Why are teams and groups seen as essential features of contemporary organisations?
This essay aims to discuss why teams and groups are seen as essential features of contemporary organisations. Firstly, it will examine what exactly constitutes a group or team, then it will go on to discuss different types of groups and teams which exist within an organisation. Next it will explain why groups and teams are key to contemporary organisations in particular and finally, it will discuss the disadvantages associated with groups within organisations.
Firstly, it is important to distinguish what exactly constitutes a team or a group. As Khan (2010) states, all teams are groups because the individuals in it have some kind of of unifying relationship, but not all groups are teams because the individuals making up a group may have very little or no interdependence and they could just as well work alone. For the purposes of this essay we will assume that the terms team and group are interchangeable. Therefore, a group is a collection of individuals who share a common set of norms, who generally have differentiated roles among themselves, and who interact with one another toward the joint pursuit of common goals (Steers and Black, 1994).
Within an organisation different types of groups exist and are essential for the day to day running of the company. Formal and informal groups are the most common groups found within organisations; where formal groups are the groups brought together by the organisation for a specific purpose - for example, the human resources department - and where informal groups are the social groups formed voluntarily by individuals within the organisation - for example, people who share common interests. Businesses cannot exist without both formal and informal groups. Informal groups provide individuals with a means of gaining help and support to carry out their particular objectives (which may or may not be the same as the organisation's objectives) (Handy, 1993 as cited in Kahn, 2010). Informal groups provide employees with the social contact they desire which makes them more agreeable in the work environment and as such more willing to participate actively in their formal groups.
Open and closed groups also exist within organisations; where an open group is one whose membership changes frequently and a closed group is one whose membership is relatively stable. In a closed group status relationships are established among the members, meaning that there will be clear cut high status and low status members. Within an organisation the management can manipulate these different sets of groups in order to achieve their goals. For example, keeping decision making groups as open groups means that leadership roles are more difficult to establish amongst the members and thus high status members of the group will find it hard to establish norms and the team will work to its best potential.
Many contemporary organisations are now spread globally, so it is of utmost importance for them to factor in another type of group, the virtual group. Virtual groups are able to come together regardless of time and space restrictions to work on resolving any issues. Thanks to advances of the world wide web, for the first time teams can virtually collocate all of the information they need to work together and put it all in context (Lipnack and Stamps, 1997). Virtual groups allow the organisation to respond quickly to any market changes, take pressure away from top management and instil a sense of belonging and importance amongst the employees. The virtual group is an important factor for global organisations as it allows for cultural diversity in the solutions which are proposed. For example, the Chinese office may have a different way of thinking than the American office, but through virtual groups it is easy to transfer this cultural knowledge to other areas of the business. A more and more technology driven marketplace...
References: Kahn, H (2010), “Groups and Conflict Management” (chapter 6), Organisational Behaviour, Heriot Watt University
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