Why Work Teams Aren’t Allows Effective” Teams have become a mainstay in the way America does business. Teams started as social-technical-business experiments and have since vaulted their way into the American business environment. Led by Deming’s Total Quality Management movement the development of teams has become the standard acceptable structure for a majority of organizations today. Throughout my work experience and my university based education the concepts and theories about the use and need for teams have been stressed.
Personally, my position of the use of work teams, based on my personal experiences t is that most organizations should slow-down in the use of teams and carefully hand pick specific tasks and assignment in which a work team will flourish. Organizations can be successful by not using teams and using alternative structures for accomplishing goals and in developing strategies. ,In this paper, I will look at reasons why, I believe that the overall use of teams in American business environments is more of a negative than a positive.
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I am not saying that there are not some places for using teams but that the use of work teams should only be used for selective assignments and tasks and that I take the position that for teams to be successful that major changes need to take place in the psyche of the American workers. According to Daft, organizations build teams with the idea that people who work together can work as a team. Such teams can be brought together for all kinds of reasons including to discuss conflicts, goals, decision making processes, communications, creativity and leadership.
It is believed by many that teams building will lead to better results and help in overcome organizational problems. Teams can be used for product development, task forces, or as committees Daft suggests that team building and large group intervention activities are an effective ways to have employees involved in an organizations change processes (Daft, R. , 2007). In order to understand my argument, it is important to understand that there are some positive benefits, which an organization’s employees could obtain from the development of successful teams. These benefits that the employees could develop are (Ozols V. 1996): •Project management skills •Strategic planning •Problem solving •Decision-making •Conflict management •Facilitation skills •Communication skills •Negotiation skills •Group dynamics training •Functional cross-training •Strategic planning •Diversity training •Leadership training It should be noted that most team results are average at best and are rarely considered being successful, thereby limiting the development of such benefits (Ozols V. , 1996). I understand the principle for why the use of teams is viewed as a wave for the future, that being the belief that working in teams makes us more creative and productive.
It is not uncommon for a manager to immediately put together a work team in order to address new task and assignments. Some argue that this argument is supported by the overall business successes in China and Japan. These are countries which teach Confucius based thinking of all people being part of the same eco-system and for all members of the society to work as a team to accomplish tasks and assignments. I feel that working in teams is counter to the culture and society that American’s have grown up in. American’s as a whole grew up in a society which highly values its independence.
This is a democracy which strives on capitalism. American’s praise the individual for taking the chance and becoming rich for taking that chance. American’s look down on Socialist and Communist societies from a personal values point of view. Having judged the success of the Japanese economy led to a change in thinking of management around the world and that it became important for business success for the development of work teams. This has led to a ground floor movement of implementing work teams, team building training and development, and the use of teams is built into university classes and in its curriculum.
This can be demonstrated in multiple university programs including business, psychology, human resource management, human resource development, and other departments adding team development to their curriculum. As a student of organizational behavior, human resource development, and human resource management, I have had my fair share of classes which stress the idea of using and developing work teams. I sometimes feel that universities feel that the idea of developing work teams in the only and best way to tap the human capital in an organization. Quite often these classes even incorporate the use of team based assignments.
This would be demonstrated by every graduate school class for which I have taken at Roosevelt University, in its Master’s in Human Resource Management program. Each class has included at least one team project. In fact it seems that all of my classes used a group project as the final project in all of these classes. In fact every class covered the need for developing teams in the workplace. From my personal experience at Roosevelt University, I found that about three out of approximately 5 members of a team did most of the work. Often several team members would ride the coat tails of the other members.
In an academic situation, one major problem with development of teams is that some people are motivated by learning and by grades while others just want a degree and don’t really care about the overall quality of their work. In such a case, there is really no reward or punishment for not truly putting in an effort. In other words, the only people taking charge in such an environment are the individuals that take it upon themselves to lead the team. This can be done by either a charismatic leadership style, or by just taking charge and by being dictator, or lastly by being the best or most highly respected student.
In the latter case, the best student is put in charge of basically doing most of the work. Very rarely are all team members willing to work democratically and to carry their own work load. In reality all this type of structure does is bring down the top performers and/or force them to carry the work load. I know that one would then criticize their team building skills, but as a whole most people I have personally experienced hate working in teams, especially when the non-performers in the group have nothing that they truly feel is important on the line.
Teams in such an environment reward the low performers and punish the top performers. In an organization in which one’s job and career is on the line for the success for such a work team that more team wide cooperation is more common, but still it brings down the quality of the work of top performers. These top performers are put in a position of being an organizational defined leader by position and would have organizational based power and not just be motivated by one’s own personal style, but by organizationally assigned authority.
It then would be the responsibility of the leader to delegate assignment and job roles and to direct team goals and strategies. Please note part of the role of a good leader would be to tap the human capital and to bring out the best in their subordinate. In such a situation a good leader can empower his subordinates, listen to the advice of the subordinate, give rewards to such subordinates, and even replace such subordinates. J. Richard Hackman, Professor of Social and Organizational Psychology at Harvard University, and a leading expert on teams, in his research revealed just how bad people often are at teamwork.
Research shows, most team members don’t even agree on what the team is supposed to be doing. Getting agreement is the leader’s job, and it takes a leader who is willing to take great personal and professional risks to set the team’s direction. If a leader isn’t well trained into how to manage and select team members, as well as in how to properly design a team, the odds are slim that a team will do a good job (Coutu, D. May 2009) According to Professor Hackman’s research, it is consistently shown that teams underperform, despite all the extra resources of human capital they start with.
That’s because problems with coordination and motivation consistently have a negative effect on the possible benefits obtained by the use of work teams. These problems can even have a major negative effect on strong and cohesive teams. It is common for a strong and cohesive team to develop a sense of competition with other teams. This form of dynamic characteristic can get in the way of real progress by strongly affecting the goals and strategies of the team (Coutu, D. May 2009).
For a team to be successful it is imperative that it must be bounded by such aspects as culture, common goals and strategies, or some other form of team bounding characteristic. One major error made by management, when selecting members for a team and for specific team assignments, is the fact that the manager has little idea about the overall KSA’s and character of the team members, before even attempting to build a team. In most cases, most managers are not trained nor did skilled in team dynamics and are basically putting teams together either base on convenience, popularity contests, or on a hunch.
In other words most managers don’t know what is the overall dynamics needed for developing a successful team (Coutu, D. May 2009). This argument is supported by the findings of a research study at Harvard University in which researcher’s analyzed data on more than 120 top senior management teams. It found that almost every senior team studied thought that it had set unambiguous boundaries. When team members were asked to describe their team, fewer than 10% agreed about who was on it. These were teams of senior executives. In truth, putting together a team involves some unpopular decisions about who is put on the team and who is not.
Not everyone who wants to be on the team should be included, and some managers should go as far as to expel members from a team when necessary (Coutu, D. May 2009). In order for a team to progress in the right direction properly analyzed directions, goals, and strategies for its success should be put in place. There is no one right way to set a directions, goals, and strategies for any team. Quite often the responsibility can fall on the team leader, someone outside the team, and sometimes even the team itself as in the case of a business partnership or among members of a board of directors of an organization.
Such setting of a direction and/or the development of goals and strategies can have negative effects on a team based on the fact that the person or members of a team that developed the goals and strategies was exercising authority on the others which can have a negative effect on the individuals or subgroups within a team (Carr, C. , 1992). Such use of authority can be emotionally demanding, and can have the effect of inevitably arousing anger and ambivalence for both the person exercising the authority and the people forced to bend to it.
It must be made clear, that the development and structure of most teams are not democracies or ideally designed to give all members equal say so and authority in the team’s day to day operations as well as in its overall goals. Leaders both within and outside of established teams quite often encounters resistance which have the ability to cause the team to self-destruct (Carr, C. , 1992). In order to understand why teams are not always a good idea for dealing with business tasks and assignments one should take a look at some of the more common fallacies about teams Hitchcock, D. Dec. 1992): 1. People generally think that teams that work together harmoniously are better and more productive than teams that don’t. When it fact it was concluded that that unharmonious work teams perform better than in work teams that were harmonious. This is because the overall cause-and-effect is the reverse of what most people believe: When a team is productive and has done something well together, the team members have a tendency to feel satisfied, not the other way around.
In other words, the mood of the work team members after doing a great job on an assignment says more about how well they did than the mood beforehand. 2. Bigger teams are better than small ones because they have more KSA’s and overall human capital quality and resources to draw upon. Research shows that as a team gets bigger; the number of communication links that need to be managed among members goes up at an exponential rate. It’s managing the overall communications between team members that gets the team into trouble.
A rule of thumb is to never develop a team with double digits membership. It is best to never to develop teams of more than six members. 3. The most common misperception about teams is that at some point team members become so comfortable and familiar with one another that they start accepting one another’s faults as a result performance falls off. In fact studies have shown that teams do need an influx of new talent to maintain creativity and freshness. Changing members to a team at the rate of one person every year or so is basically the only change in membership needed in a team.
The problem is that quite often a team wasn’t given a chance to settle in. In order to prevent a team from becoming complacent by maintaining a steady membership, it is important for having at least one or more team members who play the role of being the devil’s advocate. This would be an individual who challenges the team’s tendencies to group think, which can have the effect of stifling creativity and learning. This individual’s role is to question the status quo of the team, to bring up new ideas, to question the current thinking of the other team members, and to bring out original thought.
According to research which compared teams that produced something original and teams that produced something average, that the teams with the individual who took the approach to question the team’s status quo by adding original thoughts outperformed teams without them. Quite often this individual was the team’s best source of great innovation. It must be noted that such an individual can create anxiety and increase static levels within the team. This can lead to chaos, disagreements, and confrontation, which can have a negative effect on the team.
This more often than not leads to an effort of team members to team up against this individual in an attempt to control his actions or to get him taken off the team. This dismissal of this individual usually has the effect of bringing down the overall quality of the work product of the team (Ozols V. , 1996). A good team will become stronger as a unit as time goes by, and should help develop the learning and growth of its individual members. Assigning the best leader does not guarantee the success of a team. Teams create and control their own destinies.
Teams are developed by management with the sole intent of achieving results without truly getting equitable reward and compensation for their successes. This is a key reason for why teams fail. Most organizations will find that their teams are not accepted, successful, or enjoyed by the team members. They are started with the expressed interest of getting more from employees in terms of results, without giving anything back to the employees in terms of job satisfaction, empowerment, recognition, decision-making and authority, to name a few areas (Ankarlo, L. , 1998).
In order to develop teams which are successful, management must develop proper rewards and compensation for the quality of the team results. The downfall of many teams occurs when managers expect teams to be successful, but they establish structures so this can only occur at the expense of the employees. These expenses include such issues as longer hours, extra work, homework, more meetings and expecting the same output in less production time. Under such a structure any team success that is experienced is only short-lived because it lacks the needed employee buy-in to teams (Ankarlo, L. 1998) Teams can only succeed when they are established as an investment in employees. Employees can only win when management knows how to properly reward and develop teams. Managers need to know what is involved in the development of teams. The organizations in the development of work teams must be aware of the (Carr, C. , 1992): 1. Needed training requirements in developing work teams. 2. The overall need for management commitment to developing and supporting work teams. 3. What leads to employee buy-in and commitment to the team and the organization? 4.
The overall costs involved in developing and maintaining work teams. 5. What organizational changes are necessary to accommodate work teams? 6. The overall time commitment and emotional investment of the employees. Part of the reason why teams don’t work is that organizations will try to implement and develop teams with little to no knowledge of how to structure, restructure, or develop functional work teams, and by using group members or teams developed by managers who have never even seen or experienced a self-directing team in action (Carr, C. , 1992).
As business cultures and business theory stress the use of teams, why then do studies show that employees hate them so much? The answer probably lies somewhere in issues discussed earlier in this paper. The challenge is to identify why it is that the teams aren’t working. Most members of unsuccessful teams can probably give some quality feedback on this subject. The challenge lies in solving the issues associated with these unsuccessful teams. Here lays the nature of the success of the team structure: the people doing the job are the ones who are in the best position to make the decisions (Coutu, D.
May 20090. One of the greatest drawbacks of working in a team is that there is no freedom for the individual employee to do as they wish. An employee may find it difficult to ever prove their point and their rational for applying ideas to the team based decision. It won’t be agreed upon if the other members in the group disagree on it. Every action one takes needs approval from everyone else in the group. Another problem is that working in a group is bound to give rise to ‘group think, which might add to the negativity in the working atmosphere and hamper the quality of work (Ankarlo L. 1998). An area of contention is that all the advantages and disadvantages of working in groups is lost based on the time factor and static which can come about when each team member needs to evaluate all the other members of the group. Most organizations look at the overall output and don’t look into the details of how the work was completed. However, at such times, managers don’t realize that some employees have hardly put in any effort and some have done maximum work. There are many escape routes while working in a group.
Judging the productivity of every employee doesn’t only take time but is sometimes, impossible (Ankarlo L. , 1998). When you work in a group and achieve more than the productivity required, one is bound to get some rewards. Sometimes, these rewards are equal for all team members equally while at times, they aren’t. Suppose there is only one promotion available, who will get it? It is very difficult to measure the work done by every employee in comparison to others. This means that the possibility of unequal credit cannot be denied.
Increments will vary for everyone in the group and this might add to the inequality. Very few managers will take the efforts and check who has actually given effort and who contributed most to the success of the team (Ankarlo L. , 1998). In today’s Global economy it is common to see global work teams developed, but caution should be taken in selecting team members who are patient and who have the personal skills to properly communicate and to openly share information and ideas. Such individuals need to be culturally astute and have a will commiserate with members from other cultures.
This take specifically trained individuals who have a clear understanding of other cultures, which may be hard to find and/or identify (Daft, R. , 2007). While working in a group, many people develop a competitive attitude towards their work. They try to work ‘more’ than the others. They should actually focus on working at a higher quality level than the other team members. This kind of attitude reduces the quality in the overall productivity and thus the objective of working as a team is lost. Losing the focus is easy when all one is worried about is winning.
Instead of competing with other groups members, people should compete with their own self to give a better output as an individual, and eventually. Conclusion: It is my position that most organizations should slow-down in the use of teams by carefully hand picking specific tasks and assignment in which a work team will flourish. I feel that most managers and employees need to be trained not only in developing but in working in effective work teams. Quite a few employees are not team oriented thinkers and lack negotiating and adaption skills necessary for fitting into work teams and are not comfortable in such work based structures.
Quite often managers are not qualified in selection and structuring work teams. Organizations need to not rely as much as they do on work teams and realize that they can be much more successful by not using teams and using alternative structures for accomplishing goals and in developing strategies. Reference: Ankarlo L. , 1998, Self-Directed Work Teams, Career Track Publications, Boulder, CO Carr, C. , 1992, Team power, by, Prentice-Hall, Inc. , Englewood Cliffs, NJ Coutu, D. May 2009, “Why Teams Don’t Work” Harvard Business Review http://hbr. rg/2009/05/why-teams-dont-work/ar/1 Daft, R. (2007), Understanding the Theory and Design of Organizations, South-Western (Cengage), pp. 167, pp. 391, pp. 396, pp. 200-201 Hitchcock, D. , (Dec. 1992) Overcoming the Top Ten Self-Directed Team Stoppers, Journal for Quality and Participation, December 1992: 42-47 Ozols V. , (1996), Why Work Teams Don’t Work! , Rocky Mountain Quality Conference, June 1996, Denver, Colorado Peters T. & Waterman R. , 1982, In Search of Excellence, Warner Books,