Reasons have been proposed to explain why teamwork exists by (Cohen and Bailey, 1997). They suggest organisations can develop and deliver products in a speedy and cost effective manner. More so, teams are the best way to establish organisational strategy. Teamwork was defined by (Kozlowski and Bell, 2003) as the composition of two or more individuals who share tasks and work towards a common goal. They emphasise the importance of collaboration and cooperation. Teamwork has three important dimensions.
Firstly, technical dimension relates to the division of labour and who does what task and when etc. Governance refers to authority and relationships between members. The normative dimension refers to the norms, values and assumptions of the group directing behaviour. However, there are dimensions which can differ between teams, for example the temporal duration. Some teams are required to work together for a larger period of time. The physical proximity of teams may range depending on the organisation. Certain groups must work face to face where as others are dispersed geographically.
According to (Hackman, 2002), teams need ‘teamwork’, meaning work that is designed for teams. An important factor relating to teams is interdependence, this is the extent to which people must work interactively and cooperatively (Stewart and Barrick, 2000). There are a number of benefits to an organisation by working in a team; these include efficient processes, reduced costs, increased innovation and skill utilisation (West and Markiewicz, 2004). Evidence to support this claim comes from (Delarue et al, 2008) who found associations between team work, workers outcomes, financial outcomes and operational outcomes. Godard, 2001) found with his questionnaire that teamwork positively related to job satisfaction, a sense of belonging and feelings of empowerment. This is supported by (Delarue et al, 2004) who found reduced absenteeism. The financial benefits were researched by (Cooke, 1994) who found that with the introduction of teamwork, there was a significant impact on value added per employee. Teamwork can have a profound effect on operational efficiency, productivity and quality. (Cohen et al, 1996) found that teams which facilitate high levels of employee involvement have a significant impact on efficiency and quality.
If organisations are to reap the benefits of teamwork, then they must create and manage them in the correct way. Research into effective team working has commonly followed the input-processes-output (I-P-O) model proposed by (McGrath, 1964). The idea is that inputs affect outputs via the interaction of processes. We could argue this is too simplistic but it provides a useful framework. The first input is task design, the task must be achieved by a group of people working together so it should be demanding and complex enough to be completed by a team, as referred to earlier, there should be a high level of interdependence.
The next input is team composition. This outlines the skills, knowledge and ability required (KNA). Bebin proposed nine essential roles. These are plant, resource investigator, coordinator, shaper, monitor, team worker, finisher, implementer and specialist. Bebin’s theory is not often fulfilled in practise though. Teams are often put together with little consideration for the roles required or the skills. This undermines team effectiveness. Another feature of the inputs is diversity; this is the idea that the team has a range of skills, ages, ethnicities and levels of authority.
One of the most important inputs is the organisational context. Teams are often embedded in larger organisational systems, the effectiveness of teams may depend on wider contextual factors. Conflict within the organisation such as their wider objectives may impede a team so a team must operate within the company’s boundaries. (Hackman, 2002) suggests teams do not operate in an organisational vacuum. Team effectiveness relies on supportive organisational context that reinforces a team based structure. (Hackman, 2002) argues three systems can increase the likelihood of team success.
Firstly, we have the education system which offers training and technical aid to a team. Then we have the information system which provided necessary data to complete the task. Lastly is the reward system which encourages rewards to all members equally to reduce inequality. The team objectives make up the first part of the processes. Teams should have a common purpose and clear objectives free from ambiguity. Reflexivity is the next stage and this helps to overcome team frustrations and any confusion regarding objectives. This is done by reflecting on immediate and long-term objectives on a regular basis by meeting and sharing information.
Decision making is the next component; research has shown that teams make better decisions than individuals however there are certain process losses which can affect decisions. One of these is social conformity; the tendency to go along this the majority decision and exclude your opinion. This can occur due to leader power because the leader has more authority and influence. Groups try to avoid conflict through Groupthink (Janis, 1982), where teams sacrifice high quality rigorous decisions to conserve social harmony. Group may do this without even realising.
Social loafing affect decisions when team members exert less effort and commitment. This has negative implications on the reward system especially If team members are rewarded equally. Overall, teamwork is a critical issue which organisations should develop and support real teams. Management must pay close attention to ensure they have the correct characters in the team to reap the full benefits of teamwork rather than pseudo teams which are present today. On a final note, not all organisations require teams so they should only be applied to the right tasks and situations.