within that team members typically specialize in different tasks (running the ball, goal kicking & scrum feeding), and
The success of every individual is inextricably bound to the success of the whole team. No Rugby player, no matter how talented, has ever won a game by playing alone.
On the other hand, a chess team is a classic example of an independent team:
Matches are played and won by individuals or partners,
Every person performs basically the same actions, and
Whether one player wins or loses has no direct effect on the performance of the next player. If all team members each perform the same basic tasks, such as students working problems in a math class, or outside sales employees making phone calls, then it is likely that this team is an independent team. They may be able to help each other — perhaps by offering advice or practice time, by providing moral support, or by helping in the background during a busy time — but each individual's success is primarily due to each individual's own efforts. Chess players do not win their own matches merely because the rest of their teammates did, and math students do not pass tests merely because their neighbors know how to solve the equations.
Coaching an "interdependent" team like a football team necessarily requires a different approach from coaching an "independent" team because the costs and benefits to individual team members — and therefore the intrinsic incentives for positive team behaviors — are very different. An interdependent team benefits from getting to know the other team members socially, from developing trust in each other, and from conquering artificial challenges (such as offered in outdoors ropes courses).
Independent teams typically view these activities as unimportant, emotion-driven time wasters. They benefit from more intellectual, job-related training. The best way to start improving the functioning of an independent team is often a single question, "What does everyone need to do a better job?"
Normally, a manager acts as the team leader and is responsible for defining the goals, methods, and functioning of the team. However, interdependencies and conflicts between different parts of an organization may not be best addressed by hierarchical models of control. Self-managed teams use clear boundaries to create the freedom and responsibility to accomplish tasks in an efficient manner.
The main idea of the self-managed team is that the leader does not operate with positional authority. In a traditional management role, the manager is responsible for providing instruction, conducting communication, developing plans, giving orders, and disciplining and rewarding employees, and making decisions by virtue of his or her position. In this organizational model, the manager delegates specific responsibility and decision-making authority to the team itself, in the hope that the group will make better decisions than any individual. Neither a manager nor the team leader make independent decisions in the delegated responsibility area. Decisions are typically made by consensus in successful self-managed teams, by voting in very large or formal teams, and by hectoring and bullying in unsuccessful teams. The team as a whole is accountable for the outcome of its decisions and actions.
Self-managed teams operate in many organizations to manage complex projects involving research, design, process improvement, and even systemic issue resolution, particularly for cross-department projects involving people of similar seniority levels. While the internal leadership style in a self-managed team is distinct from traditional leadership and operates to neutralize the issues often associated with traditional leadership models, a self-managed team still needs support from senior management to operate well.
Self-managed teams may be interdependent or independent. Of course, merely calling a group of people a self-managed team does not make them either a team or self-managed.
As a self-managed team develops successfully, more and more areas of responsibility can be delegated, and the team members can come to rely on each other in a meaningful way.
A team used only for a defined period of time and for a separate, concretely definable purpose, often becomes known as a project team. Managers commonly label groups of people as a "team" based on having a common function. Members of these teams might belong to different groups, but receive assignment to activities for the same project, thereby allowing outsiders to view them as a single unit. In this way, setting up a team allegedly facilitates the creation, tracking and assignment of a group of people based on the project in hand. The use of the "team" label in this instance often has no relationship to whether the employees are working as a team.
A sports team is a group of people which play a sport together. Members include all players (even those who are waiting their turn to play) as well as support members such as a team manager or coach.
Developments in communications technologies have seen the emergence of the virtual work team. A virtual team is a group of people who work interdependently and with shared purpose across space, time, and organisation boundaries using technology to communicate and collaborate. Virtual team members can be located across a country or across the world, rarely meet face-to-face, and include members from different cultures. Many virtual teams are cross-functional and emphasise solving customer problems or generating new work processes. The United States Labour Department reported that in 2001, 19 million people worked from home online or from another location, and that by the end of 2002, over 100 million people world-wide would be working outside traditional offices (Pearlson & Sounders, 2001).
Interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary teams:
Teams, such as in medical fields, may be interdisciplinary or multidisciplinary.
Multidisciplinary teams involve several professionals who independently treat various issues a patient may have, focusing on the issues in which they specialize. The problems that are being treated may or may not relate to other issues being addressed by individual team members. Interdisciplinary team approach involves all members of the team working together towards the same goal. In an interdisciplinary team approach, there can often be role blending by members of the core team, who may take on tasks usually filled by other team members.
Not all groups are teams:
Some people also use the word "team" when they mean "employees." A "sales team" is a common example of this loose or perhaps euphemistic usage, though interdependencies exist in organisations, and a sales team can be let down by poor performance on other parts of the organisation upon which sales depend, like delivery, after-sales service, etc.. However "sales staff" is a more precise description of the typical arrangement.