Teamwork

Teamwork

[teem-wurk]
A general dictionary defines teamwork as a "Cooperative or coordinated effort on the part of a group of persons acting together as a team or in the interests of a common cause, unison for a higher cause, people working together for a selfless purpose, and so on."

Applied to workplaces teamwork is a method that aligns employee mindsets in a cooperative and usually selfless manner, towards a specific business purpose. Today there is no business or organization that does not talk about the need and value of teamwork in the workplace. While the concept of teamwork and its benefits are well known and talked about, it is very rare to see it being practiced truly in reality. And you may have often noticed what appears outwardly as teamwork is not really teamwork internally. Some things cannot be accomplished by people working individually. Larger, more ambitious goals usually require that people work together with other people. Because of this, teamwork is a desired goal of many businesses and organizations today. Projects often require that people work together in order to accomplish a common goal. Although critics often argue that in the corporate world teamwork has become an empty buzzword, or a form of corporate-speak. Effective collaborative skills (knowledge) are necessary to work well in a team environment. As businesses and organizations become larger or more sophisticated. Many employers attempt to enhance their employees' collaborative efforts through training, cross-training, and workshops in order to help people effectively work together in a cohesive group and accomplish shared goals.

Human beings are fiercely independent animals and we will always have our own opinions and independent methods of doing something. This is the way our minds are hardwired by nature. Except for a very small percentage of us, sharing and collaboration with others is not exactly programmed inside each and every one of us. This is because each person is mainly concerned about his or her rewards, appreciation, need for power over others, and so on. But teamwork is a different ballgame that aligns mindsets in a cooperative, and usually selfless manner towards a specific business purpose. And it involves sacrifices, sharing of rewards, sharing the blame and punishments, true uniformity, suppression of personal opinions, etc., which is not very palatable to many. It is always, "What is in it for me" rather than "What is in it for us.

In order for teamwork to succeed one must be a teamplayer. A Teamplayer is one who subordinates personal aspirations and works in a coordinated effort with other members of a group, or team, in striving for a common goal. Businesses and other organizations often go to the effort of coordinating team building events in an attempt to get people to work as a team rather than as individuals.

A 2003 national representative survey, HOW-FAIR , revealed that Americans think that 'being a team player' was the most important factor in getting ahead in the workplace. This was ranked higher than several factors, including 'merit and performance', 'leadership skills', 'intelligence', 'making money for the organization' and 'long hours'.

“The old structures are being reformed. As organizations seek to become more flexible in the face of rapid environmental change and more responsive to the needs of customers, they are experimenting with new, team-based structures” (Jackson & Ruderman, 1996).

Teamwork Skill

Aside from any required technical proficiency, a wide variety of social skills are desirable for successful teamwork, including:

  • Listening - it is important to listen to other people's ideas. When people are allowed to freely express their ideas, these initial ideas will produce other ideas.
  • Discussing It is important to discuss your ideas with your teammates until you agree.
  • Questioning - it is important to ask questions, interact, and discuss the objectives of the team.
  • Persuading - individuals are encouraged to exchange, defend, and then to ultimately rethink their ideas.
  • Respecting - it is important to treat others with respect and to support their ideas.
  • Helping - it is crucial to help one's coworkers, which is the general theme of teamwork.
  • Sharing - it is important to share with the team to create an environment of teamwork.
  • Participating - all members of the team are encouraged to participate in the team. (usually consist of three or more people)
  • Communicating - For a team to work effectively it is essential team members acquire communication skills and use effective communication channels between one another e.g. using email, viral communication, group meetings and so on. This will enable team members of the group to work together and achieve the team's purpose and goals.

The forming-storming-norming-performing model takes the team through four stages of team development and maps quite well on to many project management life cycle models, such as initiation - definition - planning - realisation.

As teams grow larger, the skills and methods that people require grow as more ideas are expressed freely. Managers must use these to create or maintain a spirit of teamwork change. The intimacy of a small group is lost, and the opportunity for misinformation and disruptive rumors grows. Managers find that communication methods that once worked well are impractical with so many people to lead. Specifically, leaders might encounter difficulties based on Daglow's Law of Team Dynamics: "Small teams are informed. Big teams infer."

Team roles

The approach to Team Role analysis was first introduced by Meredith Belbin in 1981 to inform management consulting practices and for training. (Belbin Team Roles are not designed for high stake employment decisions.)

Belbin proposed nine team roles required for successful teams:Coordinator: This person will have a clear view of the team objectives and will be skilled at inviting the contribution of team members in achieving these, rather than just pushing his or her own view. The coordinator (or chairperson) is self disciplined and applies this discipline to the team. They are confident and mature, and will summarize the view of the group and will be prepared to take a decision on the basis of this.Shaper: The shaper is full of drive to make things happen and get things going. In doing this they are quite happy to push their own views forward, do not mind being challenged and are always ready to challenge others. The shaper looks for the pattern in discussions and tries to pull things together into something feasible, which the team can then get to work on.Planter: This member is the one who is most likely to come out with original ideas and challenge the traditional way of thinking about things. Sometimes they become so imaginative and creative that the team cannot see the relevance of what they are saying. However, without the plant to scatter the seeds of new ideas the team will often find it difficult to make any headway. The planter's strength is in providing major new insights and ideas for changes in direction and not in contributing to the detail of what needs to be done.Resource investigator: The resource investigator is the group member with the strongest contacts and networks, and is excellent at bringing in information and support from the outside. This member can be very enthusiastic in pursuit of the team’s goals, but cannot always sustain this enthusiasm.Implementer: The individual who is a company worker is well organized and effective at turning big ideas into manageable tasks and plans that can be achieved. Such individuals are both logical and disciplined in their approach. They are hardworking and methodical but may have some difficulty in being flexible.Team worker: The team worker is the one who is most aware of the others in the team, their needs and their concerns. They are sensitive and supportive of other people’s efforts, and try to promote harmony and reduce conflict. Team workers are particularly important when the team is experiencing a stressful or difficult period.Completer Finisher: The Completer Finisher is a perfectionist and will often go the extra mile to make sure everything is "just right," and the things he or she delivers can be trusted to have been double-checked and then checked again. The Completer Finisher has a strong inward sense of the need for accuracy, rarely needing any encouragement from others because that individual's own high standards are what he or she tries to live up to. They may frustrate their teammates by worrying excessively about minor details and refusing to delegate tasks that they do not trust anyone else to perform.Monitor evaluator: The monitor evaluator is good at seeing all the options. They have a strategic perspective and can judge situations accurately. The monitor evaluator can be overcritical and is not usually good at inspiring and encouraging others. Specialist: This person provides specialist skills and knowledge and has a dedicated and single-minded approach. They can adopt a very narrow perspective and sometimes fail to see the whole picture. (Note: the specialist is not considered a team role)

Team Building

Team Building, or Team Development, is a coverall term given to methods of developing an effective team.

The methods of doing this vary widely, and include

  • simple social activities - to encourage team members to spend time together
  • group bonding sessions - company sponsored fun activities to get to know team members
  • personal development activities - personal change applied on a group level, sometimes physically challenging
  • team development activities - group-dynamic games designed to reveal how individuals approach a problem and how the team works together
  • psychological analysis of team roles, and training in how to work better together

Team building generally seats within the theory and practice of organizational development.

Examples of Great Teamwork

Fans remember John Paxson's basket that won the National Basketball Association Championship for the Chicago Bulls, not the rebound by Horace Grant or the pass from Michael Jordan that made this great victory possible. In politics, we remember the President that delivered the State of the Union address not the team of speechwriters that carefully crafted and edited his speech. Even at the symphony, few patrons can recall more than the name of the conductor and the soloists.

These are just a few examples of how in our society; we tend to value individual accomplishments. Fortunately, we are slowly beginning to recognize the importance of teamwork in sports, business, and school.

Sports offer some of the finest examples of teamwork. Great athletes always acknowledge that great teams win championships, not great individuals. As Babe Ruth said, “The way a team plays as a whole determines its success. You may have the greatest bunch of individual stars in the world, but if they don't play together, the club won't be worth a dime.”

For example a football running back and quarterback’s ability are totally dependent on the strength of their offensive line. A basketball center’s ability in scoring is mainly dependent on his team’s willingness to pass. Even a NASCAR driver’s finish depends on the speed and skill of his pit crew.

Sports are full of clichés like, “There is no I in team.” While this has often been commonly acknowledged wisdom, only recently has it been scientifically established. In 2006, two statistics professors at Brigham Young University concluded after a long-term study of NBA basketball games that teamwork truly was the most important factor in winning. While many might think that scoring or rebounding statistics are the most informative numbers, these professors mathematically proved that the ratio of assists to turnovers, a great of measure of teamwork, was the best predictor of success over a season. Based on this study, it is easy to understand why the teams with the highest payrolls seldom consistently win championships. While individual skill and effort in sports is important, teamwork is paramount.

Teamwork has also become increasingly acknowledged as an essential skill for employees in companies both small and large. Today’s increasingly global economy places a premium on teamwork in the workplace. For companies that often produce goods on one continent and then over a matter of a few days must transport, store and deliver them to customers on another continent, teamwork is not just important, it is essential. Teamwork has become so valued that many large corporations have developed specific tests to measure potential employees’ teamwork abilities. Many companies are even acknowledging this in their job titles by changing the designation of supervisors or managers to “team leader.” While CEOs make the headlines, modern corporations could not function without teamwork.

Teamwork in school is just as important as teamwork in sports and business. The teachers and administrators at Lake Forest Country Day School (LFCDS) recognize the importance of teamwork. A team of teachers now teaches the fifth grade to help students transition into the Upper School. Students are also encouraged to work collaboratively on academic projects and in competitions such as the Lego League robotics competition. These projects aid students in developing the essential skills they will need when they enter the working world. At LFCDS, teachers emphasize group projects as well individual assignments.

Students that succeed in group efforts understand that they must make them team projects rather than group projects. There are subtle but very important differences between group and team projects. A team project is when members of the teamwork work interdependently towards the same goal. It is also a team project, when every member in the group feels a sense of ownership of their role. In a group project, members work independently and are often not working towards the same goal. The members in the group also focus a lot on themselves because they are not involved in the planning of their goals. It is not hard to explain why team projects always surpass group projects.

Critiques of teamworking

There is a range of debates concerned with the negative features of teamworking. The move to teamwork in industry and services has led to a greater amount of peer pressure, performance management, and stress. Management control is seen by critics to be reinvigorated by transferring the disciplinary dimension of management to employees and team members themselves. There are studies showing how team members pressure each other into working harder. The literature goes into questions of bullying and of surveillance. (See Phil Garrahan and Paul Stewart The Nissan Enigma Chapter 4 published by Mansell in London - 1992). This had led to a debate on the regulation of teamworking and the need to establish rules and procedures regarding its development and boundaries.

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