The task of organizational theories is to uncover realities and discover the laws by which it operates and perhaps predict the future (Grey, 2009, p.6). Theory and practice are inseparable. Together they lead to a better understanding of factors influencing patterns of behaviour in work (Mullins 2009, p.4). Business theories or organizational theories are changing every day in order to accommodate the needs of the changes happening in the world. Many of the traditional business methods are given way for new methods in all domains of business. Organizational theories can be perceived differently as Sociology examines human behaviour in relation to various social, psychological, political and economical conditions that affect it whereas Psychology concentrates on how individual think and behave. Politics focuses on competitive struggle for political power and influence whereas Economics examines how wealth is produced and distributed (Knights & Hugh, 2006, p.5).
As mentioned above, the philosophy of working also has changed a lot. Earlier, most of the organizational functions performed individually. For example, a marketing executive during ancient periods, tried to achieve targets on individual basis without seeking any assistance from others. On the other hand, at present the whole marketing department is functioning as different teams for different regions under different leaders. Same way the production department, planning department, the accounting and financial departments; all function as teams.
Organizations mediate between the individuals and the wider societies. Joining the organization as an employee exposes the individual to substantial direction and control (Thompson& McHugh, 2003, p.5). It is not possible for a worker to function as freely as before after he joins an organization as an employee. His behaviours are the organization’s behaviour. In other words, he is the ambassador of the organization in the society where the organization operates. So, organizations need to put certain control upon the behaviour of the employees in the society. Group or team work is encouraged by many organizations in order to boost the image of the organization in the society where it works.
Mullins (2007) pointed out that group exists in all organizations and are essential for the efficient working and performances in the current organizations. He also argued that everyone in an organization will be a member of one or more groups (Mullins, 2007, p.6). Many business Gurus believe that team work is the best way to increase the productivity and improve the performance of the employees. Proponents argue that teamwork help each member of the team to get assistance from others in performing their tasks and thereby increasing the overall productivity of the firm. On the other hand, some people believe that teamwork is not as good as some of the proponents explain. Critics are of the view that teamwork reduces the responsibility level of the employee and he will try to get relax as much as possible while functioning as part of the team. They argue that the motivation for teamwork are less since the credit for good work or the blame for the bad work goes to the team; not to the team members which prevent the team members from functioning better. This research paper critically analyses teamwork and its utility in the current organizational setup.
The Formation, Behaviour and Effectiveness of Groups and Teams
As per CIPD (2009), team is simply a limited number of people who have shared objectives at work and who co-operate, on a permanent or temporary basis, to achieve those objectives. In most of the cases, teams will consist of people from the same employer. But at times there may be teams from different employers as well. For example, in a design project teams in construction, architects and engineers from different firms can be possible (CIPD, 2009)
Payne (1999) has pointed out; the ability to communicate effectively, to relate to others and to co-operate with others, and the knowledge and self-confidence to cope with the practical business of day today living etc as the major requirements for the members of a team (Payne, 1999, p.5). Communication is one of the vital aspects of every business functions. Irrespective of the nature of the job, the current recruiters give more emphasize to the communication abilities of the job seekers while they conducting the hiring process. Apart from communication abilities, team members need the ability to co-operate with others. Nobody can succeed in a team if his interpersonal skills are less. Team work is a chain of work in which the team members is only a link. If the link is weak the strength of the chain will be lost. Same way if the team member fails to adopt with others, team functioning would not be effective.
A team usually consists of people with different types of skills. Members of a team usually selected for their complementary skills, rather than a single commonality (What is the Difference Between a Team and a Group?). Consider a printing unit, the production team may consist of production manager, supervisors, printers, helpers, designers, delivery boys etc. The manger has the management skills whereas others have different types of working skills. These different skills will be assembled under a team and utilized for the benefit of the company. The entire objectives of the team can fail, if one or more members fail in their missions. For example, if the materials managers failed to procure the materials in time the production may be disturbed. If either the printer or the helper fails to execute their responsibilities properly, then also the production process may be affected. BIS (2009) mentioned that skilled people are more productive and more innovative and skills give individuals wider options; they climb higher, earn more and get more out of work. Moreover, skilled people are the backbone of any successful organization (BIS, 2009).
Team formation is not an easy task. It undergoes several stages like forming, storming, norming, performing, mourning etc (CIPD, 2009). Forming is the initial stage of team formation. During this period, the team members may not have much idea about the functioning of a team as their previous experience was purely on individual basis. The members may have lot of concerns and anxieties about the team functioning. Storming is the stage immediately after the formation of the team. This period is usually the most dangerous period of a team’s functioning. Conflicts of different kinds can arise during this period. For example, the team members may have different opinions about the tactics adopted to reach the goal during this period. Hot and aggressive debates about the functioning of the team and the roles of the team members can take place during this period. Norming is the third stage of team functioning. This period is usually a quiet period during which each team member begins to adapt with the characteristics of team and the team spirit will be started to develop. Performing is the fourth stage of team functioning. During this period all the members of the team concentrate on their performances alone. It is the implementation stage in which all the theoretical elements and conclusions reached during the storming and norming stage will be implemented practically. Emotions and the conflicts formed during the storming period will give way for wisdom during this period. Mourning is the last stage of a team performance in which the team members relieved from their assigned duties.
Team working can improve the performance of an organization in many ways; it can improve productivity, improve quality of products or services, improve customer focus, speed the spread of ideas, respond to opportunities and threats and to fast-changing environments, increase employee motivation, introduce multi-skilling and employee flexibility etc (CIPD, 2009). Even the underperforming workers may sometimes perform well within a team. When a worker functions independently he may not get much assistance from others whereas when he functions as part of a team, he will get assistance from the team members. In other words motivation and job satisfaction a person receives as part of a team will be more compared to his performance individually.
Many factors can affect the performance and effectiveness of an employee. Current generation is under severe stress from different corners because of the increased commitments. An employee may have lot of family responsibilities and social responsibilities apart from the professional responsibilities. It is difficult for him to manage all these commitments equally well. The failure in any of the three domains mentioned above may affect his performance and effectiveness at workplace, if he performs individually. On the other hand, when he performs as part of a team, he will get better advice or assistance from the team members, which can help him to overcome the job stress or family stress.
The Role of the Manager / Team Leader
Coutu (2009) has mentioned that getting agreement in a team meeting or debate is the leader’s job, and he/she must be willing to take great personal and professional risks to set the team’s direction (Coutu, 2009). A team cannot perform without a leader or a manager. Leader shows the way of functioning to the team members. The characteristics of the leader are an important factor in determining the success of the teamwork. Leaders are of different types. Some of them prefer democratic styles while some others opt for autocratic styles in their functioning. A third segment of leaders adopt a mixed approach of both mentioned above.
An inspirational leader or manager should have a sense of vision in a fast changing business environment. He should be able to motivate team members and make them flexible enough for the changes. He should be innovative in his approach and working (Investor in people, 2009). Most of the teams may have different types of workers having different types of skills and attitudes coming from different social economic and cultural backgrounds. Managing these individual differences for the effective functioning of the team is a complex task. The leader’s or the manager’s role is critical in blending and making a diverse team into a successful winning combination. For example in a city like Dubai, most of the organizations have people working from different parts of the world. In a production department in Dubai, the production manager may be a Filipino; the supervisor may be an Indian, the helpers may be from Pakistan or Sri Lanka, delivery boys may be from Bangladesh. The leader or the production manager may find it extremely difficult to blend this diverse work force into action. Only an effective and sensible manager would be able to manage this diversity at workplace well.
Managers or team leaders can contribute to the excellence of their organization’s performance through the quality of their problem solving and decision making skills (Managers.org.uk, 2009). Problem solving and decision making are the two critical managerial functions in the present day organizational setup. Earlier, manager’s role was lot easier as he has to get the work done through others by sitting conveniently inside his office cabin. The concept of get the work done through others has changed now. The current leaders or the managers need to stay actively with the workers or the team members in order to ensure the success of their team projects.
Pros of Teamwork
Group pressure can have major influence over the behaviour and performance of the individual members (Mullins, 2009, p.6). When functioning as part of a team, each team member faces the group pressure for performing well. Each team member will realize that the entire mission of the team will be spoiled if he fails in his mission which motivates him for better performances. In a team work all the members have equal responsibilities in completing the project successfully.
“On teams, members share roles and responsibilities and are constantly developing new skills to improve the team’s performance. Teams identify and find consensus on their shared goal and strategy, rather than finding a leader to establish aim and strategy “(Mackin, n.d) Team functions in a democratic manner in which the members discuss the whole things between them and will arrive at suitable conclusions to achieve the goal. It is not necessary for them to depend the team leader for entire things.
Teamwork encourages organizational change, flexible working and multi-skilling (Team reward, 2009). Teamwork always boosts the image of an organization. Instead of individual brilliance, the brilliance of the organization will get more emphasize. For starters, everyone knows that Microsoft is the Bill Gates development. But while we’re currently reviewing Microsoft Corporation, Bill Gates’ position always lies behind the curtain. Instead of Bill Gates, Microsoft would say the Microsoft team was responsible for the company’s success. Google is another American organization which encourages teamwork for boosting their performances. Clarity of goals or objectives would be more while performing as a team because of the assistance a team member may receive from the colleagues. Teamwork convert an organization from problem based to process based entity.
Critical thinking is one skill that seldom given much prominence in individual functioning (Thomas, 2002, p.5). In team functioning, a topic would be analyzed with respect to different dimensions associated with it and hence the chances of failure are very less compared to the individual functioning. In a team the wisdom of more than one person is working which enables critical thinking; the much needed entity for the success of an organization.
Cons of Teamwork
Many experts believe that teamwork has given more value than it deserves by the organizational Gurus. Even though teamwork has certain benefits, it doesn’t mean that it has no negative effects at all. The major negative effect of teamwork is associated with less importance to individual performances. The achievements of the individual will be considered as the achievement of the team and individual brilliance may not get much recognition. For example, consider, a marketing executive achieved a big breakthrough in penetrating to the territories of the competitor. The credit will go to the marketing team led by the leader and the true achiever gets only a part of the credit. Such unnecessary sharing of credits may demoralise the person and he may think that his hard work has not been rewarded well. Such experiences can decrease the productivity of the team member rather than increasing it.
Functioning as part of a team may compel individuals to conform to oppressive group norms (Team reward, 2009). An individual may force to work against his will and opinion while functioning as part of a team. The freedom of work is limited in a team which may result in low output of the worker.
Frisch (2008) has mentioned that reaching collective decisions based on individual preferences is an imperfect science (Frisch, 2008). In most of the team meetings, the opinions of the majority will be accepted on critical decisions making matters. It is not necessary that the opinions of the majority always be the right one. For example, it is possible that team members form certain alliances to execute or safeguard their personal interests within the team. If the leader was not capable enough, he will be forced to accept the opinions of the majority which may not be in line with the organization’s interest. Dubai world and Emirates airlines are some of the latest additions to the international organizations which failed to progress even though they worked on a philosophy of teamwork. These organizations forgotten the value of individual brilliances and blindly followed the philosophy of teamwork for boosting the performances.
Teamwork is currently engaged in most of the organizations. But it doesn’t mean that teamwork is the perfect solution for all the challenges an organization is facing. Teamwork can contribute to certain domains of the organizational functioning whereas it can create negative effects also. The major advantage of teamwork is that it can reduce the pressure on an employee as he may not be directly blamed for the failure of a project. On the other hand the major disadvantage of team functioning is that it may not care or recognize the individual brilliance. The achievements are regarded as the achievement of the team rather than the individual, even if an individual done something extra ordinary. In short, teamwork should be used judiciously rather than implementing it everywhere in an organization blindly, putting no thought behind.
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