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Team Building

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Team Building Processes in the United States and Asia

There arises a time in every industry that it becomes necessary for a manger to institute a renovation in the design or functioning of an organization in order to become more effective at achieving goals. This is termed organizational change. While varying degrees of change can occur for a variety of positive and negative reasons, it is implicitly understood that a controlled change is more likely to produce beneficial results than an uncontrolled change. There are a variety of methods available for a manager to choose from once he or she has decided to implement organizational change. One particular strategy is that of organizational development (OD).

Founder of the Organization Development Network, Richard Beckhard, defines OD as: a planned effort, organization-wide, managed from the top, to increase organization effectiveness and health, through planned interventions in the organization's 'processes' using behavioral science knowledge (Smith, 1998). Ultimately the goal of OD is to change the beliefs, attitudes, values, and structure of the organization so that it can better adapt to new technologies, markets, and challenges.

Although there is a multitude of OD strategies available, one of the most common is team building. Hellriegel et. al., define team building as a process that develops the ability of team members to collaborate effectively so they can perform the tasks assigned to them (2005).

In the U.S., teams are quickly assembled for a purpose that tends to be immensely variable. It is common for teams to be oriented toward short-term goals. Asian team goals are comparatively long-term. Many U.S. team building processes are centered on time efficiency and designed by the team members' themselves, to fit the needs of the individual team. To reduce inefficiency, time oriented team building processes such as focus feedback and follow-up are implemented.

These methods require the team to analyze the effectiveness of the group by a poll of opinions on a numeric scale. Results taken from a national poll of corporations indicates that team members believe that a successful team should be functioning at a numeric efficiency value of 8.7. However, the average team member also believes that his or her team is performing at a current level of 5.8 (Goldsmith & Morgan, 2000).

The steps in the team building processes of the U.S. are often clearly defined and often consist of anonymous surveys, one-on-one dialogues during which the individuals take turns pointing out behavioral weaknesses of one another. In order to implement a self-diagnosed behavioral improvement process, continuation of behavioral reinforcement can include follow-up surveys, progress reports, and a variety of self-analysis activities. The acting manager or leader of the group plays a facilitative coaching role. Overall, the focus is on improving individual's behaviors that were deemed weak according to other team members' opinions.

In years of the past, participative team building methods were considered unsuitable for the Asian culture. Asian organizational structures are traditionally authoritarian and rigid. Interpersonal communication practices remain an issue of difference. For example, business communication in China is much more indirect when compared to the Western approach (Marx, 2001). Open disagreement is not as common within teams.

Throughout the Asian culture, maintaining harmony both at the workplace and at home plays a significant role. Authority comes naturally and is generally respected. Therefore, steady long interpersonal relationships are built. Unlike in the U.S. where teams can be short-lived, it is common for team members in Japan to remain with the same team for 3 to 4 years.

In contrast to the standard 40 hour work week seen in the U.S., team members in Asia spend over 50 hours at work per week. In Japan, employees fully dedicate themselves to each other and to the team. In addition, much of an individual's social life is also spent with fellow team members. Japanese teams are often given projects, as opposed to tasks. Working as a unit, individual roles and tasks are less defined. In the U.S., team goals are less generalized, and more task-oriented. Roles within the group are clearly defined (Rowland, 1985).

Despite the rigidity of traditional Asian business practices the last decade has shed a light of new managerial thought. It is now common practice for Asian leaders to implement highly participatory team building practices. This trend towards more westernized organization development approaches is due to a variety of economic conditions in Asia such as: global economy growth, increased business environment complexity, increased turnover and labor market shortages, he need to develop local staff rather than relying on short term expatriate staff, the trend towards specialization, and intra and extra-regional mobility (Davies, 2006).

Asian business specialists such as Rod Davies and Paul Temporal teach team building techniques



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