Teams

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A team is a group of people who perform interdependent tasks to work toward a common mission.

Some teams have a limited life: for example, a design team developing a new product, or a process improvement team organized to solve a particular problem. Others are ongoing, such as a department team that meets regularly to review goals, activities and performance.

Understanding the many interrelationships that exist between organizational units and processes, and the impact of these relationships on quality, productivity and cost, makes the value of teams apparent.

Types of Teams

Many of today’s team concepts originated in the United States during the 1970s, through the use of quality circles or employee involvement initiatives. But the initiatives were often seen as separate from normal work activities, not as integrated with them.

Team designs have since evolved into a broader concept that includes many types of teams formed for different purposes.

Three primary types of teams are typically used within the business environment:

  1. Process improvement teams are project teams that focus on improving or developing specific business processes. These teams come together to achieve a specific goal, are guided by a well-defined project plan and have a negotiated beginning and end.
  2. Work groups, sometimes called “natural teams,” have responsibility for a particular process (for example, a department, a product line or a stage of a business process) and work together in a participative environment. The degree of authority and autonomy of the team can range from relatively limited to full self-management. The participative approach is based on the belief that employees will be more productive if they have a higher level of responsibility for their work.
  3. Self-managed teams directly manage the day-to-day operation of their particular process or department. They are authorized to make decisions on a wide range of issues (for example, safety, quality, maintenance, scheduling and personnel). Their responsibilities also include processes traditionally held by managers, such as goal-setting, allocation of assignments and conflict resolution.

The Value of Teams

Team processes offer the following benefits to the organization:
  • Synergistic process design or problem solving.
  • Objective analysis of problems or opportunities.
  • Promotion of cross-functional understanding.
  • Improved quality and productivity.
  • Greater innovation.
  • Reduced operating costs.
  • Increased commitment to organizational mission.
  • More flexible response to change.
  • Increased ownership and stewardship.
  • Reduced turnover and absenteeism
Individuals can gain the following benefits from teams:
  • Enhanced problem-solving skills.
  • Increased knowledge of interpersonal dynamics.
  • Broader knowledge of business processes.
  • New skills for future leadership roles.
  • Increased quality of work life.
  • Feelings of satisfaction and commitment.
  • A sense of being part of something greater than what one could accomplish alone.

Excerpted from The Certified Manager of Quality/Organizational Excellence Handbook, pages 52-57.

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