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Projects often require that people work together to accomplish a common goal; therefore, teamwork is an important factor in most organizations. Effective collaborative skills are necessary to work well in a team environment. Many businesses attempt to enhance their employees' collaborative efforts through workshops and cross-training to help people effectively work together and accomplish shared goals.
“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).
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'.
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.
- 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.
- Communication - 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."
Meredith Belbin (1993) basing on his research proposed ten roles that successful teams should have:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 plant’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.
- 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.
- As the title suggests, the completer is the one who drives the deadlines and makes sure they are achieved. The completer usually communicates a sense of urgency, which galvanizes other team members into action. They are conscientious and effective at checking the details, which is a vital contribution, but sometimes get ‘bogged down’ in them.
- 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.
- 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.
- The finisher is a person who sticks to deadline and likes to get on with things. They will probably be irritated by the more relaxed members of the team.
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.
- includeonly>"How Opportunities in Workplaces and Fairness Affect Intergroup Relationships (HOW-FAIR)", University of Connecticut and Level Playing Field Institute, 2003.
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