Team and Team working in context of an Organization

Team and Team working in context of an Organization

A common definition of team working includes a group of people working together toward achieving a desired goal.  Team working is the ability of the employees to work together toward a common vision, the ability to direct individual accomplishment toward the organizational objectives. It is the fuel which allows the employees to achieve exceptional results. Organizations are more successful when its employees work together towards a common goal. This incorporates and integrates many views and theories involving team and team working. It is a complex subject with multiple dimensions.

In the present environment, management in several organizations is making more team assignments for the employees with the aim to reinforce their knowledge and enhance their professional skills. Working in teams enables employees to cooperate, improve individual skills, and provide practical feedback without making any conflict between any of the team members. Team working is definitely a very important strategy for smoothing the operation of the organization as the team members upgrade their skills, knowledge, and abilities by working in teams, and this affects organizational performance and effectiveness.

An employee, who works with others in a team, is likely to be more productive as compared to his peers. It is widely accepted that team working is not only the key foundation of a successful management, but also an important tool for improving overall organizational productivity. In fact, team working increases employee productivity and it leads to greater levels of organizational commitment. Through team working, employees have the opportunity to share with others how to perform a certain task skillfully. Moreover, the team environment provides employees with opportunities to mutually share their knowledge and learn from others, and this as a result increases their productivity and overall team performance.  Hence, it is believed that by adopting team members’ collaboration, the opportunity for shared learning and productivity is higher. Further, effective team working activity can lead to increased job satisfaction and higher employee performance. Particularly, working in teams empowers employees and assist them to develop autonomy which is a key source for improved organizational commitment and minimized stress.

Team working takes place when two or more persons, who are interdependent in executing a set of activities, interact face-to-face and interact frequently with each other, make differential contributions, and strive to achieve a common goal in respect of a core task. The self-managed teams are those teams where the team members are willing to accept change, try new things, take on more responsibility, be held accountable for results, take action instead of waiting for instructions, and act in the best interests of the team rather than the self.

The nominal teams are those teams which consist of a group in name only and in essence consist of individuals trying to work together. On the other hand, the real teams are those teams in which individuals understand their assignments, have clear goals and values, communicate in an open manner, operate in a basic climate of trust, and have basic team skills.

Very often the work groups are considered as teams, but it is not true since a work group is made up of individuals who see themselves and who are seen by others as a entity, who are interdependent because of the task they perform as members of a group, who are embedded in one or more larger system and who perform tasks which affect others. The work groups become teams when they develop a sense of shared commitment and strive for synergy among members. In some organizations, the ’terms’ of team and group are used interchangeably, because of recognizing that there can be degrees of difference, rather than fundamental divergences, in the meaning implied by these terms.

There seems to be no uniform or singular measure of performance effectiveness for teams. The team effectiveness is normally indicated by (i) team produced outputs like quality, speed and customer satisfaction, (ii) the consequences the team has for its members, or (iii) the enhancement of the team’s capability to perform effectively in future.

Team identities and types of teams

In order to understand teams, there are different classifications of teams which are quite common.  These different classifications consider teams into some kind of group or category. For example, as per one classification, teams are categorized as the ‘delivery teams’ and ‘performing teams’.

Teams are frequently defined in terms of their type or function, and many titles are given to various sets of teams. There are several terms and phrases which attempt to make it easier to understand teams such as work teams, groups, virtual teams, task forces, committees and cross-functional teams, project teams, hot groups, high performance teams, and self management teams etc.

In the ideal scenario of the present prevailing environment, for a successful organization to prosper new, innovative leadership and team styles are required. As per this thinking, teams are defined as small groups with complementary skills, committed to a common purpose, common performance goals, and a common approach for which they hold themselves mutually accountable. A group of individual employees becomes a team when (i) leadership becomes a shared activity, (ii) accountability shifts from being strictly individual to being both individual and collective, (iii) the group develops its own purpose or mission, (iv) problem-solving becomes a way of life, not a part-time activity, (v) effectiveness is measured by the group’s collective outcomes and products, (vi) virtual teams (information technology) allows group members in different locations to interact for carrying out the tasks, (vii) self-managed teams are groups of employees granted administrative oversight for their work, and (viii) cross-functional teams are made up of technical specialists from different areas.

Conceptual framework for team working

Team working is an umbrella term which depicts the degree of co-operation that exists in teams or between teams. Team working is a complex activity which needs an appropriate framework for analysis. Its multi-dimensionality makes it difficult to be captured in one approach or theoretical framework. This multi-dimensionality is emphasized in the integrative model proposed by Hartley (Fig 1) which suggests that teams can be studied at three levels.

The model demonstrates some of the overt and covert factors which affect a team’s tasks and procedures. Social and cultural background can affect team ideologies and group behaviour in different cultures. Another way of differentiating group behavior is by the degree of demonstrated competitiveness. The complexity of group behaviour is further heightened by the hidden agenda which shapes the pattern of likes, dislikes, resentments and other emotions which exist between group members.

Fig 1 Models for team working

Another way of studying a team is by regarding it as an open system (Fig 1) which interacts with its environment in the process of transforming inputs to outputs. Teams can be large or small. They can be an organization, unit, department or small working group of employees or managers. Teams as systems take in resources (time, people, skills, and problems etc.) and transform them into outputs such as work, solutions and satisfactions. Teams interact with other teams and are affected by the pressures of the environment including the organization, the economy, and the requirements of customers.

There is an approach in which team working is considered in a three-stage sequence, in which the vital transformational processes are termed ‘throughputs’. The model maps out the criteria by which effective teams can be recognized as well as identifies those inputs and throughputs which lead to successful outputs. Inputs are those factors which are controlled or influenced by management and they include climate and group configuration. Management also filters and focuses inputs from the environment through its vision of strategic direction and preferred work practices. Climate refers to the organizational ambience in which teams work or ‘shared perceptions of organizational policies, practices and procedures while group configuration encompasses size, membership balance and the blend of talent within the team. It can be seen that the environment can be temporary, while climate implies a prevailing condition.

Throughputs refer to the activities and tasks which help to transform inputs to outputs. They can have the greatest influence on effective team working as they include team processes, cohesiveness, communication, task activities and maintenance activities. Team processes implies that effective teams share clear and well understood goals which are accepted by the team members. Cohesiveness implies co-operation, group oneness, commitment and positive interdependence. Communication is to be clear, accurate, honest and open. Decision-making are to be conducted according to the established procedures which are to be known to all. Task activities are those activities which enable the team to manage itself effectively. Effective teams take responsibility for the work, confront difficult situations and plan well. Maintenance activities enable the team to deal with conflict using productive controversy techniques.

Successful outputs are those outcomes which satisfy organizational or personal goals or which are compared to pre-determined criteria. The success of outputs can be assessed by a number of stakeholders, including the organization itself and the people within it, shareholders, suppliers and the surrounding community personnel. Team outputs include the performance of team tasks, individual outputs and other outputs.

The task performance of a team can be judged on a number of criteria, including quality and productivity. For the organization, successful task performance outputs can result in profit, growth, crisis survival, or improved public image. Successful task performance for a team can result in improved commitment, co-operation, creativity, and energy. Teams which perform tasks well are able to create more time and reduce schedule delays and cost overruns. Another outcome of successful team performance is personal satisfaction and development of team members. Member satisfaction can be displayed by personal freedom, pride in achievement, a feeling of contributing to success or simply of being interested in the work. Member satisfaction can also result in tangible and less tangible incentives. Tangible incentives and recognition lead to positive reinforcement and a greater likelihood of repeating the desired behaviour. Other less tangible outputs of effective teams include the capacity to face mistakes openly and learn from them. In short, it can be suggested that, although team working is a complex and multi-dimensional concept, the open systems model encapsulates some of the characteristics and linkages which are to be present in effective teams.

Theories and models on teams and team working

There are many attractive and interesting theories and models on teams and team working. The present thinking is to move away from describing how teams work to describing the advantages of teams and the benefits they can generate. Hence now the terms such as ’performance teams’ and ‘high performance workplace’ are being more prevalent.

In an organization with a high performance, team learning is better understood by the management and is being used as a development tool in the organization. In such organization, management moves away from loose groups towards effective teams. The management understands the importance of the high performance teams and takes the advantages and works towards designing the organization as a team-based organization. Some types of teams which are relevant in the present day organizational environment are described below.

Self-managed teams – Self-managing work teams present a fundamental alternative to the status quo. In this alternative, the employees are allowed to grow beyond their wildest expectations, and at the same time it allows unprecedented levels of output and quality improvement. The concept of self-directed work teams has become popular in the late 1980s. This era of the self-managed teams connected to the improved quality and increased productivity, has seen a boom in self-managed teams in the workplace. There has been uncritical praise of the shift toward empowering teams in this period.

The self-managed work teams are considered as a permanent group of 6 to 18 relatively highly skilled employees of the organization who take a wide-ranging and joint responsibility for a whole process or product through the performance of a wide variety of tasks within clearly defined boundaries.

From an organizational behavioural context, the self-managed teams are described as members who have the ability to accept change, try new things, take on more responsibility, take risk, take action, help other team members to succeed, and work responsibly without constant supervision. Fully self-managed teams seem to fulfill such criteria as (i) willing to and capable of working independently, (ii) select their own members, (iii) evaluate each other’s performance, (iv) make their own decisions, and (v) evolve continuously towards higher levels of involvement, empowerment, enablement and leadership.

In essence, self-management means that groups perform the activities of a manager, and in several cases, have to take strategic decisions. The self-managing teams are continuing to grow in importance in the context of the new workplace, where structures are becoming flatter and decision-making is delegated to lower levels. It thus seems as if self-managing teams are a concrete expression of the learning organization

Virtual teams – Until a few years ago, teams typically operated in a face-to-face environment, conducting regular meetings and postponing interventions if one of the team members cannot be present. In the present day environment, team challenges are growing and the organizations are to either adapt or perish. Globalization, growing competition, technology and time constraints have now created an environment in which teams are logistically scattered and may not even operate in the same time zones. Teams now typically communicate and interact virtually and, as modern organizations emerge, it becomes rare to find all the team members located in the same office or place.

In the present day scenario virtual work is defined as consisting of tasks and activities which occur within the vast network of electronics, telecommunications, and information technology of today, With virtual team working, technology and the computer continue to redefine where and how work is to be done. The virtual team is no longer bound by traditional team practices, time, distance or locality and hence, a virtual team does not follow old models and team approaches.

There are several configurations of virtual teams which include (i) networked teams, (ii) parallel teams, (iii) project or product-development teams, (iv) work or production teams, (v) service teams, (vi) management teams, and (vii) action teams etc. The three primary factors which differentiate a virtual team from face-to-face teams are (i) the absence of para-verbal and non-verbal cues, (ii) limited social context, and (iii) the ability to overcome time and space constraints.

In the present scenario, virtual teams leverage the benefits of team dynamics. They enable employees in diverse locations to collaborate and take potentially better decisions on complex issues. When implemented effectively, virtual teams represent a natural extension of the knowledge management since they minimize the silos of knowledge problems which tend to develop when employees are geographically scattered.

For the virtual teams to focus and to streamline the efforts, the teams are to work through (i) to ensure that the team members consider themselves as part of the team and work together to face the challenge and achieve performance, (ii) a significant number of the team members are located in different locations and or time zones, (iii) team members are to interact routinely with one another for achieving the benefits, (iv) team members are required to do a certain amount of virtual work, and (v) there is a plan for virtually acting as a team.

There is an interesting study on computer-assisted groups, conducted in 1995. In this study, it has been found that computer-mediated groups tend to be characterized by less interaction and exchange than face-to-face group work. This study has further shown that virtual teams appear superior at generating ideas. Computer-aided groups generate more potential solutions to a problem and perceive themselves as making greater progress than the other groups. Virtual teams produce more ideas during brainstorming when compared with face-to face teams. Also, the communication in virtual groups is often characterized by greater equality of participation, more risky decisions, more hostile communications, and greater direct advocacy.

High performance teams – The concept of teams is as old as the human race, yet it remains a hot topic even today amongst the management specialists, the managements, and the employees. The basic underlying principle of high performance teams is that a group of people working in unison can accomplish more than those same numbers of people working alone. This concept is called synergy, and teams are frequently more effective than individuals because of the rich variety of talents, skills and strength they make available to the group.

The effectiveness of a team is considered as ‘the extent to which the team achieves its objectives, achieves the needs and objectives of its members, and sustains itself over time. Hence, an organization relies on high performance teams rather than functional departments to reach organizational objectives. This thinking also refers to those present day organizations with leaner structures and more integration as compared the organizations with a ‘silo’ mentality.

The attributes of high performance teams include (i) encouraging participative leadership, (ii) sharing responsibility, (iii) aligning on purpose, (iv) ensuring high communication levels, (v) being future- focused, (vi) being focused on tasks, (vii) developing creative talents, and (viii) ensuring rapid response.

The management of the present day organization is to spend more and more time on getting teams back on track or intervening when the team is not achieving the expected results. The management is to focus on five key success factors when establishing and managing high performance teams. These success factors are (i) ensuring a shared and meaningful purpose, (ii) setting specific and challenging goals, (iii) determining a common and collaborative approach, (iv) clarifying roles, and (v) ensuring complementary skills.

High performance team-based culture

A culture to the organization consists of what personality is to the individual i.e. a hidden yet unifying theme which provides meaning, direction, and mobilization. To thrive amidst chaos means to cope or come to grips with it, to succeed in spite of it. But then it is too reactive an approach, and misses the point. The true objective is to take the chaos given and learn to thrive on it. Against the background of the changes faced by an organization, the organization is to capitalize on the talents and skills of their teams to focus their energy on solving complex problems and harnessing chaos.

The creation of an entire workplace to be a high performance team-based structure is extremely difficult and challenging. Very often, the organization becomes impatient before the process is completed. When the team approach does not show a dramatic improvement in the organizational performance, the management often decides that teams do not work. The reality is that the employees need to be guided from working solo to working in teams, and that the organizational culture is to be supportive of the team structure. The management is to realize that a high performance team-based culture is not attained overnight.

The implied characteristics of a high performance team-based culture include (i) the freedom to explore new technologies or approaches in order to solve complex problems, (ii) a strong and aligned vision throughout the organization, (iii) an environment which uses failures as foundations for successes , (iv) a strong executive team and leadership, (v) a reward and incentive system which kicks in when the team produces quality results, (vi) an open and honest communication practice where employees are encouraged to challenge and differ, (vii) an environment of trust, respect and support, where conflict is managed effectively, (vii) a patient and committed culture  since the high performance teams are not developed overnight and need hard work, (viii) a well-balanced (in terms of team roles) and diverse workforce in the organization, (ix) a learning organization orientation, where teams are regarded as a vehicle for learning to take place.

Virtual high performance teams

Effective management does not achieve team goals or team objectives by controlling, ‘bossing’, and restraining the employees. The management achieves goals by creating opportunities for the teams to thrive and to be successful. A virtual team does not follow old models and team approaches. A virtual team uses technology and, although team members do not interact in a face-to-face manner on a daily basis, they communicate and focus on the results to be achieved. Many software packages have been developed to enable geographically dispersed team members to operate in such a manner as to ensure high performance.

The virtual teams which strive to operate as high performance teams require becoming more self-aware. The points which can assist a virtual team to elicit feedback and grow are (i) the team members behaviour to be consistent with expectations, (ii) the team to understand what is productive or unproductive for the team, (iii) The team is to know the nature of the advice, which is needed to be given to a team member regarding how to behave differently next time, and (iv) the cultural or functional differences which affect perceptions.

Technology is not the only thing which makes a team a virtual team. The contextual factors, apart from mere computer programs, play a role in high performance virtual teams. In a study, in which the results between groups using the same computer system when all members of the group were in one room, as opposed to when the members were dispersed, it was noticed that the dispersed group generated more high quality and unique solutions than did the proximate group. Hence, when observing teams and trying to understand what is expected of virtual team work, other factors, like context and communication patterns are also to be considered.

A high performance culture does not develop in a short time. It takes time, the commitment and time, the management commitment, hard work, resilience and more time. It can also only be done if an integrated and inter-disciplinary approach is adopted. Foe establishing long-term changes and ensuring an organizational development intervention, the management is to look at all the levels of the organization.

Team role theories

Extensive studies have been carried out regarding the roles which the individuals play in teams. Understanding team roles enables the management to discover team complexities and understand team challenges in context.

Belbin’s team role analysis – Belbin developed what is now called team role analysis. He has studied teams for many years and identified nine roles which are considered important in team working. If one of these roles is not ‘played’, then the grouping cannot be called a team, but merely a number of individuals working together. The Belbin team role analysis is a very powerful tool in developing teams, but it is normally underutilized and it is hardly ever used as part of an integrated approach towards teamwork.

A team role can be described as a tendency to behave, contribute and interrelate with others in a particular way. The value of the nine roles identified by Belbin lies in the fact that the theory enables individuals or teams to benefit from self-knowledge. It also helps them to adjust according to the demands being made by the external situation. Belbin studied the behaviour of managers based on a battery of psychometric tests which the teams of varying composition were subjected to. The different personality traits, intellectual and behaviour styles of these managers were assessed while they were performing a complex management exercise. Based on these studies, Belbin identified different clusters of behaviour. He found that these clusters underlie the success of teams. From that study, he identified three clusters and nine team roles, as shown in Tab 1.

Tab 1 Three clusters and nine team roles of Belbin’s role analysis
Sl. No.ClusterTeam role
1Action orientedShaper
Completer finisher
2People orientedCoordinator
Team worker
Resource investigator
3Celebral rolesPlant
Monitor evaluator


Belbin describes the characteristics of each role, as well as the allowable weaknesses associated with these roles.

In the action oriented cluster, the ‘shaper role’ is challenging, dynamic and it thrives on pressure. There is drive and courage to overcome obstacles. He is prone to provocation and he offends people’s feelings. The ‘implementer role’ is disciplined, reliable, conservative, and efficient. He turns ideas into practical actions. He is somewhat inflexible and slow to respond to new possibilities. The ‘completer finisher role’ is painstaking, conscientious, and anxious. He searches out errors and omissions. He delivers on time. The individual is inclined to worry unduly and reluctant to delegate.

In the people oriented cluster, the ‘co-coordinator role’ is mature, confident, and of a good chairperson. He clarifies goals, promotes decision-making, and delegates well. It can often be seen as a manipulative role. The individual off-loads personal work. The ‘team worker role’ is co-operative, mild, perceptive and diplomatic. He listens, builds, and averts friction. The role is indecisive in crunch situations. The ‘resource investigator role’ is extrovert, enthusiastic, and communicative. He explores opportunities and develops contacts. The individual is over-optimistic but loses interest once initial enthusiasm has passed.

In Celebral roles cluster, the ‘plant role’ is creative, imaginative, and unorthodox. He solves difficult problems. He ignores detail. The individual is too pre-occupied to communicate effectively. The ‘monitor evaluator role’ is sober, strategic and discerning. In this role the individual sees all the options. He judges accurately but lacks drive and ability to inspire others. In the ‘specialist role’ the individual is single-minded, self-starting, and dedicated. He provides knowledge and skills which is in rare supply. He contributes only on a narrow front and dwells on technicalities.

Belbin’s team role theory has been tested in several studies. One of the studies has specifically investigated the issue of secondary team roles, since many teams in industry has fewer than nine members. The study has shown that team roles fell into two general categories, which are labelled as ‘task’ and ‘relationship’. The study has shown that these categories revealed the likely secondary team role for any given individual, and also predicted the degree of harmony and productiveness of the two elements within any given team.

Another study has found in consistent with Belbin’s theory, that mixed teams, in which a variety of team roles were represented, has performed significantly better at a management game in consensus decision making than teams composed solely of individuals identified as shapers. The study confirmed that shaper teams are prone to in-fighting and high levels of failure to reach consensus on decisions.

The Belbin team role analysis has tremendous potential if used correctly, but many organizations tend to use it in a culture which is not team- driven. This tool needs to be understood fully first before it can become part of an integrated team solution.

McShane and Von Glinow’ view on team roles

McShane and Von Glinow have defined a team role as a set of behaviours which people are expected to perform because they hold certain positions in a team and organizations. They differentiate between task-orientated and relationship- orientated roles. They stress that team members need to ensure that these roles are fulfilled in order to facilitate the teams to function optimally and effectively. Tab 2 gives the roles for team effectiveness.

Tab 2 Roles for team effectiveness
Sl. No.Role activitiesDescription
 Task oriented roles
1InitiatorIdentifies goals for the meeting
2Information seekerAsks for clarification of ideas
3Information giverShares information and opinions about the teams goals
4CoordinatorCoordinates subgroups and pulls together ideas
5EvaluatorAssesses the team’s functioning against a standard
6SummarizerActs as the team’s memory
7Orienter Keeps the team focused on the goals
Relationship orientated roles
8HarmonizerMediates intra group conflicts and reduces tension
9GatekeeperEncourages and facilitates participation of all team members
10EncouragerPraises and support the ideas of other team members

Blanchard’s team role studies

These studies help in the understanding of the team dynamics. These studies have added to the body of knowledge regarding team working by introducing various popular concepts used presently. Blanchard built his theory of team roles around several aspects namely (i) employees tend only to be productive if they understand the importance of their contribution to the ‘bigger’ picture, (ii) establishing shared goals and values lead to commitment, (iii) if the employees are given control over the work they perform, since they inculcate pride and respect, and (iv) enthusiasm in teams is created by recognizing both progress and results.

Blanchard developed the ‘Gung Ho’ approach in cooperation while working for many years closely with individuals and teams. He experimented, observed individuals and teams and concluded that the ‘spirit of the squirrel’, ‘the way of the beaver’, and ‘the gift of the goose’ is needed for optimal team functioning. The squirrel is symbolic of the need of team members to know that their work is worthwhile and driven by goals and values. The beaver illustrates the importance of putting employees in control of achieving goals, and the goose indicates the importance of team members to cheer each other on. He has argued that teams are even more effective if constant recognition is given for work well done. Once again, the true challenge is to use this in a practical and value-adding way in a diverse and complex workplace.

Margerison and McCann added to knowledge in this field by developing an instrument called the team management index (TMI) to measure team roles. They also stress the importance of team role balance in high performing teams.

Team development theories

Organizational managements are to learn how the teams are formed and how they develop in practice. Understanding the complexities in the formation of teams is a necessity for the organizational management. There are several models for the team development. Some of them are described below.

Tuckman’s model of team development

Tuckman developed a model for team development which is given in Fig 2. It has been widely used and adapted. The model describes team stages as ‘forming’, ‘storming’, ‘norming’ and ‘performing’’. These are the natural stages which each team has to go through when its members are selected as a team. These stages are repetitive in nature and do not have a specific time-line. Tuckman later added additional stage called ‘adjourning’, which is the stage where the group dissolves after a job well done or members leave the team.

Fig 2 Team development model of Tuckman

The forming stage is defined as the phase where team members get to know each other and seek to establish ground rules. Storming is the phase where control is resisted and hostility is shown openly. During norming members start working together and develop a sense of camaraderie. Performing is the stage where all members work together to get the job done. After this phase, there is the adjourning phase, when the team dissolves because the job has been done or because certain members leave the team. The purpose of each team is to reach the performing stage, thus operating as a high performance team.

Ed Kur’s faces model

Ed Kur added to this body of knowledge with a model which is also called ‘the faces model’ (Fig 3). In this model of team development, teams use five common patterns called ‘faces’. This model assumes that teams wear one face and then wear other faces in no specific order, unless the team drives its members to wear a specific face or to engage in a specific pattern of behaviour. Kur has described this model as more encompassing, more powerful, and in a sense, more forgiving than sequential development models.

Fig 3 Faces model of Ed Kur

Team building view of Kriek and Viljoen

As per the argument put forward by Kriek and Viljoen, it is generally accepted that teams and their use have become an important feature of the life of the modern organizations. They add that there are even suggestions that teams (and project teams in general) become the entrenched and preferred form of organizational structure in future. They have focused on the team building, and suggested various stages of the teambuilding process as shown in Fig 4. These stages are (i) culmination, (ii) perpetuation, (iii) regulation, (iv)  generation and (v) configuration, The questions required to be answered in these stages are shown in the Fig 4.

Fig 4 Team building view of Kriek and Viljoen

Many questionnaires have been developed to determine the stage in which a team finds itself. But the actual challenge remains to integrate this model into a holistic approach towards synergistic team development.

Team functioning theories

It is often said that ‘individual commitment to a group effort is what makes teams work, an organization work, a society work, a civilization work’. Any manager working with teams or any individual working in a team needs to have insight into the mechanics and functioning of the team.

Teams are supposed to outperform individuals, especially since a team approach is an effective way to use team talents and teams can solve problems better by applying different skills, judgement and experience. Teams are highly empowering in that they allow for flexibility, joint decision making and multi-skilling. In terms of this framework, the challenge is to get to understand teams better. This includes what makes the teams to tick and what expectations the teams have when operating in a modern work situation. There are several aspects of team functioning which are required to be understood if teams are considered. They specifically refer to theories relating to bonding, adapting and learning.

Team bonding – Bonding refers to ‘reflecting the affective feelings which the team members hold toward each other and the team’. Bonding goes beyond trust and reflects a strong sense of rapport and a desire to stay together. Bonding often takes time to occur, and therefore can be observed better when the group starts to function. Bonding in teams is crucial when workflow interdependence is high. The key to team bonding is to develop a single culture within the team.

The management of conflict amongst team members directly impacts the way in which team members bond with each other. There is emerging consensus that task conflict is generally unhelpful in terms of the functioning of teams. Instead of task conflict, teams require (i) rich, emotional debate in a trusting environment, (ii) a context where team members feel free to express their doubts and change their minds, and (iii) an ability to resist pressures to compromise quickly or to reach premature consensus.

Adapting for optimal team functioning – Modern organizations are dynamic and challenging both to the individuals and the teams, and for this reason adapting is crucial for team functioning. Many in the modern project-based, with free-lance independent agencies able to do their work based on their unique circumstances and preferences. Teams are often working as virtual teams and change is rapid and, in many cases, overwhelming. Teams comprise of multi-cultural individuals, who are also very diverse. Key features of the present day organization are that it is a networked organization, flat and lean, flexible, diverse and global in orientation and operations. Other features include the need to manage and adapt to the following areas.

A successful modern organization and its management are to understand the dynamics of ‘change’, especially with the advent of new global trends. The impact of globalization is that the change is affecting the organizational values and culture which is required to be managed soundly. In present day scenario, the management is required to implement quantum change and reinvent the organization. The organization is to transform leaders who can reengineer the workplace and to get employees to ‘buy into’ the upheavals which come with quantum change.

Linked to the above are respect for diversity and an understanding of a multi-cultural workforce. Although historically diversity has been seen as potentially volatile and sensitive, it is now becoming increasingly important for diversity to be addressed within the organization. On the positive side, diversity is creating a work environment in which everyone has a sense of belonging and which removes the barriers which have hindered the fulfillment of human potential.

Normally in an organization, integral focus is placed on the individual. The authoritarian and bureaucratic structures are generally not successful in the present day environment. Teams have become and are becoming more and more important. Furthermore, today the manager’s power is based on being the resource which enables things to happen rather than merely being a doer.

Decision-making is one of the most crucial elements in the success of a modern organization. Decisions which influence the entire functionality and operations of the organization are to be made in a participative manner by including all the stakeholders. However, it is also essential for the management as well as teams to be able to make quick and effective decisions in times of crisis; the decisions which best suit all the stakeholders of the organization.

The success of a modern organization rests on the pillar of effective communication. Especially with the reliance on technology and to stay ahead in the global mad race, communication needs to be clear and understood by all effected stakeholders. Diversity management can be brought into this perspective, as the medium of communication is to be understood throughout the organization. A considerable amount of the organizational success is due to effective communication, especially when there is a requirement to integrate a very diverse workforce.

In order to function as high performance teams, a large amount of adapting to circumstances is thus necessary. The speed with which teams recognize environmental change is of critically importance for team functioning and adaptability. The speed with which teams recognizes the need for change is related to the number of ‘interruptions’ which have caused them to ‘stop and think’ about the processes while engaged in the task. In this regards, specific instructions to team members to raise questions, helps adaptation.

Learning in team is an important aspect of team functioning. It is to be distinguished between learning from team members who are minorities and learning from the best team member. It is argued that teams need to learn from their members under different circumstances, and then ‘use this knowledge to improve performance and expand the knowledge of other team members’. The individuals need to learn in teams to align and develop the capacities of the team. When people learn together, there are good organizational results and the members grow rapidly. The discipline of team learning starts with dialogue. Learning is thus no longer an individual experience. It becomes a team process and requires new and innovative ways of looking at the performance

Individuals in teams

Successful team players are individuals which have a strong self-awareness. When working with teams, individual behaviour models and theories with a strong team implication are also to be considered. Several profiles / explanations / models explain individual differences and behaviour. Since there are a large number of models, here the ‘Tony Allesandra’ model is described to indicate that the individual in the team is unique and brings to the team a number of different behaviours. This model is furthermore used in many organizations to establish a culture where individuals are respected in terms of their differences.

Tony Allesandra’s relationship strategies – The model is called the relationship strategies model (Fig 5). The model shows that the platinum rule in communication is to treat others as they want to be treated. Changing or adapting of the behaviour makes both individuals and teams more successful. This model builds on many others, but the truths are generic in nature and include (i) individuals have different preferences, (ii) these preferences  dictate a specific way of interacting with others, and (iii) understanding the behaviour of others, and altering one’s own behaviour accordingly, optimizes one’s success as a team player and communicator.

Fig 5 Relationship strategies model

Leave a Comment