The formation of teams creates substantial and sustainable long-term benefits for the organization, including the fostering of a self-managing environment where employees are fully empowered to make decisions that increase their efficiency, effectiveness and overall productivity.
Many organizations will transition from groups and committees to formally structured teams with specific goals and objectives that are chartered by the organization to fulfill a specific purpose. Within the company, the transition can be either smooth from one environment to another, or sudden, resulting in traumatic organizational changes.
It is important for leaders to understand that the nature of a team is based upon a discipline that the team structure imposes on itself. Teams create a fully empowered environment that allows organizations to become more efficient, effective and productive. This shift provides companies with the flexibility to become more adaptive to the forces of change, and as a result the world has witnessed an overall increase in global competition in virtually every industry.
Many organizations purport to have so-called team environments, but some standard working groups are mislabeled or misidentified as teams. Some of the most common groups to be mislabeled as teams are discussed below.
- Committees - Organizational committees usually serve as an investigative or advisory body reporting to an appointed person or to the one who organized them. -
- Task Forces - Organizational task forces are temporary problem solving groups formed to deal with issues that overlap lines of authority. A task force may, for its duration, be full or part time.
- Quality Circles - Quality circles consist of groups of employees and supervisors who are seeking ways to increase the effectiveness of workgroups through higher productivity and improved quality.
- Project Groups - Project groups are organized to work specifically on a project such as a new product or a new facility. Like the task force, the project group may have a temporary existence. When its mission is accomplished, the group disbands.
Teams have many traits that distinguish them from groups. They are normally chartered to fulfill a specific organizational purpose. The most distinguishing characteristic of a team is that its members have as their highest priority the accomplishment of team goals.
The most important business at hand is the success of the team in reaching the collective goals set by its members. Members support one another, collaborate freely and communicate openly and clearly with one another. Effective teams are able to accomplish their organizational purpose within specific areas, as outlined below.
- Information - Within the effective team environment, information flows freely-horizontally, vertically and to the entire team. There is a full sharing of information among team members, and individuals are open and honest about what they are communicating with each other.
- Personal Relationships - As the team environment develops and is fostered, nurtured and sustained, relationships on the team become more trusting, respectful, collaborative and supportive. Individuals learn to work together and respect one another's input, perspective and opinions.
- Conflict - Within a healthy team environment, conflict is regarded as natural and helpful when it centers around examining issues and key points that need to be addressed and is confined to issues, not personalities. In most group environments conflict is often rooted in personal traits, motives and agendas that tend to be destructive to everyone involved. Once the team environment is fostered and developed, most team members will use conflict constructively to address issues, solve problems and make decisions by examining all aspects of each element.
- Team Atmosphere - As team members learn to work with each other in an effective team environment, they become more trusting, respectful, collaborative and supportive, creating an open and nonthreatening environment in which to operate.
- Decisions - Decisions in the team environment are arrived at by consensus rather than by a majority vote or by forcing members to agree with the decision of the group. By arriving at a consensus, each team member is fully committed to a full and efficient use of the resources available to the team. In this manner each team member is fully responsible for the decision of the entire team.
- Creativity - Within many organizational groups, the emphasis is on activity and end input, rather than output and solutions. Within an effective team environment, the team members create more solution-oriented outcomes. The focus of the group is on results, not activity.
- Power Base - Within many organizational groups, it is not uncommon to see power hoarded by individuals or small groups based on internal politics and personal agendas. However, in an effective team environment the power of the team is shared by all of its members. It is based on the competence of each member and the contributions that each makes to the team.
- Motivation - Within many organizational environments individual achievement is valued without concern for the group. Individuals and groups place their personal interests over and above the interests of the organization. However, on a team, the individual members set the environment for a commitment to group goals. Rather than being coerced and pressured to go along with imposed goals, members find that there is more chance for achievement through the advancement of the team.
- Reward - Within many organizational groups the basis for rewards is often unclear. They can be based on subjective and often arbitrary appraisals of performance, favoring specific individuals over others. However, within an effective team environment the rewards are based on the contribution that the group provides to the organization. The team, rather than individuals within the team, is rewarded for its performance.
Excerpt: A Team's Purpose, Function & Use: Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series (Majorium Business Press, Stevens Point, WI 2011)
Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D. is the author of the 125 books included in Pinpoint Skill Development Training Series. He has also authored "Great! What Makes Leaders Great," which was selected by "Foreword Review Magazine" as one of the top ten career books published in 2011, as well as a finalist in the "2011 Foreword Review Book of the Year Awards."
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