Relaciones Laborales y Recursos Humanos
HUMAN RESOURCE MANAGEMENT
“Is teamworking a good idea?”
Is teamworking a good idea?
What I am going to analyze in the very outset of this essay is the advantage of having a good teamwork, the cost for the business, the benefits that teamworking provides and the do's and don'ts of teamworking.
The essay begins by reviewing basic concepts and definitions about teamworking that different authors have done. Next I am going to explain the differents reasons for the proliferation of teams and the expansion of team management and also I will analyze the suitability of teamworking followed by the conclusion of the analysis.
During the last few years, a number of authors have attempted to provide a definition of teamwork. The term “teamworking” has come to be used in a variety of ways and contexts, some say that means “to summon all team members to the cause of promoting the company's interest”. The interest of employers and the organisation are seem to be one and the same, hence the necessity, and not just the requirement that everyone works as a team. In other instances, “teamworking refers to a team at work, where people from variety of functions and departments may come together to produce a particular product or service” (Keith Sisson, 1994).
In its most developed or purest sense, teamworking refers to the granting of autonomy to workers by management to design and prepare work schedules, to monitor and control their own work tasks and methods, to be more or less self-managing. There may also be considerable flexibility between different skill categories, such that skilled employees do unskilled tasks when required and formerly unskilled employees would receive additional training to permit them to assume responsibility for more skilled tasks.
Harris (1986: 229) describes a team as: “a workgroup or unit with a common purpose through which members develop mutual relationships for the achievement of goals/tasks. Teamwork, then, implies cooperative and coordinated effort by individuals working together in the interest of their common cause. It requires the sharing of talent and leadership, the playing of multiple roles.
Buchanan (1987,40) uses the term “high performance work design” to describe the situation where “a work group is allocated an overall task and gives discretion over how the work is to be done. The groups are self-regulating and work without direct supervision”.
Grayson (1990,1) defines “a self-regulating work group” as a “democratic form of work organisation which ascribes to the group of workers responsibility for the regulation, organisation and control of their jobs and the conditions immediately surrounding them”.
According to Beardwell and Holden, teamworking emphasises problem solving in a teamworking situation and in order to function effectively it must be bound up with policies of task flexibility and job rotation (Price, 1989). Teams vary in size from seven to ten people, or even more, and large elements of training are necessary to ensure that workers, team leaders, supervisors and managers have the requisite skills to enable the team to function efficiently. A large part of such is of a managerial or interpersonal skill and communicational nature as well as of technical nature.
EXPANSION, IMPLEMENTING AND SUITABILITY OF TEAMWORKING
Traditionally, workers in the West carried out the orders of their bosses with little authority of their own, in the rapidly growing modern industrial age from the beginning of the 20th century until a few years ago, the demands of efficiency, mass- production and mass-marketing seemed best to be served by rigorous chains of command and a high degree of employee specialisation. However, a different philosophy was in practice in the extremely successful workplaces of Japan. There, co-operation between multi-skilled workers often organised into teams, insured dynamic innovation and the adaptability of the company to changing market place conditions. Recently, companies in the west have responded to Japan's industrial dominance, particularly in the auto industry, by adopting many of the same organisational techniques. At the heart of this “revolution” in the way companies work is the motion of employee empowerment. Innovative companies have rejected the old wisdom, which holds that management knows best and that workers are simply tools to blindly carry out orders. They now recognise not only that well trained employees can bring thoughtful and valuable ideas to their work, but that if they are allowed to express them, they will take pride and pleasure in their roles that will ultimately result in higher morale, higher productivity and higher profits. One of the main reasons for implementing teamwork is that it could lend organisations increased productivity as batch sizes become smaller. Employers are encouraged to work as a team and identify with the production of a particular product or family of products, this way, employees become familiar with a particular stage of the process quite quickly and the opportunity to rotate between work tasks increases. They therefore have the opportunity to participate in the production of an entire product rather than working at only one stage in the production process.
So one of the principal reasons for the proliferation of teams and the expansion of team management is because of the changes in the environment (changing technological and market conditions). These environmental forces are rapidly changing and increasingly impredictable (Anantaraman, 1984b: 217) and it appears as if turbulence is now the stable state. Because of this the organisations had been forced to change the way the people relate to one another and increase levels of collaboration and planning between organisational sub-units.
Harris (1986:28) refers to a set of objectives relevant to the changing organisational context, these include: increased employee autonomy, more communication and information, employee involvement, more meaningful relations with people working together more closely, more creativity and higher performance standards, an increased emphasis on productivity, greater attention to the quality of work life. The achievement of these objectives will be more possible through strategies that employ team management.
Some organisations have to process complex and confusing information, they may operate in frequently changing technological and market conditions, and they have to adopt to these changes, in order to survive they must become innovative. As Jacob and Everett (1988:15) note: “Developing genuine teams is a pre-requisite for productive and innovative environments”. Peterson (1991:89) claims that companies using the creativity of teamwork to find new ways of doing things will be profitable and the leaders of the future.
Woodcock (1989:23) explains how teamwork is being increasingly seen as an important subject and how teambuilding is one of the most popular and effective ways of improving organisational health. It has also resulted in a recognition that people are the most important resource, and that using their knowledge and experience in a productive way leads to improvements in products and services quality.
Teamworking is becoming increasingly important to a wide range of operations, it also applies to all levels of the organisation. As Maddux (1989:16) observes, it is just as important for top executives as it is to middle management, supervisors and shopfloor workers. Poor teamwork at any level or between levels can seriously impede organisational effectiveness and may in some cases , contribute to organisational demise.
Effective team management is inseparable from development, since most teams start off as a collection off individuals, each seeking varying levels of power, recognition and autonomy, there is obviously scope for progression. This means that team members have to develop teamwork skills.
According to Bramham the overall objective of the Human Resource Strategy is the achievement of committed employees, and this is done by the development of integral teams led by a supervisor. The ideal would be employees working in harmony with the company and its objectives. The employee relations strategy plays a key part in achieving committed employees both at the personal and the organisational level through building confidence in the organisation and its managers (Bramham, 1994).
Understanding performance standards
Direct supervisor- Communicating
Employee contact Company policy
Framework for Up-to-date and rapid
Mutual trust briefing
Graphic: a HR Employee Relations Strategy.
Teams are the pivot of a committed workforce and the central aim of an employee relations strategy within plan for Human Resourcing (Belbin, 81).
Workers who function together in self directed, high performance work teams play a more active role in the decision making process and therefore have a more personal stake in the company's performance.
Empowerment is an integral part of a strategy for motivation and commitment. People respond to being asked to undertake tasks which involve assuming greater responsibility, and this is what empowerment is all about -the deliberate and orderly distribution of power and authority to different levels in the organisation (Bramham, 1994), this means that team members are seen as being capable of making decisions, of being innovative and able to contribute ideas, because they know the job better than others higher up in the organisation (Kennet Stott, 1994). Empowerment gives workers a sense of individual freedom and control over their destinies that translates into increased job satisfaction, higher employee morale and increased company performance. In recent years, progressive organisations have been implementing high performance work teams. Some like Federal Express and Procter & Gamble have made significant progress in this effort and have reaped substantial profit from it. For many others, the team concept remains largely just that - simply a concept, an idea. Adapting to change requires effort and patience on the part of both, workers and management.
Workers, coming from a long tradition of being told what to do and how to do it, cannot learn hot to manage their own tasks overnight. Competent coaching must provide the guidance and top management must provide the commitment.
In order to build high performance work teams, managers must have the courage and stamina to allow teams to manage themselves. Like any retooling effort, reformulating the workforce requires a substantial investment of resources both financial and otherwise. Allowances must be made for initial setbacks and inefficiencies while new processes and procedures are being learned. If a company is serious about employee involvement and teamwork, management must stick to its decisions without wavering back and forth. Companies that hesitate during the empowerment process risk causing worker inefficiency, which makes all future efforts much more difficult.
A work team can best achieve empowerment if the workers are in some way involved with defining the terms of their own empowerment. Naturally, some kind of workers will tend to seek higher levels of autonomy. Technicians with highly specialised skills, however, may feel more comfortable with a high degree of empowerment, possibly even including active participation in the hiring process.
Naturally, the team will want to choose its own leader to co-ordinate the team's internal affairs and functional operations. The team leader should divide leadership responsibilities throughout the team and not act as a “neo-supervisor” or straw boss, thereby negating the advantages of team participation. The team leader's role and boundaries must be specifically defined. Other roles should be designated according to the function and make up of the team. Besides choosing a team leader, secretary, safety representative and other positions that involve specific contributions to the team. One member may function as a customer liaison another as a maintenance coordinator. Ideally, each position should be rotated periodically. Every team member should at the very least have a role, if not a specific title. One person may contribute to team meetings by encouraging others to present their own ideas. Another may be adept at training new workers or obtaining supplies. All team members, should, at one time or another, be part of special task teams, in example, temporary teams formed to solve a particular problem, establish a budget, or set up a new procedure. Also, some members of the teams should participate in cross-functional teams that address interteam issues.
The coach should always be on the alert for team members' aptitudes and potentials. With the proper encouragement, everyone will eventually function in a specific role within the group and take on varying capacities of leadership. When team members each know that they fulfil a valuable and important part, their cumulative efforts engender a team spirit that results in greater efficiency and ultimately, increased profits for the company.
As we have seen, teams gives benefits to the organisation (and also to the individuals), Kenneth Stott (1995) summarise from different authors the following benefits:
Reduced duplication of effort.
New, more innovative ideas.
Better, wiser and more complete decisions.
Improved product and service quality.
Increased productivity and profits.
Added flexibility to allow easier adaptation to changing circumstances.
Increased commitment to implementation.
Reduced destructive conflict.
Improved interpersonal and inter-unit relations and communications.
Higher standards of performance.
Improved understanding of what is required and expected.
Besides benefits teams also have criticisms like the unwillingness to face up the barriers that divide managers and employees in the first place (as we said before), often middle managers are hesitant to abandon the control that they have traditionally wielded over employees. Also not everyone agrees that participation and team approaches provide effective responses. Critics maintain that group activity has downward levelling effect, that it stunts creativity, and is generally limiting. Others question the claimed consistency between organisational and individual goals and stress the unlikelihood of being able to generate trust and openness in competitive environments, the restrictions on devolving power, the time and effort limitations, and the lack of desire for job enrichment.
“The point is that employees are already in teams, the question is whether the teams are in harmony with the company's purpose. If they are not the result is dysfunctional”. (Bramham, 1994).
If the organisation deals its agenda in terms of barriers and separation then teams will not flourish. Team building courses will do no effects if the attitude in the work place is based in separation and division, if this happens then the supervisor will either be an outcast from the work group or will throw her or his lot in with the employees and sink the company (Bramham. 1994).
Woodcock (1989:23) provides some clues in identifying some symptoms of what he calls bad teamwork: these include frustration, little inspiration, lack of commitment and motivation, grumbling and retaliation, unhealthy competition, backbiting and rivalry between departments and jockeying for organisational position, influence or perks (part of the challenge in development of teamwork, therefore, is to transform this into positive and supportive behaviours in order that teams might operate effectively).
Also poor teamwork at any level or between levels can seriously impede organisational development.
The skills of the members of the team are important but the strength of the team depends more especially on how well the members' combine.
Whether teamworking works or not depends on the aims and objectives of teamworking scheme. In addition there are times when certain schemes will work successfully and times when they will be unsuccessful, it depends of the situations. “What may work in a small firm, for example, may not work so well in a large bureaucratic organisation. What may work in a democratic organisational culture will probably be unsuccessful in a more authoritarian one” (Wilkinson, 1989).
The autocratic styles were successful in past decades but now the advanced technology necessitates more employee commitment rather than control and compliance, but I have realised how complex the concept of teamwork is and how open it is to redefinition. Teamworking is a double-edge sword because it introduces new meanings and threatens the existing ways of understanding the organisation.
A good teamworking is that whose members are not only productive for the company but are also satisfied with their jobs and are working without stress. As we have seen in this essay Teamworking can benefit the organisation and the members of the teams, but there have to be commitment and a good infraestructure for teamwork, they need to be consciously developed.
People are the most valuable resource of the organisation, it is the people who make the difference and now the advanced technology needs more employee commitment rather than control and compliance. The work environment and the technological items are changing really fast and that makes pressure on organisations to be adaptable and flexible and the best way to be that is through teamworking.
.Beardwell, I & L. Holden, “Human Resource Management: a contemporary perspective”, London: Pitman, 2nd edition, 1997.
Bramham J., “Human Resource Planning”.
Belbin, M., “Team roles at work”, Butterworth Heinemann, 1996.
Harrison R., “Employee Development”.
Kenneth S., “Teams: teamwork and teambuilding”, Prentice Hall, 1995.
Proctor S.,“International Workshop. Teamworking”.
Storey J., “Human Resource Management, a critical text”, International Thomson Business Pr., 1995.
Thompson P., “Redesigning production through teamworking”.
Additional information from internet:
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