What is the difference between a group and a team?
The words “group” and “team” are often used interchangeably. A more specific distinction between the two words is arguably highly necessary in business as most modern managers increasingly uses the word “teams”. This is because they always want their groups to become effective teams which can act as a building block for their organisation structure and forces for productivity, speed, change quality cost savings and innovation. It is also because the word ‘team’ is constantly used by American business management training organisations, and British managers tend to attempt to emulate the language used in the USA by managers and trainers.
As defined by Mackin (2007) “A team is a small group of people with complementary skills and abilities who are committed to a common goal and approach for which they hold each other accountable.”
There are several types of teams depending on the organisation in question. Work teams are charged with duties such as manufacture, assembly, provide or sell goods and services; development and project teams work on long-term projects for the organisation but are dissolved when the project is completed; parallel teams operate separately from the regular work structure and exist on a temporary basis; management teams are responsible for coordinating and providing direction to the organisation and this is based on the power and authority that stems from the hierarchical ranks. This team is accountable for the overall performance of the organisation; self managed teams exists as autonomous work groups where workers within the team are schooled or trained to do all or most of the tasks within a particular unit in an organisation. Workers in self-managed teams have no immediate supervisors. Otis Engineering’s plant in Dallas is an example of a company that instituted self-managed teams to increase productivity and speed. Before instituting the idea, the company did a great job to communicate the philosophy involved and articulated the new duties of members and team coaches. Since the company adopted self-managed teams, its products that use to take up to four months to build are now completed in just ten days. Though the company emphasises on quality rather than efficiency, its executives believes that empowered or self-managed teams with autonomy are the only option to survive and remain competitive.
The team-based approach to work can always provide a sustainable competitive advantage to companies and greatly improve organisational performance. For teamwork to be very effective there is always the need for new relationships based on trust. One of the most important ways to establish this trust is through team skills and extensive training. Opel Eisenach, one of Europe’s best auto plants, operates with close to 200 six-to-eight-person teams. Each team member receives training that allows him to handle every work station in the cell and understand the entire production system. This team approach helps the company in problem solving and builds the morale of every employee
Unlike teams, a group is a collection of people drawn together to undertake a task but do not necessarily come together as a single unit and achieve significant performance improvement (Snell, 1999). Though organisations today prefer to use the word ‘teams’ than ‘groups’, their usefulness can still be highly significant because they provide resources such as skills energy and information than individuals do. Therefore, groups can perform a number of tasks under a short time that cannot be done by an individual. Groups are very important in the organisation because they assist in decision making and also help in socialising new members, control the behaviours of individual employees within the organisation, and facilitate the overall performance of the organisation. Groups also provide benefits to its members as they act as a learning mechanism for group member to learn about the organisation and themselves and gain new skills and growth strategies. Group members can provide feedback to one another through identification of opportunities for growth and development. An operations manager can learn about financial planning from a co-worker on a new product development team and a financial expert can also lean about cutting-edge operations management techniques. Working together over time in a group and developing strong team problem solving skills is an essential supplement to specific job skills or functional expertise and skills are easily transferable to new positions.
What does team building involve?
Most managers always want their groups to become effective teams. A group becomes a team after passing through four stages of forming, storming, norming and performing. Moxon (1997) identifies eight features that are involved in effective team building.
Firstly, he points out that teams need a regular and frequent working sessions since team building is an ongoing process with existing members. Teams do need regular servicing more or less like a car that visits the garage. Possibly, after a reasonable time, teams need to hold sessions with members to create a milieu for which each problem or frustration can be raised and discussed. A team that has no time to review its objectives is always bound to fail.
Secondly, teams need to tackle its own problems. The team should be able to provide a structure that facilitates discussion and problem solving techniques as this will help resolve issues within the team and build it up.
Thirdly, the team should emphasise on identifying the root causes and on tackling real issues during all problem solving sessions. Team members should therefore not spend considerable time identifying the weaknesses of the team, but should go beyond that to identify their strengths and weaknesses so that they can learn to tackle work related issues and recommend practical solutions.
Fourthly, team members should express a high degree of openness, honesty and a preparedness to take risks. As the group develops, the level of openness will be superficial but as time progresses the level of openness increases as members take risks to share deeper feelings and exchange honest feedbacks with each other.
Fifthly, a healthy team should be action oriented and committed to all individuals to decisions reached. Members should be committed to and commit themselves to work so that they can influence change in their teams.
Also, team members should have that willingness to put in the time and efforts. Team development can be very demanding and will always require time away from your job on a very regular basis. At the initial stages, it may take a great deal of time, but as time evolves the time needed falls.
The team leaders or leader should be prepared to accept feedback and be challenged. For team development to be effective, the leadership style needs to be consistent and in line with the way of working. The leader must be willing to accept feedback on the behaviour of team members that are affecting performance.
Finally, each programme should be unique to a particular team because this aspect sets team building apart from generic training.
What has to be done to get a team behind its objectives?
The commitment of a team behind its objectives is very instrumental to its success.
Firstly, teams need to have a sense of purpose and direction. Every team member should always be committed to the team’s purpose and know what the purpose is all about: where the team is heading and what it is trying to achieve as a goal. The team leader has to maintain focus by constantly communicating the purpose of the team to team members especially in regular gatherings – but he/she should also be prepared to delegate and not be a ‘dictator’ as many ‘team leaders’, in reality, seem to be. It is equally the responsibility of the team leader to help each individual in the team to work towards the achievement of a common team objective.
Secondly, is the idea of motivation. It is logical that motivation of team members will lead to an increase in membership commitment. The team head ensures that every member has a defined objective set out by the organisation. The leader therefore makes sure that this objective is clearly stated out. Satisfaction at the level of the team will motivate the members too and increase output leading to an effective contribution towards the group and organisational objective.
Thirdly, the team needs commitment to individual and team roles to actually meet its objectives. Team members need to have clear expectations and understand how each of their duties is related to the other. Team leaders therefore need to ensure that members are adequately trained so that one member can back up the other when need arises. The team leader also needs to ensure that the responsibility of each team member is fulfilled and there should exist a uniform approach that makes them to operate as a team.
Finally, mutual support and trust must exist in a team for it to meet its objectives. The team leader is not duty-bound to force the team to be trusting but it comes as a result of shared duties, shared success and respect for each other within the team. A great team is one that breeds mutual support and trust for its members and spur them towards working hard to meet their objectives.
What are the elements of team solidarity?
Team solidarity is a very important aspect in managing teams. To encourage solidarity, teams must factor in elements that bring about cohesiveness and the general sense of belonging.
The first element here is the recruitment of members with similar attitudes, backgrounds and values – although this can creat ‘group think’ and a lack of diversity of thought. Teams should also maintain a high level of entrance and socialisation standards, because the more difficult it is to join a team, the more prestige and solidarity it brings to its members. Teams should not be too large because the smaller the team, the more team members feel recognised: from eight to fifteen seems a popular number. Solidarity becomes very strong when the team leader helps the team to succeed and publicise its successes. Participation in decision making gets team members so involved thereby enhancing team solidarity. Finally, rewarding team performance fairly keeps the team stronger.
What are the quantifiable factors in an effective team?
There are several quantifiable factors in an effective team: firstly, the degree of satisfaction of team members. The satisfaction of team members can be measured by their interest levels in the team. The more satisfied the team member is the more he/she engages with the activities of the team. Secondly, productivity. The more the team experiences growth and cohesion amongst its members, the more output and productivity increases. Finally, motivation. A motivated team is bound to provide more substantial success stories and productivity than a team that is less motivated and unhappy. So the level of team effectiveness is sometimes tied down to the way its members are motivated. All these reasons and more show why most, if not all, firms and companies highly value the creation of effective teams.
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