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Developing Effective Work Teams

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Effective Work Teams

Jarred Miner

University of Phoenix

When developing effective work teams, it is crucial to know the difference between a mere group and an actual team. A work group exists simply for the members of the group to share information and help each other perform their own individual responsibilities. Work groups are all about individual contributions instead of team effort, and thus the group is no greater than each individual’s personal input. A work team, however, functioning through coordination and cooperation, has the ability to create a positive energy greater than sum of its member’s individual inputs. In effective work teams, productivity is greatly increased by an overall positive synergy, individual and mutual accountability, and the collective performance of individuals with complimentary skills.

Teams are formed to complete various types of goals, thus it is no wonder that there are many varied team structures to address these various goals. In reference to business organizations, however, there are four main team structures that are commonly used to complete company tasks: problem solving teams, self managed work teams, cross functional work teams, and virtual teams. Problem solving teams are used to initiate discussions involving ways to improve an organization’s efficiency, quality, and/or work environment. In these teams, members are asked to share insights and/or suggests in regards to improving the aforementioned qualities. Regardless, the members of problem solving teams usually do not have the authority to directly implement changes.

Unlike problem solving work teams, self managed work teams do have the authority to implement the decisions that they, as a group, reach. Likewise, self managed work teams are also responsible for the results of their decisions. Members of self managed work teams must be able to perform highly interdependent jobs, and also demonstrate skill in self discipline and leadership. Self managed work teams often function without the need of a supervisor or supervisors, and they commonly evaluate one another’s work. Self managed teams are responsible for their own planning and scheduling of work, assigning of tasks, taking action on problems, working with both customers and supplies, and setting a reasonable work pace.

Cross functional work teams, like self managed work teams, are also fairly independent. Cross functional work teams are always assigned with a task in mind, and thus the members are specifically chosen. In terms of hierarchal status, the members of such teams are nearly equals, but their fields of expertise are always varied. The collaboration of individuals with various skill sets allows the cross functional work team to tackle many aspects of a single task at any given moment, and it does so efficiently. However, with diversity comes complexity, thus the initial managing of cross functional work teams can be difficult.

Problem solving, self managed, and cross functional work teams all accomplish their discussions and collaboration face to face, but this is not so with virtual work teams. Virtual work teams allow individuals who are dispersed throughout an organization to communicate using computers, in order to accomplish common goals. Virtual teams can converse for any given length of time to solve particular problems, and they have little problem functioning as any other teams would. The main differences of virtual teams in regard to teams that work face to face are the limited social context, the ability to overcome space/time constraints, and a lack of nonverbal cues.

Picking the correct type of work team for every given task is the first step to creating an effective team that efficiently reaches it goals, however, there is much more to creating and maintaining a work team’s effectiveness. In regard to team context, there are four distinct requirements: adequate resources, leadership and structure, climate of trust, and a performance evaluation/reward system.

Teams are not autonomous; they exist in, and must function according to the organization that employees them. Thus, each team relies on its organization’s resources. A poorly supplied team lacks the means to carry out its tasks efficiently, and thus negatively affects production. Therefore, an effective team must have access to timely information, adequate staffing, quality equipment, and necessary administrative assistance.

Team leadership/structure is equally important. Team members must agree on the tasks assigned to each individual so as to make sure that the workload is evenly distributed. Teams should be able to arrive at a consensus on scheduling, what skills need development, conflict resolution, and how decisions will be made. Management may directly provide teams with a structure/leadership system, or if possible, teams may create this system themselves.

Trust of team members and team leaders is a must amongst teams. Teams without trust issues function easier. Trust creates bonding between team members, and thus a greater sense of cooperation is developed. In a safe social environment, team members are more likely to take risks and expose innovation. Likewise, if team members trust their leaders, then they are more likely to communicate openly with them while, at the same time, respecting their decisions as authority figures.

As is common with individual employee motivation, there must also be a means to evaluate and reward groups. Resources, structure, and trust mean little to teams without motivation. In order to keep work teams effective, management must have a means to evaluate them as teams, and reward them accordingly as well.

Teams, even given the best resources and strongest foundation, can easily fail if they are not properly staffed. Managers of effective teams always must take into account the abilities/personalities of team members, diversity and allocating roles, member flexibility, and member willingness to work in teams. A large portion

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