A team is a group of people, usually between 3 and 12, with diverse experiences and complimentary skills, and who work together to achieve a common purpose, goal or task. The latter is what really separates a group from a team.
Teams meet to share information and perspectives, make decisions, and solve problems through the joint efforts and contributions of all committed members. Members rely on each other to achieve mutually defined results, share a common purpose and performance goals, and hold each other accountable.
When team difficulties arise, they are considered “team problems” not an individual’s problem. Team accountability requires living up to the promises that each member makes to another. Members share the excitement and sense of accomplishment that comes from working and struggling together towards a common goal. Good teams will talk openly about their ideas, look to members for suggestions, and feel “safe” sharing their ideas.
Peter Honey, leading industrial psychologist and learning says that teams have always been important but now they have become essential. This is because of a number of inter-related factors:
- The whole quest for Total Quality, continuous improvement and improved customer service means that the functional barriers are breached and people forced to co-operate between functions, not just within a function.
- The need to respond more rapidly to market forces and changes external to the organization, means that organizational structures are more complex (matrix management is just one example) and more flexible. This increases the need for collaborative decision making (more ‘we’ decisions, less ‘I’ decisions). Our guests’ expectations, for e.g., are constantly rising and getting more complex. We no longer can satisfactorily meet their expectations if we do not have effective teams in place.
- Raised expectations about participating in, or at the very least being consulted about, decisions that affect people and their work practices. This automatically increases the demand for more group/team decision making.
- The increased use of project teams and task forces, often multi-disciplinary, to come together rapidly to tackle a major issue or problem and then disband.
- The empowerment movement and the changing role of managers from director to facilitator or a coach, inevitably puts greater emphasis on the group/team and less on ‘divide and conquer’ management styles.
- Last but not least, the attempts to create Learning Organizations. This is only possible if learning teams (mini Learning Organizations) meet frequently to trawl their experiences for learning and agree what to do better/differently in future. The key to creating a Learning Organization is to have lots of overlapping Learning Teams.
Due to the current COVID-19 pandemic situation, a new trend has emerged, which is the formation of a Remote Team, and the latest concept of leadership to lead the remote team is known as Distant Leadership. As leaders in today’s highly volatile environment, how do you lead from afar and still maintain the team’s productivity and performance level is the big question. I shall explore more on the topic of how to lead remote team effectively in my next article.
Kevin Wong, Powerwoosh Asia Bhd.