Concepts of Team Management
July 17, 2004
Principles of Management, MGMT 330
When we think of the word team, individually many different ideas may come to mind about what a team really is. Some may think of an NFL team (Tennessee Titans), an NBA team (Sacramento Kings), or a NASA astronaut team with such pioneers as Edwin Aldrin, Jr. and Neil Armstrong as members. You might even think of the U.S. Navy, Air Force, Army, Coast Guard, or Marines as teams. In fact they all are, and they have a great deal in common as teams. However, for the purposes of this paper I will examine the characteristics of work teams, as they apply to organizations and I will supply answers to the following questions: What is a team? Where did the team concept come from? What are the types of teams? What are the advantages and disadvantages of having teams in organizations? What does it take to make a team effective? A work team will be defined for the purposes of this paper by a definition borrowed from Bateman and Snell (2004). A team is formed of people (usually a small number) with complementary skills who trust one another and are committed to a common purpose, common performance goals, and a common approach for which they hold themselves mutually accountable. Teams generally see themselves and are seen by others as a social entity, which is interdependent because of the tasks performed as members of a group. They are embedded in one or more larger social systems, performing tasks that affect others. The key to work teams is that they are mutually dependent, and this is the major factor that distinguishes a "team" from a "group". A Work group is different than a work team in that there is no significant incremental performance need or opportunity that would require it to become a team. The members interact primarily to share information, best practices, or perspectives and to make decisions to help each individual perform within his or her area of responsibility. There is no call for either a team approach or a mutual accountability requirement (Kane, 1998). Groups became a new focus of attention in the 1940s after the Hawthorne studies were published, which indicated that workers inside classic Theory X organizations form informal work groups (Yancey, 1988). However, Japan is the first country credited for successfully implementing teams in the workplace. The process began in the 1960's when the Japanese designed quality circles in an effort to overcome their reputation for poorly made goods. The idea was unique, combining statistical quality control with quality management, but putting responsibility for those tasks in the hands of the worker. Due to their phenomenal success, by 1988 over one million quality circles existed in Japan, with over ten million members. Much of the Japanese reputation for quality and productivity has been attributed to these groups. In 1970 Lockheed Aircraft extended the Japanese concept to the United States. The successful implementation of quality circles in an American plant was widely publicized and praised. Gradually the participative process appeared in manufacturing firms throughout the United States. However, widespread use was not seen until the early 1980s when the Japanese threat on the auto and steel industries intensified (The Team Concept, 2004). In recent years the use of work teams in organizations has been increasing substantially, and this trend is expected to continue. Depending on whom you talk to or which references you use, there are several types of teams, such as advice teams (help broaden information base for managerial systems), production teams (perform day-to-day operations), project teams (apply specialized knowledge for creative problem-solving), or action teams (collection of highly coordinated specialists who exhibit peak performance on demand). Generally, they can be narrowed down to either problem-solving or self-directed...
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