The Essence of Teamwork

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Nathan Leonard Maxwell IV
E302 Professional World of Work

The Essence of Teamwork

"Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their hard work. For if one of them should fall, the other one can raise his partner up. But how will it be with just the one who falls when there is not another to raise him up?" – Ecclesiastes 4:9, 10

As the scriptural text quoted above implies, teamwork can accomplish what the individual cannot do on his or her own. Teamwork is defined as "a small number of people with complementary skills who are committed to a common purpose, performance goals, and approach for which they are mutually accountable." (Katzenbach and Smith, 1993) In today's society, with so much emphasis on pride and personal achievement, the concept of teamwork seems to be old-fashioned or basic. Clashes of personality, different perspectives and cultures prescribe one to develop a natural inclination toward individual work and an unhealthy reluctance towards team work. Nevertheless, teamwork, if managed properly, can be a source in which complexity is simplified, a problem meets a solution and great things are accomplished. So with the focus on teamwork, what are the present challenges to teamwork? What are some good approaches towards building a successful team? Finally, what are the personal and collective benefits of teamwork?

The Challenges to Teamwork
When asked the question, "What are some challenges to teamwork?" most people would respond with common answers such as: conflicts of personalities, stress, job dissatisfaction, unethical behavior, miscommunication or lack of communication. However, with advancements in technology and a never before experienced contact between the western and eastern hemispheres of the world, there are new challenges that are being encountered now and will continue to be dealt with in the future. The challenges that must be met by today's project teams are: Virtual Project Teaming, Cross-functional teams, Globalization, Diversity and Time to Market Pressure. Most of the common contributing factors to teamwork failure such as personality conflict, miscommunication or stress are the consequences experienced if the previously mentioned challenges are not met. The greater proportion of the work of virtual project teams is carried out online. These sorts of teams exploit reliable and consistent communications in order to work together and overcome some of the frictions of time and geography. Simply put, there is nothing wrong with using great technology such as e-mail, videoconferencing or teleconferencing. However there is a problem when such methods frequently become a substitute for face-to-face communications. Face to face meetings allow for immediate feedback in regards to decision-making and a greater familiarity with other team members. The problems associated with virtual project teaming are limited familiarity with other members, different time zones, inability to resolve conflicts effectively and as always the possibility of technical difficulties with the equipment.

Cross-functional teams consist of team members of multiple disciplines, skills and talents. A great amount of projects have parameters that extend above engineering and reach into areas such as marketing, sales, public relations and so forth. Therefore, it is important that team members with different qualifications work in harmony with each other if a project is to be successful. Nevertheless, problems arise when vital team members are not available and no one has any knowledge of their portion of the project. Problems also arise when one team member has little respect for the discipline of another.

The by-product of the globalization movement of large corporations and organizations is a growth in diversity. Project teams must develop products and provide services for a mass market. Therefore, project teams now and in the future will include different...
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