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A team at work
A team is a group of individuals working together to achieve a goal.
A group does not necessarily constitute a team. Teams normally have members with complementary skills and generate synergy through a coordinated effort which allows each member to maximize their strengths and minimize their weaknesses. Naresh Jain (2009) claims:
Team members need to learn how to help one another, help other team members realize their true potential, and create an environment that allows everyone to go beyond his or her limitations. Teams can be broken down into from a huge team or one big group of people, even if these smaller secondary teams are temporary.
A team becomes more than just a collection of people when a strong sense of mutual commitment creates synergy, thus generating performance greater than the sum of the performance of its individual members.
Thus teams of game players can form (and re-form) to practise their craft/sport. Transport logistics executives can select teams of horses, dogs, or oxen for the purpose of conveying passengers or goods.
While academic research on teams and teamwork has grown consistently and has shown a sharp increase over the past recent 40 years, the societal diffusion of teams and teamwork actually followed a volatile trend in the 20th century. The concept was introduced into business in the late 20th century, which was followed by a popularization of the concept of constructing teams. Differing opinions exist on the efficacy of this new management fad. Some see “team” as a four-letter word: overused and under-useful. Others see it as a panacea that realizes the human-relations movement’s desire to integrate what that movement perceives as best for workers and as best for managers. Still others believe in the effectiveness of teams, but also see them as dangerous because of the potential for exploiting workers — in that team effectiveness can rely on peer pressure and peer surveillance. However, Hackman argued that team effectiveness should not be viewed only in terms of performance. While performance is an important outcome, a truly effective team will contribute to the personal well-being and adaptive growth of its members.
Compare the more structured/skilled concept of a crew, the advantages of formal and informal partnerships, or the well-defined – but time-limited – existence of task forces.
Team size and team composition affect team processes and team outcomes. The optimal size (and composition) of teams is debated and will vary depending on the task at hand. At least one study of problem-solving in groups showed an optimal size of groups at four members. Other works estimate the optimal size between 5-12 members or a number of members that can consume two pizzas. The following extract is taken from Chong (2007):
The interest in teams gained momentum in the 1980s with the publication of Belbin’s (1981) work on successful teams. The research into teams and teamwork followed two lines of inquiry. Writers such as Belbin (1981, 1993), Woodcock (1989), Margerison and McCann (1990), Davis et al. (1992), Parker (1990), and Spencer and Pruss (1992) focused on team roles and how these affected team performance. These studies suggested that team performance was a function of the number and type of roles team members played. The number of roles for optimal performance varied from 15 (Davis et al., 1992) to four (Parker, 1990). This variation has been attributed to how roles were defined. Lindgren (1997) believed that, in a social psychological sense, ‘roles’ were behaviours one exhibited within the constraints assigned by the outside world to one’s occupational position e.g. leader, manager, supervisor, worker etc. Personality traits, on the other hand, were internally driven and relatively stable over time and across situations. These traits affected behavioural patterns in predictable ways (Pervin, 1989) and, in varying degrees, become part of the ‘role’ definition as well.
The other line of inquiry focused on measuring the ‘effectiveness’ of teams. Writers such as Deihl and Stroebe (1987), Gersik (1988), Evenden and Anderson (1992), Furnham et al. (1993), Cohen and Ledford (1994) and Katzenbach (1998) were concerned with high performing teams and the objective measurement of their effectiveness. McFadzean (2002) believed that the appearance of a number of models of team effectiveness was indicative of a variety of variables such as personality, group size, work norms, status relationships, group structure etc. that can impact on team ‘effectiveness’ and its measurement.
David Cooperrider suggests that the larger the group, the better. This is because a larger group is able to address concerns of the whole system. So while a large team may be ineffective at performing a given task, Cooperider says that the relevance of that task should be considered, because de