Mananging Contemporary OrginizationsWhy Teams Don Essay Research

Mananging Contemporary Orginizations/Why Teams Don Essay, Research Paper

iI. Introduction Camelot.. An historic example of team effort gone awry. In that legendary story, a few key events transformed Camelot froma utopian kingdom into a wasteland. This isn t just idle meandering. There are corporate Camelots, too, suggests Steven Rayner(6) — those companies that started with such promise and fell victim to problems in their teamwork concepts. It is clear to see thatteam-based systems simply don t work; better control equals better management. An emphasis on separating workers intospecifically defined jobs, having centralized management control, and maintaining a structured chain of command contributes to amuch better and more effective workplace situation (Rayner 15). There are, writes Steven Rayner in Team Traps, “literallyhundreds of traps” that can “open a gateway to team disaster” (15). It makes more sense, therefore, to stick to the traditionalstructures in the workplace. II. Problem With A Group Approach One of the major problems presented in the team work approach is that people are not accustomed to “groupproblem-solving” (Harrington-Mackin 137). It is a practice that not only hasn t been learned, but is a difficult one to institute. Inschool, children are taught to rely on their own resources; to develop their individual capabilities. Deborah Harrington-Mackin citesthe example of a fourth grader, who wouldn t be allowed to say, “Hey, Joe, you re good at word problems and I m good atmultiplication tables, so let s get together for this test” (137), yet the adult equivalent of this is seen in the workplace when teamsare expected to come up with a group solution to a problem. This is an odd practice for most people, as well as the fact that tryingto reach a consensus in a group of adults can frequently result in heated arguments, and no solution. Team decision-making can befrustrating. The team members have to take the time to listen to everyone s opinions — a time-consuming process where theinclination is frequently to jump on the first answer given rather than go through the lengthy and frequently tedious process ofhearing from everyone (Harrington-Mackin 138). It seems that teams are being formed for every imaginable reason — quality improvement teams, project teams, managementteams, task force teams — companies are quick to assume that increased employee involvement leads to improved productivity(Rees 7). But the problems that occur in trying to increase employee involvement outweigh the benefits. Many organizations thatbegan traditionally are not accustomed to involving non-managerial employees in the procedures of planning, decision-making, andgoal setting. These organizations have leaders who pass out information and answer questions, usually without requiring furtherinvolvement from subordinates. Organizations have been “structured historically to reinforce authoritarian management styles” (Mosvick-Nelson 109). Thereis no easy way to facilitate a team-oriented decision making policy. The authoritarian organizational structure is still the type ofmanagement style most used in business (Mosvick-Nelson 109), and for a good reason. Many leaders don t know how to managethe participation of employees in these processes, even when a team is set up, and they frequently discourage participation(whether or not it s done intentionally) by their actions — they may allow for minimal time for participation, interrupt people, orsimply ignore what they hear. This is a good case for leaving the decision-making to the top leadership (Rees 10). III. “What are we supposed to do?” Many problems with teams result because there is no clear understanding about what is supposed to be accomplished. Teammembers and team leaders typically have problems defining their own roles, making it difficult to work toward results rather thanbusying themselves with the activities of the team (Fisher-Rayner-Belgard 6). It s far too easy to get caught up in day-to-dayactivities, in being a team, and forget the reason the team was formed in the first place. This lack of focus is a good reason tokeep employees working on their own, in specific, well-defined jobs. Teams tend to become too inwardly-focused — a sure signthey won t survive. Sometimes the manager of the team will discount not what his own team is trying to accomplish, but the efforts of others. Amanager may insist that the success of other teams was nothing more than a “fluke” (Rayner 9), or they suggest any success wasdue to highly unique circumstances. This naturally leads to a lack of credibility, and suggests that employee involvement isirrelevant, yet it is an occurrence that s all too common. The relationship between team leader and team members is often adversarial. When the team is first formed, it relies on themanager to transfer decision-making and problem-solving authority to the team members. But eventually, the team members rebelagainst the authority figure, which often results in a confusion over responsibilities and the roles each member is to take. It s notunusual for the team members to try to take on all managerial responsibilities and even question the value of the manager s role –the team is ostensibly working effectively; why does it need a manager? The tendency for team members to rebel or resist theinfluence of the designated team leader is a situation that seems to occur in every newly-formed team operation (Rayner133). IV. Working Together Isn t So Easy In his book, Style of Management and Leadership, Manfred Davidmann reminds us that business experts have to worktogether to achieve their goals, and discord in one area can inconvenience many people (1). It is essential, therefore, that peoplecooperate with each other — but this doesn t necessarily imply working on a team. Experience has shown that the larger theorganization is the more difficult it is to achieve the necessary degree of cooperation. Larger organizations are usually much lesseffective using a ream approach, as people tend to work against each other rather than with each other (Davidmann 1). Cooperation is essential to any team effort, and it s not something that can be easily achieved. Frustration with management,or the workplace itself, causes internal conflict and struggle, which in turn means there is considerable lack of identification withthe organization and its objectives. Davidmann relates the analogy of coming up against a brick wall. Team members may betrying to achieve something which is difficult, and it seems they don t get anywhere because they “keep on knocking … against thisbrick wall which stops us” (1). It may be the system or the organization; it may be the team leader or the way the team membersrelate to each other. In that kind of situation, one finds the “wall” is very solid, very high, extends almost indefinitely on either sideand its foundations are deep and strong. In other words, the team can t get through it; can t find any way to get around theproblem, and can t seem to stop “knocking their heads against the wall” (Davidmann 1). This type of situation, one which occursall too frequently, is also one which destroys teamwork. Gerard M Blair says that there are certain frameworks within which teams attempt to work. It s the inability to function withinthese frames that is another disadvantage to teamwork. The “Forming stage” (1) is when the team first comes together.Everyone is considerate and civil, and allows for everyone to participate. Discussion is slow and guarded since no one wishes tobe seen as foolish by saying something on which the other may not agree. And underneath all this, there may be conflict. Eventhough it is not verbalized, it s always destructive. Next comes the “Storming stage” (Blair 1)– people take up sides, and views and ideas are “entrenched” (1). The effectivenessof the team takes a nose dive, and the productiveness of the team is far less than the individuals could have achieved had they notbeen brought together. The “Norming stage” (Blair 1) is next, in which the team works out methods of compromise, although this often is a mootpoint. Teams are not always willing to move beyond the first two stages. Once again, human nature is a strong deterrent in theability of teams to function effectively. There are simply too many people with too many different ideas, and it s not to be assumedthat they will be able to resolve their differences. VI. Barriers for Management Teams Management teams are not immune to problems. Not everyone feels that team-based management is the solution for ailingorganizations. A team leader from American President Cos. says, “A team is like having a baby tiger given to you at Christmas. Itdoes a wonderful job of keeping the mice away for about 12 months, and then it starts to eat your kids” (Labich 1). One of the major reasons why management teams don t work comes down to human nature. Harshman and Philips write of”motivational barriers” (148), where people in the organization fear loss of power, and “leadership barriers” (151), where aresistance to leadership leads the all the employees to believe that the team approach is unnecessary. Kenneth Labich suggeststhat team leaders “revert to form and claim the sandbox for themselves, refusing to share authority with the other kids” (1).Everyone else on the team tends to argue among themselves, bickering about such things as who gets credit for what the teamproduces. The team falls apart under the pressure and strain — the tiger eats the kids. This is one of the major disadvantages toeffective team work. Leadership barriers can stop the entire team process, which ultimately gives the entire workplace the message that the issuesthe team was trying to resolve were not to be taken seriously. Many top level managers are goal-driven, results-oriented, and havelittle patience with any long-term process that needs to be effected by a team. The combination of leaders impatience and theirpossibly different perspectives on the objectives of the organization and the team make it very difficult for a team to functioneffectively (Harshman-Philips 151). It s also difficult, suggests Harshman and Philips, for middle management to work in a team. They typically are caughtbetween the top management who controls the organization, and the employees who actually get the work done. Their “power” inthe day-to-day workings of an organization is somewhat shaky, and they don t generally adapt well to any suggestion ofrechanneling that power. This is a major disadvantage to setting up a team (152). VII. Team Barriers Team members themselves are faced with certain barriers, even if the leaders can resolve their own problems. Teams tend to avoid responsibility for a variety of reasons and in different ways. Deborah Harrington-Mackin (11) lists the barriers that typically affect the team members: Lack of skill or competency to perform the task at hand Lack of self-confidence Fear of failure, ridicule and criticism Fear of being singled out and exposed as incompetent Fear of losing approval Lack of self-control Fear of being put in charge Fear of taking responsibility for success or failure Fear of change; of the unknown Lack of organizational skills Fear of being held accountable for mistakes Fear of the change that success causes in work relationships In addition, there are external barriers which are disadvantageous to the team, which may include: Having too many tasks to do within a certain time frame Experiencing too many changes at the same time Having too few people to do the jobs Coping with untrustworthy management Coping with inconsistencies in management Lacking the necessary resources or information to do the job It would seem that there are too many negative aspects to functioning as a team. Teams tend to make excuses to avoidresponsibility — anything from “We don t have the right equipment” to “It s too late to start now” to “We have other problems weneed to tackle first” (Deborah Harrington-Mackin 12). If a team doesn t want to cooperate and work together, no amount ofsuggested solutions can force the members to come up with results. Harrington-Mackin relates that the best excuse she has heardfor a team s failure to perform was that the team was initially “too large to accomplish anything” (12). To accommodate this teamin an attempt to help it work together effectively, it was divided into smaller subgroups, which then, predictably, declared theywere too small to be of any use.

VIII. Team Myopia Steven Rayner recognizes that some teams can become very near-sighted; that is, they can t see past their own noses. Thereis a natural tendency for teams to become inclusive of their own members, and “somewhat paranoid” of the intentions of”outsiders” (Rayner 46). In their initial enthusiasm over making a difference for the organization, some team leaders tend to grabstrength through defiance. They challenge anything that was formerly established protocol and this can have a seriouslydetrimental result. Rayner relates the following anecdote: The leader of a usually successful team became known as a corporate outlaw (a troublemaker), because he didn t follow accepted procedures. But this wasn t the critical point that led to his failure as an effective team leader. He had a singular lack of grace and acceptance of others. His overblown ego led him to give ultimatums that if a team member wasn t for him, he must be against him. He believed he could ignore procedures and practices that had worked previously as long as he got the desired results from his team. However, thefteam fell apart due to his arrogance — his successes were overshadowed by his lack of humility. Team members are not going to work for effective solutions to problems if they receive no credit for doing so, or if they feel they are being dictated to as opposed to being part of the team they ve formed. This particular leader s myopic vision of what constituted a good team never took that into consideration (Rayner 49).” Rayner also attacks existing methods as a means to gain motivation of his team members — a we can do it better than theydid idea (Rayner 59). Even teams that have proven success records tend to fall apart when they have poor interaction with othergroups. IX. Plain and Simple — Poor Management Teams forming to accomplish a basic goal often fail due to being poorly managed. Gerard Blair s facetious description of thisprocess says that: In the beginning, God made an individual – and then he made a pair. The pair formed a group, together they begat others and thus the group grew. Unfortunately, working in a group led to friction, the group disintegrated in conflict and Caian settled in the land of Nod – there has been trouble with groups ever since (Blair-Groups 1). When people work in groups, there are usually two separate issues involved. The first issue is the task and the problems thatare involved in getting the job done. Frequently this is the only issue which the group considers. The second issue is the process ofthe group work itself — the procedures by which the group acts as a team. But the disadvantage here is that without properattention to this process, the value of the group can be diminished or even destroyed. All too often, teams can t manage to seegroup work as attractive, and there are too many problems inherent to group formation (Blair-Groups 1). What many teams fail to recognize is that a group of people working in the same room, or even on a common project, doesnot necessarily invoke the group process. If the group is managed by a leader who relates to them in a totally autocratic manner,there may be little opportunity for interaction. If the group can t interact, the team eventually dissolves, or — in some instances –becomes a group of people all working separately instead of together. The group process should lead to a spirit of cooperation, coordination and commonly understood procedures — that s generallywhy a team was established in the first place. But this isn t always the case. All too often there is one person, perhaps not eventhe leader, who wants to run the show. This paper is for research assistance only. Blair asks us to consider the effect that a”self-opinionated, cantankerous loud-mouth” would have on performance efforts, as contrasted to working with a “friendly, open,helpful associate” (Groups 1). One person can destroy the team just as effectively as if the entire team was unable to functiontogether. Poor management of teams also extends to the leaders not recognizing the team members as individuals. Being expected toconform to group standards and set aside individual needs or preferences is one of the main reason teams don t work (Rees 42).Of course, some people are more comfortable being part of a group, but more independent workers tend to feel ill-at-ease whenworking in a team. Others may feel they don t have much in common with their team members — an essential factor to a team srunning smoothly — whether it s due to sex, religion, age or culture. If team members feel left out at the beginning due to societaldifferences, there is little reason to expect the team will be able to function as a cohesive group (Rees 42). X. Too Many Qualifications; Too Little Time The role of the team leader is a critical one, not only in his view of each team member as an individual, but also in hispersonal philosophy of what makes a team work — as well as the qualifications for a good leader. Too often, the leader isunprepared for the multitude of expectations that is put on him as the leader of the group. Rees suggests that, in part, an effectiveleader needs to: Listen actively Ask questions and listen to the entire answer Reserve judgment and keep an open mind Actively seek the opinions of the team members Encourages different viewpoints Models the behavior he wishes to see in his team members Knows how to bring the right people together for a task Is aware of his own limitations Doesn t take personal credit for group success Understands that people s individual needs affect team effort (26) It seems unlikely that there will be a team leader who will stand up to these, as well as several other, criteria, which of courseimplies that the team can t function effectively. Managers simply face too many challenges as they become team leaders. Morethan ever they need to be able to count on the workers in a team, moving away from “the typical hierarchical conception of us and them ” (Sayles 9), and towards a more unified effort. But this is easier said than done. The problem inherent in a manager srelinquishing his power (or what he perceives as relinquishing it) is just one more reason why teams don t work. XI. Team Quality As has been discussed, the fate of a team generally rests with the Team Leader. The Team Leader has the authority andthe power to define the work team, but too often there is a lack of focus. The quality of the team is diluted and the solutions areineffective. Gerard Blair suggests that by applying what he calls the “principles of Quality” (1), the Team Leader can gain for theteam the same benefits which work beneficially for the corporation. His first suggestion for attaining this is to become”enthusiastic about one aspect at a time” (1). This is often a difficult concept, as the whole idea of working on a team is to toss outas many different ideas as possible. One problem is that by focusing on any one particular issue may cause the team members tolose enthusiasm. Another trap to poor team work is that the team may focus upon the wrong type of problem. Team leaders need to make itclear any problem which they tackle should be: * related to their own work or environment, * something which they can change. Unfortunately, problem solving in teams can turn into “gripe sessions about wages and holidays” (Blair-Quality 1). For some team leaders, the ability to enable failure is not a comfortable or familiar concept. If the team is unable to try outideas without rebuke for errors, then the scope of their solutions will be severely limited. Too often, the failures aren t recognizedas they should be — as an opportunity to gain knowledge. The quality of the team necessarily suffers because of this, andeventually, one can expect that the team itself will lack the enthusiasm or drive necessary to continue as an effective group(Blair-Quality 1). XII. The Face is Familiar Another of the disadvantages to team work is that the teams themselves begin to fade as they spend the necessary timetogether. The same people saying the same things in an extended team situation, day-after-day, becomes tedious and stale. Ofcourse, the obvious solution to this would be to bring in new people, either as new team members or as liaisons to other teams. Theproblem with this is that teams often resist letting outside new members on their team. If the team has functioned as a group forany appreciable length of time, they often feel they know each other s quirks and have no desire to alter the dynamics of thegroup, even when it is apparent what they have isn t working (Harrington-Macklin 74). If not new members, then another solution to the same old, same old situation is often to attempt job-sharing — the teammembers may be encouraged to switch jobs and responsibilities. This, too, is rarely easy to bring about. Team members aregenerally very resistant to job sharing because each member becomes territorial about the task to which he was first assigned(Harrington-Macklin 76). XIII. Team Meetings Productive team work is almost always the result of successful team meeting (Kinlaw v). Unfortunately, team leaders as wellas members don t receive adequate instruction on how to carry this out, or demonstrate the strategies for organizationaldevelopment that are necessary. Team meetings, rather than being a productive and efficient means to solve an organization sproblems, can deteriorate due to lack of proper facilitation. Teams that have a tendency to repeatedly set aside difficult decisionsfind their options are increasingly limited. Without the adequate instruction on how to effect solutions, the teams will eventuallyeither dissolve, or worse — make decisions by “default rather than informed choice” (Rayner 167). Disruptive team members are another pitfall in team meetings. The reluctance of team members to provide honest and directfeedback to an objectionable member only leads to frustration and poor performance, yet many team members are uncomfortablewith the inevitable confrontation (Rayner 169). term paperswfffTeam managers have the responsibility to guide the team, but often they perceive this as a need to abdicate their authority infavor of letting the team members become more “self-directed” (Rayner 167). Many teams simply can t handle this type ofresponsibility. Conclusion / Why Not Teams? It seems clear that working in teams is not always the most effective way to ensure quality solutions for organizations. Theproblems and pitfalls that are inherent to any team process don t, in my opinion, outweigh the limited advantages of having peoplework in a group. There are too many variables that can cause the team to fail — personalities, misunderstandings, ineffectiveleaders — and it seems to make more sense, as well as the fact that the organization can simply run more smoothly, if the standardand traditional procedures of having everyone assigned to a given job, working on his own, is the method used. People still can feelpart of the organization by their own contributions, but they don t have the problems involved with several different people workingon one team.


Blair, Gerard M. Groups That Work. gerard/Management/art0.html (1997). Blair, Gerard M. “How to Build Quality into your Team” IEE Engineering Management Journal. http://spindle-ee- gerard/Management/ (1996). Blair, Gerard M. Laying the Foundations for Effective Teamwork. gerard/Teaching/art0.html (1996). Davidmann, Manfred .Style of Management and Leadership. (1982). Fisher, Kimball-Rayner, Steven-Belgard, William. Tips for Teams. (New York, NY: McGraw-Hill, Inc.,1995). Harshman, Carl L.-Philips, Steven L. Teaming Up. (San Diego, CA: Pfeiffer & Co., 1994). Kinlaw, Dennis. Team-Managed Facilitation. (San Diego, CA: Pfeiffer & Co.,1993). Harrington-Mackin, Deborah. Keeping the Team Going. (New York, NY: Amacom, 1996). Mosvick, Roger-Nelson, Robert B. We ve Got to Start Meeting Like This. (Glenview, IL: Scott Foresman, 1987). Rayner, Steven R. Team Traps. (New York, NY: John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 1996). Rees, Fran How to Lead Work Teams. (San Diego, CA: Pfeiffer & Co., 1991). Sayles, L.R. “Leadership for the Nineties.” Issues and Observations. (1990): Spring, pp. 8-11.


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