For centuries, Teams have been set up and run to allow collective responsibility. In order to take advantage of the clear benefits of teamwork, it is important to manage the team properly. This involves understanding of how to construct a team and how it is likely to behave. People in every workplace talk about building the team and working as a team, but only a few understand how to create the experience of teamwork or how to develop an effective team. In a team-oriented environment, one contributes to the overall success of the organization.
The three elements that are needed for the evolution of the team are cooperation, trust and cohesiveness. Each of these three elements make a significant contribution towards effective teamwork.
Cooperation is an important element of teamwork. The individuals in a team are said to be cooperating when their approach to work is integrated to achieve a common goal together. If the members of the team are not integrated with each other, cooperation is less and achieving a collective objective is very difficult. One important reason of lack of cooperation within a team is competition among the members of the team. If unhealthy competition between the members of the team is encouraged, it leads to less cooperation leading to less productivity and achievement.
Trust is the second element of teamwork. It is a key element involved in the evolution of the team. It is a mutual faith and confidence in intention and behavior amongst all the members of the team. Fernando Bartolome, a management professor and consultant, offers six guidelines for building and maintaining trust. These are communication, support, respect, fairness, predictability, and competence. It is necessary that these guidelines are present amongst the team members. If this is possible, trust increases over time and team gets stronger.
The third element needed for the evolution of the team is cohesiveness. Cohesiveness is the sense of togetherness between the members of the team. When the team members enjoy each other and are emotionally satisfied with their participation, it is called socio-emotional cohesiveness. On the other hand, when the team members know that they need each other to reach the common goal and that they are dependent on each other, it is called instrumental cohesiveness. Cohesiveness helps bind the team together.
There are some common management mistakes that can lead to team failure. Teams that fail are built on weak strategies and poor business practices. There can be times when vague or conflicting assignments are given to the team. In those cases where vague assignments are given to the team, there are no clear goals set up for the employees. As a result, the employees have little or no motivation towards work. It is best to set up goals for the employees and keep them challenged. The management should be working with them to achieve these goals. Also, sometimes the management fixes the problem temporarily and ignores the long-term commitment. This can lead to the failure of the work team. The manager might like to fix the problem quickly, but at the same time neglect the long term solution to the problem. After finding the cause to the problem, the management must develop real solutions that have lasting effects. Poor staffing of teams by the management is another mistake. The manager must know what the members of the team can accomplish. The manager must also make sure that the members of the team are skilled and have the appropriate training required for the job to be done.
When the team is set up in a hostile environment, it is sure that the team will fail. Hostile environment crops up when there is management resistant. The management should be positive and forward-looking. Resisting or trying to stop a change doesn’t help. The management must anticipate the changes that are coming and make plans to take care of them before they affect the organization. Hostile environment within a team is also set up if the management follows a strict command and control culture. Also, employee achievement should be recognized. It provides encouragement to the employees and it helps to improve their morale, performance and loyalty. But, competitive or individual reward plans will provide a negative influence on the members of the team and will contribute to team failure.
Lack of trust between the management and the team members will also lead to failure of the team. The manager needs to believe that his employees have the skills to manage the project. The manager should lead them in the appropriate leadership style and arouse the desired employee behavior. This will definitely lead to success. On the other hand, the team members should trust their manager for having the wisdom to make sound business decisions.
There are some problems of team members that lead to team failure. Poor interpersonal skills like lack of communication between team members. Doing anything in the team involves communication. If this is missing, team failure is on the way. Conflicts between the team members and unhealthy competition also result in team failure. Ego hassles can create conflicts and power struggles within a team. When ego comes in play, team members do not focus on the joint responsibility they have as a team. Therefore the work begins to suffer.
When the team members try to achieve more in shorter time span, and try to get fast results, probability of failure is more. In some such cases, there is too much emphasis given on results rather than the group dynamics and the skills used for the work. On the other hand, the team should plan its goals and activities keeping in mind time constraints and deadlines.
When the roles of the members of the team are not clearly defined, it leads to conflict among the team members. Team failure can also result when there are differences in work styles. Team members are resistant to other members working differently. They do not accept others ideas and the way they work.
Problems between team members can also arise due to some unforeseen obstacles and uncertainties in market conditions. Sometimes companies might run into problems due to strategic reasons. Also if the team is too much internalized and do not have enough exposure to external influences.
Lack of trust among the team members can lead to team failure. One example of distrust is lack of confidence in the team member’s ability and quality of work. In such cases of distrust, the team members are suspicious of each other’s motives and the element of cohesiveness is also missing in the team’s approach.
Eric Sundstrom and his colleagues sorted out work teams into 4 types. These were advice, production, project and action teams.
Advice teams are those that help in managerial decisions and give suggestions for quality improvement and production. These teams have both low degree of technical specialization and low degree of coordination with other work units.
Production teams are those that execute day-to-day operations. Their degree of technical specialization is low but the degree of coordination with other work units is high because they are related to each other.
Project teams are those, which are required to provide creative problem solving. Their degree of technical specialization is high as it involves the application of this specialized knowledge. Degree of coordination can be low or high. There can be low coordination in cases of independent units and high coordination in cases of cross-functional units.
Action teams are those, which are required to show peak performance when needed. These teams have both high degree of technical specialization and high degree of coordination with other work units.
The aim of any team building should be giving rise to the high-performance team. This can be achieved by following the attributes of the high-performance team i.e. participative leadership, shared responsibility, excellent communication, team focused on tasks, talents and creativity applied, a rapid response, willing to accept change with an opportunity to grow and keeping the team members aligned on a common purpose.