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Teams and good performance are inseparable. One cannot have one without the other. Most executives now advocate for teams. Teams represent a set of values that encourage listening and responding constructively to views expressed by others, giving others the benefit of doubt, providing support and recognizing the interests and achievements of others. Such values help teams perform and they promote individual performance as well as performance of an entire organisation 1. What are the characteristics that make this team successful?(Assigned % 100) There are a number of key ingredients that are needed for any team to be successful in executing their tasks and attaining the desired goals.
Though research shows that these characteristics vary from one organization to the other there is however some common denominators in the success stories of the teams studied. Having a clear purpose, clear or specific goals, participation, communication, leadership/ management involvement performance review or self-assessment, team building, collaboration are some of the common characteristics found in successful teams and these are the characteristics that made the team in the case study to be successful.
1.1 Clear purpose
The essence of a team is common commitment, without it groups perform as individuals, with it they become a powerful unit of collective performance. This kind of performance requires a purpose in which team members can believe in. Where there is purpose teams develop direction, momentum and commitment. (Katzenbach & Smith 1993). In the case study there is evidence of a clear purpose why the team was developed. It is stated that the team was formed to re organize the distribution process and reduce delivery time, which is a clear purpose which gave direction to the team.
Having a clear purpose in a team is of great importance to any team that wants to be successful
1.2 Clear or specific Goals
Katzenbach & Smith( 1993) further indicate that successful teams translate their common purpose into specific performance goals. Once a team has a purpose it is important to have goals which are specific, measurable, attainable realistic and time bound. If a team fails to establish specific performance goals or if the goals do not relate directly to the overall purpose of the team, team members become confused, pull apart and resort to mediocre performance. Specificity of objectives facilitate clear communication and constructive conflict within a team and helps the team maintain focus on getting results. The team in the case study had specific and clear goals of reducing the time taken for customers to receive their products from 26 days to much less time . Therefore having specific or clear objectives is one of the characteristics that contributed to the success of the Hewlett-Packard team
1.3 Performance Review / Self evaluation
One of the key characteristics of successful teams lies in the ability of the team to periodically stop to examine how well it is functioning and what may be interfering with its effectiveness. Such performance review meetings are an opportunity to evaluate the performance of the team. It gives the team the opportunity to correct errors, or if necessary change course. A review can also provide proof that measures are working. The team in the case study had these performance reviews, it is stated that when they implemented the process they made some changes to correct any errors that were remaining in the system. Therefore self-evaluation is one of the characteristics that made the Hewlett Packard team to be successful
All successful teams are teams which value full participation of its members in the accomplishment of tasks. Team members can participate in formulating the purpose of the team and translating the purpose into goals or objectives. This enhances commitment from team members as the member will feel to be the owners of the project that the team will be working on. Participation is one of the characteristics that made the Hewlett-Packard team to be successful. It is discussed that the team as a whole noted the ways that could eliminate work steps and processes. When the team redesigned the entire work process they got everyone in the team to buy in to the new process which shows that there was participation in the team from all team members. The team was also allowed to empower the work force which in turn reduced resistance from other workers in the organizations such empowerment facilitate participation at all levels.
A successful team places communication at the Centre of everything. There should be communication among all members of the group and conduct meetings to evaluate the work completed and discuss the status of tasks in process. All members of a team participate in team meetings or receive updates on how the project stands. There is evidence of communication to be one of the characteristics that made the team in the case study to be successful. The team got everyone in the cross functional team to buy in the new process showing that it was communicated to everyone. Team members were also involved in a two week training and orientation programs. Such programs facilitate the free flow of information among team members.
Luthans (2011) argues that effective leaders do not act alone; they assemble a group of highly talented people and figure out how to get the most creative efforts out of everyone by effectively organizing their collaborative efforts. In collaboration efforts external expertise is also integrated as team members this idea of collaboration is a great way of combating group think which is one of the reasons why teams fail. The Hewlett- Packard case study shows that the 35 team members of the team came from the firm and two other different firms. Collaboration also encourages diversity within a team which also facilitates team success.
1.7 Supportive Leadership
All successful teams have strong leaders and the support of management. According to Katzenbach & Smith (1993) the team is only as effective as its leader. The leadership in the organization can motivate, facilitate communication. Team leaders usually hold ceremonial roles which is used to interact with the exterior otherwise leadership is shared. There is evidence that management of the Hewlett-Packard showed support to the team, two Managers from HP assumed responsibility for the project. Training funds were also allocated to the team evidenced by the two week training and orientation programme such training usually require large budgets and when an organization allocate such funds it shows that management is in support of the team.
2. Give an overview of how teams differ from traditional work groups(
Assigned % 100)
Katzenbach and Smith (1993) define a team as a small number of people with complementary skills who are committed to a common purpose, set of performance goals and approach for which they hold themselves mutually accountable. Teams differ fundamentally from work groups in that teams require both individual and mutual accountability. Individuals are accountable to their contributions and the team shares mutual accountability for the team’s collective performance. Teams rely on more than group discussions, debate and decision. Teams produce discrete work products through the joint contributions of their members. (Katzenbach & Smith 1993). Teams have shared leadership roles and role flexibility in other words team members share responsibility for team processes, development and outcomes.
Teams have specific purpose and collective work products; they encourage open ended active problem solving. Teams also measure performance directly by assessing collective work products and lastly the team decides and does the real work. Luthans (2011: 353) concludes that teams go beyond traditional formal work groups by having a collective synergetic effect of the whole being greater than the sum of its part. The essence of a team is common commitment. Teams are committed to communication and collaboration as well as constructive conflict.
2.2 Work Groups
Work groups are prevalent and effective in large organizations were individual accountability is most important. Groups come together to share information, perspectives and insights, to make decisions that help each person do his or her job better and reinforce individual performance standards.(Katzenbach & Smith 1993). The focus is always on individual goals and accountabilities. Work group members do not take responsibility for results other than their own nor do they try developing incremental performance contributions requiring the combined work of two or more members.
Work groups need little time to shape their purpose since the leader usually establishes it. Meetings are run against well prioritized agendas and decisions are implemented through specific individual assignments. Katzenbach & Smith (1993) summarized that a work group has a strong clearly focused leader, has individual accountability, have a purpose that is same as that of the organization. Work groups have individual work products; run efficient meetings, measure effectiveness indirectly through financial performance. Work groups discuss, decide and delegates. 3. Discuss Cross functional and virtual teams and explain why they are growing in popularity (Assigned % 100)
3.1 Cross Functional Teams
A cross functional team is a team composed of at least three members from diverse functional entities working together towards a common goal. This team will have members with different functional experiences and abilities and who will likely come from different departments within the organization. In other words cross functional teams are a group of people with different functional expertise working towards a common goal. The group may include people from Human Resources, Marketing, Finance and Production. Typically it includes employees from all levels of the organization. De Vries (1999) asserts that cross functional teams may also include members from outside the organization like suppliers, key customers or consultants. Members of the cross functional teams cross formal departmental boundaries and levels of hierarchy Members of a cross functional team are committed to a common purpose or goal of improvement.
It acts as a unit, communicating frequently, cooperating and providing mutual support, coordinating activities, drawing upon and exploiting the skills and capabilities of the teams while considering the needs of individual team members According to Luthans (2011) the movement towards horizontal designs and the recognition of the dysfunctional bureaucratic functional autonomy, has shifted the focus of most organizations to the use of cross functional teams. Cross Functional teams have been popular because of their ability to enhance competitive advantage of organizations that is accelerated by their nature of accommodating diversity.
3.2 Virtual Teams
Weldon et al 1993 define virtual teams as small temporary groups of geographically, organizationally and or time dispersed knowledge workers who coordinate their workers predominately with electronic information and communication technologies in order to accomplish one or more organization tasks. A virtual team is also known as the geographically dispersed team or a distributed team. Members of virtual teams communicate electronically and may never meet face to face; they are separated by distance and connected by computers. Effectiveness of virtual teams relies on the ability to choose appropriate communication media to fit the requirements of the task and message. Virtual teams can use synchronous technologies which include audio and video conferencing for complex tasks like determining strategies and asynchronous technologies which include emails, chat rooms and blogs where delayed interaction is acceptable or for low task complexity.( Luthans 2011; 355)
Virtual Teams are growing in popularity due to the advent of advanced Information technologies, increasing globalization and the need for speed. This has made the requirement for team members to meet face to face unnecessary. ( Luthans 2011: 355). Virtual teams also allow companies to procure the best talent without geographical restrictions.
4. Critically evaluate the effectiveness of this team (in the case study)
Assigned % 100 According to Luthans (2011) effectiveness of a team is measured based on the extent to which the team achieves its objectives and performs on behalf of the overall organization. Effective teams overcome some of the problems and dysfunctions that groups in general encounter. Team building, collaboration, leadership and the understanding of cultural issues in global situations are ways of enhancing team effectiveness. According to Aube & Rousseau (2005) team performance is the most frequently used criterion of team effectiveness. Team performance, quality of group experience, team viability and task will be used to evaluate the effectiveness of the team at Hewlett-Packard(HP)
4. 1 Team performance
Team performance refers to the level of goal attainment. How the team executes or attains desired goals. The more the team members are committed to their assigned team goals, the more they will be willing to take measures to reach them and the better will be their performance. According to Wofford et al (1992) “the performance variable has been operationalized in two ways, as quantity or quality of output or productivity and as the discrepancy between the goal level and the performance level that is the goal achievement. Setting goals at team level means that team members must reach it collectively and team is connected to the performance of the team. Studies have also revealed that specific and difficult goals lead to higher levels of team performance. Goal difficulty level and goal attainment interact with each other to determine the level of task outcomes (Weldon et al 1993).
The assessment of team performance consists of comparing task outcome level with the standards established by the team goals. The more the task outcome level is close to or exceeds the level of established by the goal, the better is the team performance. One can therefore conclude that the team in the case study was an effective team if one uses team performance as a criterion to measure team effectiveness. It is stated that the team was formed to reorganize the distribution process and to reduce the delivery time. The team managed to get delivery time down from 26 days to 8 days and this enabled the firm to cut its inventories by 20%, while increasing service levels to customers. Therefore the team at Hewlett- Packard was an effective team as evidence from the case study reveals that there was goal commitment among team members which resulted in high performance levels which in turn resulted to an effective and successful team.
4.2 Quality of Group experience
Quality of group experience refers to the extent to which the social climate within the work team is positive. It enables one to assess whether team members have developed and maintained positive relationships while accomplishing their tasks. According to Aube & Rousseau (2005) it is similar to the notion of group wellbeing which is defined as the maintenance of positive interaction among team members. Aube & Rousseau further asserts that team members committed to team goals recognize that they collectively accountable for achieving the goals which induces the ‘we are in it together’. Hackman (1987) argues that “the group experience should on balance satisfy rather than frustrate the personal needs of group members. The quality of group experience is enhanced by goal commitment.
When using group experience as a criterion to measure group effectiveness, the team at Hewlett –Packard is an effective team. Evidence reveals that the social climate within the work team was positive. There is evidence of team building in the case study which enables a positive social climate. Team members conducted a two week training and orientation programme to familiarize themselves with the current process.
Such training and orientation programs maintain positive interaction among group members. It encourages team members to develop and maintain positive relationships while accomplishing their tasks. Therefore the team in the case study was an effective team as there is evidence of positive social climate that was created for the team by doing team building exercises like the training and orientation to facilitate goal attainment.
4.3 Team viability
Hackman (1987) define team viability as “the team’s capacity to adapt to internal and external changes as well as the probability that team members will continue to work together in the future. Team members are expected to deal with many changes such as working with new equipment and integrating new members. Locke et al (1981) argues that team viability is increased by goal commitment because commitment means persistence. Teams that are committed will adapt to change easily in order to reach the team goals. Therefore team members who are highly committed to their team goal will take action to cope with internal or external changes in order to reach the team goals. (Aube & Rousseau, 2005). The hypothesis Team goal attainment is positively correlated to team viability was put forward by Aube & Rousseau in 2005.
The team at Hewlett- Packard was an effective team when using the team viability criterion to measure its effectiveness. The evidence in the case study shows that the team managed to attain its goals and Aube and Rousseau (2005) argue that team viability is prevalent in teams that would have attained their goals. The team members in the case study were also able to adapt to external and internal changes as the team redesigned the whole entire work process and got everyone in the cross functional team to buy in the new process. There is no evidence of any conflict in the team even though team members were drawn from three different firms and according to Aube and Rousseau one can conclude the existence of team viability if throughout the team’s existence team members will have to deal with many changes such as having to deal with new equipment and integrating new members. Therefore one can conclude that the team in the case was an effective team when using the three elements of team performance, group experience and team viability as the determinants of an effective team as postulated by Aube and Rousseau in 2005.
5. Discuss reasons for team failure in South African organizations and suggest ways of dealing with organizations. (Assigned % 100)
Regardless of a lot of research and study on the essential characteristics that make an effective team, there are some organizational teams which are failing to execute what they would have been formed for. Groupthink, social loafing , role ambiguity, lack of skill, ineffective leadership, lack of clear goals, risky shift phenomenon are common cause of team failure in South African organizations
5.1 Group Think
Irvin Janis in Luthans( 2011:350) defines group think as the deterioration of mental efficiency, reality testing and moral judgment that results from group pressures. It causes a team to minimize conflict, avoid critical evaluation and ultimately conform to a group thought process. Basically the team denies that it is comprised of individuals who each have unique experiences and expertise and establishes a streamlined way of thought. Group think results in overconfidence in poor evaluated ideas and can seriously impair the group ability to recognize opportunities for testing expansion or evolution.
Group think makes team members to be reluctant to examine different points of view because they are seen as threats to the group’s existence. To avoid the phenomenon of group think leaders should allow team members to challenge ideas and present objections, team members should also be rewarded for creativity and innovation as a way of dealing with the group think dysfunction. Outside expert can be invited to attend team meetings as they may bring along different opinions to those held by internal team members. Team leaders should also avoid expressing opinions about the preferred outcomes as members will be afraid to make any suggestions opposite to the preferred outcome.
5.2 Ineffective leadership
Team leadership is one of the key ingredients to a successful team. Leadership has a bearing to the success of any organizational team as the leaders help the team to come up with the purpose of the team map the vision and the mission of the team and come up with the specific goals of the team. Ineffective leadership is one of the reasons of team failure in South African organizations. Ineffective leaders tend to create divisions within the teams to control the teams sometimes they fear that a united team might overrule them. They prevent members from working together effectively and do not communicate well to the team. They rigidly control their teams not trusting them to make decisions and make them afraid to show initiative.
To avoid this pitfall leaders should avoid secrecy of any kind at all costs; they should treat members of the team with respect, listen to feed back. They should encourage dialogue and interaction among team member, balancing appropriate levels of participation to ensure that all viewpoints are explored. De Vries (1999) elaborates that effective team leaders should capitalize on the differences among group members when those differences can further the common goal of the group. They should give praise and recognition for individual and team efforts and celebrate success.
5.3 Social loafing
Social loafing is one of the reasons that work teams fail in South African organizations. Dan R (1993) describes social loafing as the phenomenon of people exerting less effort to achieve a goal when they work in a group than when they work as individuals. This is one of the reasons that teams are less productive than the combined performance of their members working as individuals. According to Dan R 1993 it takes 3Cs of motivation to get a team moving, that is collaboration, content and choice. Motivation is the answer to social loafing.
Collaboration will get everyone to be involved in the group by assigning each member meaningful tasks. Content will identify the importance of the individual’s specific tasks within the team. Choice on the other hand will give members the opportunity to choose tasks they want to fulfill in the group. Social loafing can be controlled if the tasks are challenging and important, individuals can be held accountable for results and group members expect everyone to work hard.
5.4 Role Ambiguity
Role Ambiguity is defined as a lack of clear information about job responsibilities and expectations including what should be done (expectation ambiguity) when it should be done (priority ambiguity) and how it should be done (process ambiguity). Team members are in multiple roles and often report to different leaders, possibly creating conflicting loyalties. They do not know which constituency to satisfy. Teams usually develop a life of its own with norms values and expectations that may vary from those of the department. Role ambiguity is one of the reasons of team failure in South African organizations. It is important that team leaders define individual roles of team members from the onset and make sure that the roles are not in conflict with the overall organizational strategies. To avoid Role ambiguity organizations should avoid individual departmental performance appraisals while individuals are still committed to a task team.
5.5 Lack of Skill
One of the reasons for team failure in South Africa Organizations is the lack of skills. Organizations cannot just form teams and expect team success. Team members need skills and knowledge on what is happening in the organization, what is expected from them and how they can reach expected goals. According to Katzenbach & Smith ( 1998; 62) no teams succeed without all the skills needed to meet its purpose and fundamental goals, yet most teams figure out the skills they will need after they are formed. To avoid lack of skill, it is important to recruit team members who have the right skills to execute the tasks of teams. A wise team leader will choose people to be members of a team both for their existing skills and their and their potential to improve existing skills and learn new ones. ( Katzenbach & Smith 1998). Huusko, L 2006argues that members of any work team should possess three kinds of skills, technical, decision making and interacting skills as these skills are all important in ensuring success of teams.
5.6 Lack of clear goals
Teams do not succeed if team members are not clear about what they should accomplish. Everyone will be doing their own things without any attention. Goals provide provide all team members with an understanding of what the team is attempting to produce or achieve. Lack of clear objectives has been a hindrance to team success in South Africa To avoid this it is important to involve team members in coming up with the goals of the organizations so that team members have ownership of the team and it enhances the commitment of team members to the accomplishment of the goals. Once the goals are set it is also very important to constantly communicate the goals to the team members and the organization at large. It is vital to make sure that the goals complement the overall organizational goals.
Today’s business challenges require the integration of diverse knowledge and expertise and the cooperation of everyone with the requisite understanding and capabilities. As integrative mechanisms, cross-functional teams are a primary management tool of the 1990s and will be more critical in the next century. Cross-functional teams integrate the distributed expertise required by complex undertakings. However, teams are not the solution to every organization’s organizational needs. They will not solve every problem, enhance every firm’s results, nor help top management address every performance challenge. Moreover, when misapplied ,they can be both wasteful and disruptive .Nonetheless, cross-functional teams usually do outperform other groups and individuals.
1. I assigned myself 100% because I read all the prescribed material and other additional resources to help me to provide a superior factual knowledge based assignment. I also presented my independent view points throughout the assignment. I also adhered to the technical requirements of the assignment. 2. I found the prescribed textbook to be useful in giving an overview of the topic of work groups and teams and the prescribed E-Reserves were very useful in giving a more detailed in-depth analysis of the topic. 3. I used additional resources mainly journal articles
Huckman, J.R ‘the design of work teams’
Katzenbach & Smith the discipline of teams
Weldon E etal Group goals and group performances
Wofford, J.C the meta analysis of of the antecedents and consequences of goal commitment. Rothwell Dan, In the Company of others.
4. I spent I week of three hours a day researching on the assignment and 2 days to write the assignment
5. The sources provided for this paper covered organizations in the developed countries however these were also relevant to the South African work Context as the theory discussed can be applied to all organizations regardless of their stage of maturity.
6. The areas of knowledge and skill that I needed to complete this assignment were interactive skills, decision making skills, presenting and applying information skills, ethical and responsible behavior and last but not least analytical thinking skill
7. Completing this assignment contributed to my competencies as an HR practitioner. It contributed to my competence of collaborating and partnership I now can effectively develop relationships and collaborate with all stakeholders, value team work and apply a variety of strategies to meet the needs of a diverse constituency a few competencies which I think need further development include leadership, cultural steward, and business partner.
8. The assessment criteria are an adequate criteria framework for evaluating my assignment as it covers most of the learning outcomes of the module.
9. The elements of the course learning material which I would like improved are the contents of the learning units as they only summarize the prescribed textbook and do not have much on additional resources
Aube, C. & Rousseau, V. (2005). Team goal commitment and team effectiveness: the role of task interdepence and supportive behaviors. Group Dynamics: Theory, Research and Practice 9(30), 189-204 De Vries, M. (1999) ‘High performance teams’ Lessons from the pygmies: Organisational dynamics, 27 (3) 66-67 Hackman, J.R. (1987). The design of work teams in J.W Lorsch (ED), Handbook of organizational behavior pp 315-342: Engelwood Cliffs, NJ, Prentice Hall Husko, I. (2006). The lack of Skill: an obstacle in team performance empowerment 12 (1/2),2, 5-16 Katzenbach , J. & Smith, D. 1993 “The discipline of Teams,” Harvard Business Review: March- April 1993,p. 112-113 Locke, E. A et al (1981) Goal setting and task performance: 1969-1980 Psychological bulletin, 90,125-152 Luthans, F. (2011) Organizational behavior: An evidence based approach : McGraw-Hill Weldon, E. et al (1993) Group goals and group performance. British journal of social Psychology , 32, 307-334 Wofford, J.C et al 1992: Meta-analysis of the antecedents and consequences of goal commitment. Journal of Management, 18, 595-615 Rothwell , D (1999) In the company of others: An introduction to communication
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