“Discuss the factors a manager needs to consider in order to evaluate the effectiveness of a work team. Give examples to support your choices.”
As work settings become more complex, it is imperative for managers to identify the increasing importance of team-working throughout the organisation and to consider the consequential factors leading to work team efficiency.
According to Cane, (1996) cited by Mullins, (2005) a team is seen as a group of individuals who have a strong common purpose and work towards that purpose rather than individually, and are committed to deliver tangible performance results. The following assignment will comprise of information that will analyse the evaluative measures that a manager requires in order to assess the effectiveness of a work team, and will include supportive literature containing arguments for and against whether team-working is effective, and will enable a conclusive decision to be made.
It is common for the term groups and teams to be used interchangeably although teams are often described more in the formal and specific work context. There are various types of groups which include: Formal/Informal groups, reference groups, social groups, professional groups and societies. Formal groups are used mostly in the working environment where there is a specific task to be achieved with set objectives.
As an early theory of team effectiveness, Elton Mayo (1880-1949) cited by Business Review (1997) was a follower of F.W. Taylor’s scientific approach to management but was of significance that the work he conducted (The Hawthorne Experiment in the 1920’s) disproved the theories of F.W. Taylor. From Mayo’s work came the human relations approach to management which discovered (amongst other factors) that the workers studied became more cohesive as a group and spontaneously began to work co-operatively as a team and consequently increased productivity. Since these findings, managers of firms began to use team-work as a tool to increase productivity and also found that the motivation of workers increased as result of human interaction.
Team-working is crucial in today’s society due to such fierce competition from other firms within their market on factors such as productivity, quality, innovation and technology, which requires the collective inputs of individuals each with different abilities and skills to provide the desired product or development. This is related to the later work of Meredith Belbin (1926-) who set out factors to determine what made a good team combination. Of these factors, it was the team-roles inventory that became famous and of increasing importance to firms who adopted the theory. Belbin identified that, within a team, particular individuals could take on specific roles. The blend of these roles has a crucial influence on the effectiveness of the team. There are nine team-roles altogether described by Belbin, (1993) and cited by Mullins, (2005:557).
These are: The Plant who is creative and solves difficult problems, the Resource investigator who explores opportunities and develops contacts, the Co-ordinator who clarifies goals and promotes decision making, the Shaper who has the courage to overcome obstacles, the Monitor-Evaluator who is strategic and sees all options, the Team worker who is co-operative and perceptive, the Implementer who turns the ideas into practical actions, the Completer who searches out for errors and omissions, and the Specialist who provides knowledge and skills that are in rare supply.
Teams therefore require a balance of these different characteristics in order to create an effective and functional team in the workplace. However, it is inevitable that not all firms can adopt this inventory due to the fact that the team may not consist of nine people, or the members may not have the necessary characteristics to make up each of the nine roles. Some members of the team are therefore required to fulfil the missing roles which may not be relevant to their characteristic or personality which makes the theory’s effectiveness subject to the organisation and its members.
Taskforces, project teams and committees are all key elements in the modern workplace and use modern day management approaches to practices such as empowerment, quality circles, total quality management and how groups manage change. Using these group techniques, the manager can identify the effectiveness of a team by the quality and productivity rate at which the product is developed which makes the organisation more profitable than their competitors. Mullins, (2005).
Quality control, improvement and assurance involve methods of team-working including cell-production where employees work as a team to produce a unit or product and use self-checking as a method of inspection before problems arise. In some cases such as factory work, cell-production can relieve monotony because there is interaction with other colleagues along with an element of empowerment because teams have control over their work. Job rotation can be used as a tool to prevent repetition which provides job enlargement and multi-skilling. This can consequently improve motivation and productivity leading to higher profits for the firm.
According to Willis, (2001) there are seven key elements that are essential to high-performance work teams which consist of: Commitment, contribution, communication, co-operation, conflict management, change management and connections. To compete effectively, managers/leaders must design a network to consist of these factors along with skilled employees who support each other in the achievement of corporate goals.
However, according to Mullins, (2005) as a group or team increases in size, problems start to arise regarding communications and co-ordination. Large groups are difficult to maintain and often require a high level of supervision or a strong team leader. When a group is over-sized there is usually an increased level of absenteeism and the group may become split into smaller groups or sub-groups which may lead to competitiveness and friction within the company. A manager must therefore evaluate what size of group would be best suited and more beneficial for the company which has enough members to generate innovative ideas but not so many that it begins to cause friction. Jay, (1975) cited by Mullins (2005) states that:
“The size of a group will depend upon other variables, but it seems to be generally accepted that cohesiveness becomes more difficult to achieve when a group exceeds 10-12 members.”
Different personalities and interests within the group may serve to complement each other, but on the other hand, they may conflict and cause disruption within the group. Good group relationships take time to develop and so consequently, the longer the employees have been a member of the group, the more likely they are to be able to ‘gel’ together and produce a cohesive and effective team.
A high staff turnover would have an adverse effect and reduce the morale of the team and potentially the whole workforce. The manager therefore needs to be able to recruit employees that are likely to stay with the organisation for the foreseeable future. This however would be difficult to predict due to the fact that you cannot judge a potential employee on their first impressions. Bass and Ryterband, (1979) cited by Mullins, (2005) states that group development and maturity occurs in four distinct stages:
“Mutual acceptance and membership; communication and decision making; motivation and productivity; and control and organisation.”
An alternative and perhaps more popular model devised by Tuckman, (1965) cited by Mullins, (2005) identifies four main stages of group development and relationships: forming, strorming, norming and performing. Tuckman believes that these are the life cycle stages that a group travels through before they become an effective team. Stage one is forming. This process occurs when there is the initial formation of the individuals who identify the purpose of the group and decide individual roles and responsibilities.
The second stage – storming is the process of when the members of the group become more familiar with each other and start generating ideas and put forward their views and opinions and make agreements on more meaningful structures and procedures. Stage three known as norming is when members begin to co-operate more in order to plan, agree standards of performance and fulfil the purpose of the group. The final stage is performing when the group has progressed successfully through the earlier stages of development and produced a sense of cohesiveness to work effectively as a team. At this stage the group can ascertain the purpose of the task and objectives. It is now that the group is likely to be the most effective.
When evaluating the effectiveness of a work-team, the manager must also consider the possible inadequacies and functional errors of the team. These may include factors such as; spending too much time talking rather than doing; this may either concern a discussion or conflict about the task objectives and strategies/ideas to achieve the objective, or merely a social discussion that has no effect on the task at hand. Although it is important for groups to communicate well, there may be a question of balance. Either discussion could be non-productive – wasting valuable time and money and consequently could lead to an ineffective team that decreases profits for the company.
There can also be an adverse effect on the business if a group or team works together for too long because the idea of ‘groupthink’ can occur. Janice, (1982) defines this as: ‘a deterioration of mental efficiency, reality testing, and moral judgement that results from in-group pressures’. As a result, this can lead to non-productive work because the group can just drift along towards decisions and not produce new ideas or use their initiative. To avoid this happening, the manager of the company should perhaps rotate members of different groups around to stimulate new ideas. However, by introducing new members to groups could cause conflict within the different teams which would not be beneficial for the company.
According to Mullins, (2005) the characteristics of an effective work group should exhibit: “a belief in shared aims and objectives; a sense of commitment; acceptance of group values and norms; a feeling of mutual trust and dependency; full participation by all members; a free flow of information and communications; the open expression of feelings and disagreements; the resolution of conflict by the members themselves and a lower level of staff turnover, absenteeism, accidents, errors and complaints.” A manager should take all of these factors into consideration when evaluating their work teams and should talk to their employees about whether they feel at ease within the team and are able to contribute freely to discussion without being ruled out by others more forcible members.
In conclusion, it is evident after research that team working is much more beneficial to an organisation than individual input because it generates higher production levels and the collaboration of different ideas can often produce much more desired results. Team working is also rewarding in the sense that it increases the motivation of the workforce due to human interaction which may also lead to increased productivity and consequently increased profits. We have learnt from Belbin, (1993) that individuals within work teams/groups suit different roles, and when put together, can produce very effective work teams.
However, the performance of work teams will be largely determined by the characteristics of its members meaning what works well for one team may not work well for another. The team is also affected by the tasks to be undertaken, the nature of the technology and the organisational environment. A manager therefore needs to take all these factors into consideration when assessing and evaluating the effectiveness of a work team. Managers have to delegate responsibility to the team members leading to empowerment and job satisfaction. The manager can then judge the effectiveness of the team by the outcome of the task set. Improvements can perhaps be made to the team through the use of group training and development which may provide a more effective work team.
Bass B. M. and Ryterband, E. C. (1979) Organisational Psychology 2nd ed. Allyn and Bacon
Belbin, R. M. (1993) Team roles at work, Oxford: Butterworth-Heinemann
Cane, S. (1996) Kaizen strategies for winning through people, Pitman Publishing
Janis, J, L (1982) Groupthink, 2nd ed. Houghton Mifflin
Jay, A. (1975) Corporation Man, Penguin
Mayo, E. (1880-1949) Elton Mayo Revisited – Management Gurus, Business review, February 1997
Mullins, L. J. (2005) Management and organisational behaviour, 7th ed. Essex: Pearson Education Limited
Tuckman, B. W. (1965) Development sequence in small groups. Psychological Bulletin, vol.63, pp 384-99
Willis, S. (2001) 7 keys to building great work teams [cited 29th Nov 2004] Available from: http://www.stickyminds.com/sitewide.asp?ObjectId=2769