A team can be defined as a group of people who have come or gathered to work towards a common purpose or objective. Teams have always existed in many organizations and will continue to be there. Teams remain an integral part of an organization and its publics. Their importance to any organization cannot be undermined. It is through teams that an organization can either realize its vision, aims and goals or lose them altogether (Abernathy, 1997. p.2).
Importance of a team
What is the importance of a team and why are most organizations striving to establish not just teams but effective teams at that? Of what use and purpose are teams to an organization and its stakeholders? What exactly do they contribute to an organization as compared to fostering individual employee effort?
When an organization starts involving its members’ contributions in terms of teamwork, its output also rises considerably. This is because when people work in teams there is a greater level of ideas put across than if the same people were to tackle the same projects individually (Harshman & Phillips, 1994 p.23). This is because a group tends to deliberate and incorporate various ideas of its members and choose those that are best. The number of ideas contributed is also varied and many.
Teamwork also fosters good and sometimes invaluable relationships between work colleagues. This is essential in any given work environment (Katzenbach, 1993. P.76). Most people that have been employed come from different backgrounds, cultures and have different lifestyles. To have them work together daily to achieve one common goal can tend to be frustrating (3M Meeting Management Team. 1994 p.16). However when teams are formed and these people grow to like each other, then there will normally be less friction than if each were working on their own. It also helps employees to get to know and appreciate their various diversities and use them to their advantage (Margerison, 1992 p.22).
Teamwork in comparison with individual work
It is faster to accomplish something when working in a group than as an individual. With the contribution of people who hold various ways of doing things, members can do work according to that which suits their capabilities (Deshmukh, 2009. P.14). Apart from this; a huge project can be split easily with different individuals covering a section each. The result is that what should have taken a long time to do is covered in a very short duration of time. The team, therefore, brings the aspect of speed to an organization (Anderson, 1992).
Students who work in teams tend to learn concepts faster than those who study individually. This is because group work enables other members to help them understand what was taught and what they did not understand. Teamwork in this sense helps them to comprehend and even learn newer things, which they never knew before (Michael D. M.1995).
There is a general improved personal performance among team members as they work together. This is because they teach, correct and challenge one another. Their skills increase and they generally tend to be better performers. Work ceases to be a bore to most of them because of the enormous amount of creativity and liveliness found in groups. A well-managed team boosts morale (Nash, 1999. P.7).
Theory of teams
Tuckman (1965, pp.6) divides a group or team into four different levels. That is forming, storming, norming, and performing. He explains that before a group effectively begins to function in any given setup, it undergoes the four named processes.
In the forming stage, team members who have just come together are still unsure about each other. They rely heavily on the team leader and most of what he or she says goes. They even have no clear guidelines and goals on what they intend to achieve together as a team. They are still full of questions and keep wondering what is to be done. The leader of the group at this stage is bound to answer a lot of questions from the members.
The storming stage however presents a different aspect of the group’s dimension. The group in this stage gains more clarity in its purposes. Tuckman (1965, pp.8) goes on to explain that the group at this stage is prone to power struggles with the members challenging the leader and his decisions on more than one occasion.
Norming stage has a team that is united with defined roles and responsibilities for its members. Decisions are made collectively. The group can now plan for events together and are more committed to the team than earlier on. Members can help each other to achieve common group goals.
In the last stage, the team is fully aware of what it is required to do and the general direction in which they are headed. They are focused on achieving their goals need very little assistance from the leader. The team is also better able to resolve its issues and move forward to achieve its goals.
There are several other theories as regards teams but Tuckman’s theory is conclusive when it comes to team formation. Most groups or teams relate in this manner once they are formed. Before a team becomes fully effective, it has to pass through each of the stages presented in Tuckman’s theory. Simply put, this theory points out the fact that a good team takes time to develop. It just does not happen overnight. Depending on the team members and their flexibility, teamwork can be achieved in either the shortest time possible or take very long. Once members begin to understand each other, their level of achievement and speed increases. They also tend to take up new projects and aim higher in their group activities.
When we take the context of an organization that has recently divided its employees into groups to do a certain project, most of the employees in their respective groups will do almost nothing on the first few meetings. They will even be afraid to express their ideas to the whole group. The leaders of most of these groups will be directing most of their activities. Members normally begin to warm up to one another after a certain length of time or after working for some time together.
Example of teams
At my workplace, for example, the first time we were asked to complete a certain research project for our company in teams of ten people, none of us could barely talk at the first meeting. Our self-appointed leader coordinated most of the meetings and told us what to do. It took us four meetings for us to be able to begin expressing ourselves. The one activity that broke our icy unease was when we started going to the field for data collection and thus had to interact with each other to get the right material. The field activity forced us beyond that which we wanted and we had to now cooperate.
Ideas could now flow forth between members very easily with each volunteering to do different aspects of our assigned project work. However, after a couple of volunteer work by different members, we quickly discovered that some people were gifted in certain areas while others were better placed in others. For example, we had very social people and so could easily interview our subjects for us in a humorous way but still manage to get all the content that we needed. Others were so skilled in writing that we delegated the whole idea of drafting and putting our project to words unto them. We also had to give everyone some sort of activity so that the errant ones and the shy ones could also participate and in the end to have everyone’s input and effort.
When we were done with the project, we had made some friends from among the group. However, of course, we were glad that we could never have to work with others again. This activity so strengthened our work relations in a way we had never imagined.
Disadvantage of teams
It is important to note that even though teamwork is important and should be encouraged, teams that have grown to become strong should either be given work that can make use of the bond or be closely monitored (Stowell 2009 p.10). This is because, in as much as teamwork is good, these teams can also be a source of division in an organization. They can end up being cliques. Cliques hinder progress and can greatly prevent an organization or institution from achieving its goals. ( Cornyn-Selby,1994 pp.20 ) Some employees are alienated from the rest of the workforce by others or form special groups amongst themselves.
Teams can also be a great challenge in the sense that when they feel like their common objectives or grievances are not being addressed, they can easily decide to take on an institution and act against it (Greer 2000 p.7). They can easily rally masses to help them in doing this. In this case, it then becomes hard to control almost a whole organization (Beckhard & Harris1977 p.16).
Teams can also be a cover-up in that individual efforts of a person will never really be realized and thus rewarding people on merit work can prove to be difficult (Torres, 1991 p.33). If a person is rewarded and the others ignored, then there is a general feeling of discontent among the other employees (Daft, 1998 p.12). If it were in the case of students, other students in the group could be carrying the bulk for others who do very little. Underperformers could also be benefitting from the efforts of others yet they do not deserve what they get (Fisher,1995 p.13). The same students if left alone could perform much worse than when in a group. This can also make the bright students feel bad (Dyer, 1995 p.5).
All the same, teamwork remains the most effective method of advancing and improving results in an organization (Parker, 1990 p.47). Any good organization worth its repute has a strategy of how to ensure that its employees are involved now and then in some group activity. Even though teams present challenges initially, they get better with time and can prove to be invaluable to an organization in the long run (Daft, 1998 p. 45).
This does not however imply that individual work and performance should be pushed aside or done away with. Teamwork should be a link that connects and works hand in hand with individuals to achieve the goals of an organization. It should be like a welcome additive that will add positive changes and spur growth (Scholtes, 1990 p7).
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