Changing From Non-Team to Team-Based Organization

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According to Brown (2005), a team-based organization is a non-traditional work environment that looks upon the innovative work of teams for the purpose of achieving the set goals and objectives. Whereas non-based organizations rely on individual performance for the achievement of their goals, team-based organizations put in place teams that will collectively use their efforts to enable the organization to succeed in its operations. The major characteristics of team-based organizations include (Brown, 2005):

  1. Enhancing a mutual trust for all its members through creating responsibilities in the teams.
  2. Creation of employee empowerment in the organization’s planning process and in the setting of its goals.
  3. Ensuring shared responsibility which in turn creates self-organization and self-management.
  4. The strategy of shared accountability to improve individual performance.
  5. Shared leadership where every employee is considered a leader in him/her.

Every organization desires to maximize its profitability and achieve its objectives and through this, there has arisen the need to move from the traditional way of operating to the modernized and improved way of carrying out the organization’s activities. This has been made possible by changing from non-team-based organizations to team-based organizations (Cohen, 1996). The idea of changing to team-based organizations enables a firm to maximize its effectiveness and competitive advantage among other firms. This study is therefore aimed at showing how an organization can change from its non-team-based operations to a team-based organization and the way in which this change improves its effectiveness.

How an organization changes from non-team based working environment to a team-based operation:

According to Yarbrough (2009), the process of a group of individual persons working hand in hand with each other with the intention of achieving certain shared goals through role differentiation and by the use of advanced means of communication is vital to our survival. The enthusiasm that comes with working in teams in organizations portrays a greater recognition that this means of operation ensures greater progress which is achieved through the combined approaches to work. For one to be able to work effectively in society there is a need to co-operate with each other and this way it becomes easier to express and identify our collective and individual identity through working in groups (Yarbrough, 2009).

In the modern world, there arises new challenges and demands that require more teamwork and less individuality. Cohen (1996) argues that, in order for an organization to be able to meet the current pressures that exist in the global market, it has to move the traditional rigid operational structures to more flexible forms and it is through teamwork that organizations are now able to develop and market their products as well as enhancing effective corporate strategy. The main aim of an organization that intends to change from the traditional non-team based operation to the team-based one is not really how much it would be able to create effective and productive teams, but rather how to create an effective and modernized organization whose operational structures will be based on teams (Gold, 2006).

The major question, therefore, to ask is: how can we develop an organization that will enhance the effectiveness of working in teams and the proper management of these teams? To answer this question, the following stages are followed (Gold, 2006):

  • Decide on working in teams: It is important that an organization understands the benefits of teamwork and from this understanding, be able to come up with a proper organizational review. The management must understand clearly the organization’s existing structure and culture as well as the extent to which the teamwork will be operating. This means that a proper plan must be established which will help in implementing the team-based operation.
  • Develop appropriate support systems: At this stage, the management is required to critically examine the systems in the organization that will support the team-based operation process. This support system includes the appropriate training to be offered to employees, the reward systems, and also proper communication and team-to-team relations. The management should also ensure that it makes the necessary plans that will enable the organization to properly adapt to team-based working.
  • Select team leaders and team members: The organization then needs to establish the best criteria for selecting the team members as well as their leaders. This implies coming up with advanced and effective recruitment and selection strategies. There is also a need that, once team leaders are selected, proper training is carried out to ensure that they are well equipped with the relevant skills.
  • Develop effective teams: This involves being able to understand the development process of teams and enable them to develop. At this stage, the organization needs to clarify its objectives, the role of the teams, and the set communication and decision-making processes.
  • Review and ensure the effective sustaining of teams: Once the teams have been developed, they must be appropriately inducted in order to be able to evaluate their performance and make whatever adjustments that may be necessary to ensure their effectiveness.
  • Critically review the team-based operation: This is the final stage and it involves evaluating the performance of the teams and their contribution to the operation and the success of the organization. It also involves making whatever necessary changes are required to ensure their continued contribution to the organization.

These stages must be taken into consideration while changing from the non-team-based organizational strategy to team-based operation. They are critical in the implementation process and they require some time before they can be fully implemented. However, once they are well taken into consideration, they create a long-term effective strategy for the success of an organization.

Ways in which an organization manages the expectations and timescales of team-based operation:

According to Mohrman (1995), it is important that an organization takes into consideration the fact that the process of introducing team-based operation into the organization is not something that can be fixed within a short duration of time. It requires creating major changes within the organization’s structure and these will have long-term effects on the organization’s operations. The changes include changing the manner in which people work with one another, the process of sharing ideas, and the decision-making process (Mohrman, 1995). They also involve employees acquiring new skills and attitudes and a change in the organization’s internal culture as well. The management should therefore ensure that it involves most of the employees in the conversion process and not just a few members at the top management level.

The leaders selected to carry out the change process must be well informed in matters concerning the changes that are to take place and the step-by-step strategy involved in creating a team-based organization (Yarbrough, 2009). They must also have full support from the top management and they should be in a position to handle every challenge that comes their way. They should do this by ensuring they have a strong and positive vision of the benefits associated with the changing process and also by establishing the right group of the organization to get their support from.

Since the process involved in bringing up the changing process is complex, there is a need to keep every detail of the progress in order to monitor the entire process and to be able to give information regarding the process to the respective groups in the organization. According to Cohen (1996), the more information the change leader acquires in every step, the easier it will be to communicate to the groups during the training process and hence the more conversant the teams will be in the long run with the new structures. Therefore, enhancing the communication process between the leaders and the various teams is very important in the process of creating a team-based organization, and the more information the leaders pass to the teams during this process, the easier it will be to overcome the challenges and the faster it will take to complete the entire implementation process (Cohen, 1996).

According to Cohen (1996), keeping an adequate and comprehensive log of information makes the incorporation of new staff in the senior management teams easier, and updating them on the changes and the procedures becomes more effective. Hence, it is necessary that communication and interaction channels are effectively maintained at all levels in the implementation process.

Some possible failures related to coming up with team-based organizations:

There is a need for the management to be aware that some failures may arise in the process of changing an organization from the non-team-based form to the team-based form. These include (Brown, 2005):

  1. Developing teams without responsibilities or tasks: According to Yarbrough (2009), the essence of forming teams in an organization is to create responsibilities, ensure tasks are performed and completed, and in turn achieve the set objectives. To create teams just in order to have them in an organization is very likely to destroy the operation process and cause major conflicts that may lead to its downfall. On the other hand, it is necessary that the tasks performed by the teams are those that require teamwork and not just because they are part of the operation of the organization.
  2. Having teams that have no freedom: Team-based working may not achieve its intended goals if the teams created do not have the freedom and authority to make their own decisions and set their own goals. Most organizations that have decided to move from the traditional way of management still restrict the teams in terms of making their own decisions and in trying to enhance radical changes in the firm. Teamwork may never be a success if an organization still maintains its rigid hierarchical structure and teams tend to lose faith in the whole idea of teamwork when they are denied the proper authority to work interdependently without too much power from the senior management levels (Brown, 2005).
  3. The challenge of organizations that depend heavily on individual work: Creating team-based organizations means changing the firm’s structure, culture as well as a support system. Where teams are created in an organization that is only focused on individual work, then the whole idea of teamwork will not succeed. According to Mohrman (1995), instead of focusing on the management of individual performance, an organization should aim at enhancing the performance and effectiveness of teams and these teams should be allowed to improve individual performance while the organization enhances the teams.
  4. Poor team leadership: Team leadership should be distinguished from the traditional and rigid way of supervision. Team leadership is different from dictatorship and the leaders must develop the qualities of a good leader who is ready to share information and who supports his team rather than controls it authoritatively. Most organizations fail in team-based operation because they introduce teams and then appoint supervisors to lead the teams rather than looking for people with proper skills and who are ready to support the team members in all ways (Brown, 2005).

However, despite these failures, most organizations that have moved from the traditional aspect to the modern aspect of team-based working have been successful in terms of productivity, profitability as well as in their entire operation, hence creating competitive effectiveness. This makes it worthwhile for other organizations to move towards team-based working while overcoming the obstacles that may hinder their success.

In conclusion, it can be argued that team-based work systems can be applied in most organizations and they are an effective way of moving from the traditional and rigidly structured system to the non-traditional way of operation. Yarbrough (2009) argues that the key to the effectiveness of team-based organizations is to ensure that responsibility and tasks are delegated to the teams and they are involved in the decision-making process. In this respect, the management should aim at developing the effectiveness of teams and should not limit their focus to individual work and the result of this will be collective and more effective decision-making strategies that will assist the organization to attain its objectives.


  1. Brown, L (2005). Designing Team-Based Organizations: New York; Elsevier Inc.
  2. Gold, D (2006). Team-Based Organizations: Developing a Successful Team Environment: HR Magazine.
  3. Mohrman, S (1995). Designing Team-Based Organizations: New Forms for Knowledge Work: ISBN: 978-0-7879-0080-9
  4. Morhman, S and Cohen, G (1996). Designing Team-Based Organizations: New Forms for Knowledge Work: New Wesley; Jossey-Bass
  5. Yarbrough, B (2009) Leading Groups and Teams: Mason, OH; South Western Cengage Learning.
  6. Yoon, H (2005). Characteristics of Team-Based Organization Introduced to Academic Libraries in South Korea: South Korea; University of Joong-Bu.
  7. Zenger, T (2002). Crafting Internal Hybrids: Complementary, Common Change Initiatives and the Team-based Organizations: International Journal of the Economics of Business, Vol. 9.

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