Thursday, December 15, 2011

Team Dynamics

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What is the purpose of a team and what is the process to form one? The type of team you want to create and the dynamics involved are very important. Organizations grow and become more complex; individuals become more specialized; therefore, individuals must learn to rely on others expertise and form a common bond to obtain the teams goals and objectives.

The principle of creating a team is to gather individuals and come together as one to accomplish a common goal and mission. Team members are interdependent of each other and contribute individual skills and knowledge toward a shared goal. Teams can be linked by technology, thus improving the ability to communicate from a distance. Teams have proven that when people amass, with diverse backgrounds and in different areas as one, the sky can be the limit. Teams achieve synergy, and therefore, the assumption is that teams can accomplish more than the same amount of people individually. Team members share culture, trust each other, and collaborate to reach a common goal.

Teams are instrumental in facilitating projects, and are useful in everything we do. Before you can build a team, you have to decide the type of team is necessary. Work teams, task teams, and management teams are three basic types common in the world. Work teams are usually “natural work teams,” or teams formed within an existing department or unit of an organization, working as a collection of individuals versus working as a team. Work teams usually have goals and objectives that are fairly well

defined “work to be done”, and are the most logical teams to form in an organization. (Tools for Teams p.) In addition, work teams do not necessarily share a common goal, because they do not understand the work of the other departments and will often perform interdependent work. Work teams are also usually not cross-functional.

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Unlike work teams, task teams are usually cross-functional and temporary in character, or usually brought together to resolve issues. So it is necessary to consciously design the team in terms of membership, time commitment, and direction to better be able to work together. (p.18) Task teams are created for a given purpose, although that purpose needs to be important and well defined. (p.) Task teams often meet resistance from the rest of the organization because they form a closely-knit group and will not look to outside sources for input.

The most challenging team to organize is the management team because they often are ambiguous of why they are meeting. Management teams are typically vision builders; they refine the culture, or improve the moral of an organization. They must not confuse their goals of the management team with the organizational goals of the company. Organizational goals relate to the functional responsibilities the members of the management team have, and are generally focused downward in the organization. (p.) Management teams provide synthesis to organizational goals and activities. A management team defines what it will hold itself collectively responsible for, and they must take on tasks that inspire and integrate the work of the organization as a whole. (pg’s.-4).

The number of team members is also instrumental; teams usually should have fewer than ten members, more like five or six. Organizations are beginning to form smaller groups to gain the focus, energy, relationships, and communication found in small companies. Teams need to be small enough to allow people to develop relationships, to provide for participation at meetings and to engender a feeling of mutual accountability. (p.) The size of a team can have a direct effect on the productivity of the team and the use of its members. The chance of indifference on the part of team members increases as a team becomes larger. Team members tend to be more involved in a smaller team environment, because each team member has a greater responsibility to the greater good of the team.

Teams improve efficiency, creativeness, focus and customer satisfaction in the work place. Because of technological changes and globalization in the work place, many companies are pressured to compete in the areas of productivity and growth. Product life cycles have become shorter and facilities are becoming obsolete faster than ever. Having a good, diverse working team ensures a company’s opportunity to be more productive and thus more competitive.

In order to have an effective team the following characteristics must be present. A team must have the ability to work together and have a high degree of participation. Decisions should be reached with a proper evaluation of the information. The team should be good at gathering all necessary information, which entails looking at options carefully, and considering consequences. Its members must be pragmatic and realistic. In this environment, creativity is certain.

When team members interact with the outside world, individuals have the opportunity to choose which learning experience is necessary to achieve the collective goals of the team. All of this being said, which type of team is better-- manager-led or self-managed? In a manager-led team, the manager acts as the team leader and is responsible for defining the goals, methods and functioning of the team (Thompson p.15). Manager-led teams are functional teams assembled by a leader who runs most meetings, sets most agenda items, and makes decisions.

In a self-managing or self-regulating team, a manager or leader determines the overall purpose or goal of the team, but the team is at liberty to manage the methods by which to achieve the goal (Thompson p.16). Self-managed teams are free to perform, once given their charter. The leader is available for counsel, resources, and support and they share leadership. Leadership may change during the process depending on the specific situation or task. Team members share information, perspectives, and insights, make decisions, and help people do their jobs better, but the focus is on individual goals and accountability. In a self-managing team, team members must leave the “department mind set” behind and focus on the task of the team. (p.8)

Good teams result from hard work, careful planning, and commitment from the sponsoring organization. Team design from the inside out is a skill. It requires a thorough understanding of teams to ensure that the team works as designed. Although there are no guarantees, we believe that understanding what makes teams work will naturally lead to better and more effective teams, whether manager-led or self-managed. The team, now managed, needs to access what types of skills are required.

The first and most important step for creating a team is called “Team Chartering” or the process by which a team is formed. This process is crucial and it will often determine the success or failure of a team. During this process, the team will establish rules, policies, and secure commitment from members. The type of team, who will be in charge, and the purpose of the team, is set. Conflict resolutions are determined, the project plan is established, and measurements of success and failure are clearly defined.

Every team needs a “team action plan”, a plan that will specify the activities in which the team needs to be engaged. Teams need to set goals in order to establish what is to be accomplished. Team members come from different backgrounds or stages in their lives, each having their own personal resources and ways to finding information. Teams need different personalities with diverse ideas and opinions. Members need to develop their skills by practicing and refining their talents. There are no exact skills for every goal, but by evaluating the teams goal and purpose, the right people with the right skills are elected.

Evaluating the team’s goals, purposes, and the type of team has a great deal to do with how your team members are chosen. If you are in a work team, you may operate based on an informal selection. If you are in a sorority or a more formal organization, you may have a specific selection process. The processes of selecting team members can go from the simple to the complex. As far as the corporate scope is concerned, candidates may be invited to join a team based on their work performance. Candidates may also be interviewed, prior to being selected as a member of a team.

Companies are generally interested in getting the best results for the minimum amount of money, and hiring the proper team will guarantee them success. Before team building can take place, several issues must be addressed and agreed upon. The first step for team member selection is for leaders to re-evaluate the team charter. By understanding these agreed upon objectives, team leaders can foster a more intelligent selection process. This set of objectives is, in essence, a profile for the “perfect” employee. Employees should be judged based on these criteria alone and not on personal persuasions.

Team members should have an equal opportunity to discuss and ratify the charter as they see fit. Ultimately, the company leadership and the team must negotiate the expectations and address the concerns of the team members before the team can become productive. Teams must understand their limits and boundaries. Team members must know how much time is needed to complete a particular goal and the deadlines by which they must achieve consensus. The team must agree upon meeting times, the length of the meetings, and what should be conducted at those meetings. After all of this has been achieved, the team is now ready to produce results.

What process will the team use to get results? The first stage is defining the group’s function, organization, and leadership. Defining the purpose is defining ground rules or the way the team will operate. The team must decide what they want to accomplish and how they will operate as a team. The team must validate and clarify why and what the team will accomplish within an established length of time. Without rules, team meetings can be a waste of time and energy.

Restricting the scope of discussions prevents wasted time and interference. Discuss team etiquette and procedures. When is the proper time to comment and what methods of comments are permissible? Discuss facial expressions, and other forms of communication that convey messages. Clear rules define a common platform for participation and decision-making. Team members must have an understanding of the consequences of misappropriating team rules.

The level of commitment is established if teams understand clear ground rules and the mission. The goals and objectives of the team must be clearly defined from the beginning. Team members must understand the purpose, vision, and goals in the same way. If these goals and objectives are stated and understood by the team leader, it is up to the leader to identify the goals and the boundaries by which team members will operate. These issues must be discussed and commitments made by the team members at the beginning of the meetings.

The team leader must maintain communication with the members and discuss improvements needed with the members not meeting the commitments. Over-commitment is a common problem within teams. A team member will take on more than they can possibly accomplish. It is up to the team leader and team members to monitor the amount of time needed to perform the tasks and allow the appropriate time necessary. It is important to make every member feel like an important part of the team and every member’s voice should be heard. Equal participation is the key. When a group is heterogeneous in terms of personalities, abilities, skills and perspectives, there is a better chance the team will complete its goals without conflict.

Team conflict can be healthy and may allow a group the opportunity to change itself to achieve a healthier functioning group. Odd numbered teams are better able to resolve conflicts. Conflict is usually emotionally driven and one-on-one. You can control this by putting the situation in its proper perspective, examining the conflict, and personal attachment. The process of resolving team conflict should be discussed as part of the “Charter” process and self-resolution reinforced. If a conflict is not able to be resolved between the two parties, the team must intervene. First, recognize and define the problem, (face to face meetings are best). The purpose of the meeting should be to resolve the issue, not point fingers, or take sides. Team members must recognize the type of conflict Emotionally involved conflict is personal, defensive, and resentful. In contrast, cognitive conflicts may stimulate creativity because it forces people to think and form opinions.

In summary, because of organization complexity, individual career specialization, and technology growth, learning how to be a contributing member of a team is significant to the successful career person. Organizations form teams to facilitate processes, improve communication, and to assist companies to reach their profitability and goals. The first and most crucial step is to establish the “Team Charter” which gives the team a purpose and direction. Teams achieve synergy and therefore can accomplish more than the sum of its people. There are three basic types of teams common in the world today; work teams, task teams, and management teams. The type of team formed depends on the task. An old Chinese proverb states, “Tell me and I will forget, show me and I may remember, involve me and I will understand”.

Works Cited

Making the Team A Guide for Mangers, by Leigh L. Thompson. Copyright @ 000 by Prentice Hall, Inc.

Tools for Teams Building Effective Teams in the Workplace by Leigh Thompson, Eileen Aranda, Stephen P. Robbins and others.

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