Increasing Emphasis on Teamwork
Nowhere is the need for effective management and the focus on employee empowerment more obvious than in the increasing use of teamwork by organizations. Although some organizations, such as Volvo and Toyota, have successfully used team models for organizing work for more than 20 years, the surge in the number of American organizations now using teams has been relatively recent. The reasons for the growing popularity in teams are many, including the fact that teams typically outperform individuals when doing tasks that require judgment, experience, and multiple skills. Companies using self-managed teams have found that they increase productivity, quality, customer satisfaction and flexibility allow for the streamlining of functions and produce higher worker commitment.
In order to better understand the power of teams, it is important to highlight some of the differences between teams and traditional work groups. In traditional work groups, the emphasis is on sharing information and making decisions that help group members perform their functions more effectively. Work groups do not need to work collectively on tasks that require a group effort, and their members are individually accountable for their performance. Work teams, in contrast, emphasize collective performance. Work team members are both individually and mutually responsible for their contributions and performance. Work. teams are characterized by a high degree of synergy. This synergy combines and improves the knowledge and skills of individual members to create products and/or decisions that are of higher quality than those made by individuals alone. Katzenbach and Smith define a team as "a small number of people with complementary skills who are committed to a common purpose, performance goals, and approach for which they hold them elves
mutually accountable." They go on to say that truly high-performance teams have the added ingredient of "members who are also deeply committed to another'. personal growth and success.'?
As more organizations embrace the use of work teams, the variety of team structures and projects on which teams work continues to increase. Two types of work teams that are prevalent in today's organizations are self-managed work teams and cross-functional teams.