A team is a group of coworkers, with complementary roles and skills, working towards a common objective. Achievement of the objective requires participation of all the team members.
For example: a purchasing team typically consists of a business developer, a technician and a business support. The common objective, set by the team and its manager, will normally involve purchasing targets while securing price, quality and delivery. So a purchasing team has at least three individuals, with different roles and skills, and a common objective.
How does this differ from a work group?
Groups of coworkers who work together are often called teams. However this is often not very accurate. Adair (1986) asserts that in teams “the contribution of individuals in a team are complementary to one another, whereas in a group the members are largely interchangeable.” That is, in a team all members are needed to achieve the goals. In a work group the group’s objectives can be reached without participation of all the members.
A purchasing team is an example of a team, a technical management group may be an example of a work group. The TQE managers meet from time to time to co-ordinate and share ideas, but the TQE managers do not necessarily play different roles in meeting the groups objectives.
Coworkers participate in a work group to share information, to make decisions and to co-ordinate practices.
While the distinction between teams and groups may not always be clear, expectations from the members and the organization are be important. For a team to be successful in achieving its objectives participation of all members is required. The team members need to be open with each other, willing to share ideas and support each other, and need to be more concerned with team success rather than individual success. Important questions of roles and relationships need to be addressed in a team, this is not as important in a work group.
Why do we use teams?
Teams have a number of advantages over other forms of organization:
- a small group of individuals, with complementary skills, working together should be able to achieve more than if they were working individually. This is called synergy.
- giving a team the responsibility, tools, information, guidelines, and authority to achieve objectives is called empowerment. Empowered coworkers generally have high levels of job satisfaction, and therefore bring creativity and efficiency to the organization.
The Two Ingredients Of Successful Teams
There has been a considerable amount of research into team work, and what makes one team more effective than another. Theories include the importance: of clear objectives, of having a strong form of identification, of having compatible members, and of having appropriate organizational support. To one degree or another, these are all true. However, underlying all these qualities are just two ingredients: members of successful teams have a reasonable level of self-awareness, and the team maintains open and honest communication.
If team members communicate in an open and honest way all other qualities of successful teams can be achieved. For teams to achieve this level of communication, the individual team members require a reasonable level of self-awareness.
Self-awareness is about understanding who I am. That is, I will understand why I act or react in certain ways, what influences my behavior, what are my needs, wants and ambitions. If I am self-aware I will understand how I react to other people, issues and situations. I will know how others react to me.
As a self-aware person I will be able to use my feelings to understand my reaction to people, events and situations. If I am to communicate my thoughts, feelings, and opinions to my team members, we will be able to create understanding of each other.
A team with members who can reflect on their own behavior, and who are able to communicate in an open way, will be efficient and effective.