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Does Management Theory Assist in Designing an Effective Team?

Info: 3563 words (14 pages) Dissertation
Published: 11th Dec 2019

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Tags: ManagementTeamwork


In this essay, I will apply Team Management theories to crucially evaluate the statements; “Effective designing of teams is an essential function of managers. However, team functionality and performance are critical ongoing challenges for managers to ensure organisational success.” To assess this, I first explain how mangers are teams are interlinked. Next, I explain what are teams and then I analyse the problems management faces when managing them. Post this I will use the theory of team design to identify if these challenges are overcome when the used. Finally, I will present a summary of my findings.

Does Management Theory Assist in Designing an Effective Team?

Managers are individuals who coordinates and oversees the work people in an efficient and effective manner to attain organisational goals (Robbins & Coulter, 2016; Samson & Daft, 2015). Organizing; the process of dispensing tasks to teams, is one such key function that management performs to achieve these goals.

Samson and Daft (2015) have defined teams as a collection of two or more people who regularly interact to pursue common goals. These members perceive themselves as a social entity which is mutually accountable for achievement of the shared mission. The development of teams enables managers to gain increased creativity, improved quality, higher productivity at reduced costs, enhance motivation and improve job satisfaction gained from the cohesion.

Our modern society is deeply populated by such teams of people who work together for a common cause. Authors (Devine, Clayton, Philips, Dunford, & Melner, 1999; Lawler, Mohrman, & Ledford, 1992; Mathieu et al., 2001) have attributed this back to change in the way work is being designed; the design focus has moved from individual jobs in functionalized structures to teams based workflow systems.
Authors (Robbins & Coulter, 2016; Samson & Daft, 2015) have identified that these teams can be of five types. Problem-solving teams which consists of 5-12 employees from the same department meeting to discuss ways of improving quality, efficiency and the work environment. Self-managing teams which consists of 10-15 employees who take on responsibilities of their former supervisors. Cross-functional teams consists of individuals from the same hierarchical level but from different work departments. Global teams consist of highly diverse multicultural nationals representing one or several function areas.  Virtual teams are teams which use technology to connect physically dispersed members to achieve a common goal.

As we can see teams are made of various elements and this can often lead to various challenges for managers, a few of the commonly faced challenges have been identified here.
Firstly, teams need to function as one; the idea works on the grounds of having to put the teams needs ahead of oneself. Employees’ must look toward group benefit rather than one individuals. This has been found to be particularly challenging for employees from individualistic cultures; such as, United States, Germany, Ireland and South Africa.
Next, social loafing also referred to as the term free rider can exist in teams. It refers to scenarios where certain team members have a tendency of to get by contributing minimally or at times not contributing to the accomplishment of the groups goals (Schippers, 2014). This is quite a common occurrence as teams’ compromises of individuals who have different work ethics this.
The next challenge faced is in the form of dysfunction of teams. Lencioni (2002) identified five dysfunctions which may exist; team members lack don’t trust each other and thus don’t feel safe in revealing their mistakes or express ideas or feel the need to share concerns. Most members get along with each other for the sake of harmony; people tend to avoid conflicts and thus never express differing opinions. As members are afraid of expressing their true opinions, it’s difficult to gauge how committed they are towards a decision. Team members also like to claim accountability; when outcomes go against their way people tend to engage in finger pointing and refuse to accept their own fault. Another dysfunction is individuals are less focused on outcomes; members quite often put their personal needs ahead of the collective results.
Another challenge faced by managers is the need to manage conflict in teams (De Dreu & Weingart, 2003). One form of conflict is task conflict also known as conflict in understanding; is substantive in nature and refers to a scenario where individuals have perceived disagreements among one another regarding what is to be achieved or regarding the what task is to be performed. The second kind of conflict is relationship conflict or emotional conflict; is affective in nature and occurs when there is perceived interpersonal incompatibility. This typically leads to tension, annoyance and animosity between members of a team.
The final challenge managers face is in the form of dispersed teams. As virtual/geographically dispersed teams become more common in today’s workplace a new challenge arises. Research (Blair, 2015) conducted identified that only 10% of communication is words, 30–35% is tone and 55–60% is body language. So, the things that happen when working with teams which are physically together just can’t be replicated by physically dispersed teams. Marissa Mayer former CEO of Yahoo (Tkaczyk, 2013) supports this argument by saying people are more “collaborative and innovative when they’re together.” INSEAD’s Erin Meyer statement (Blair, 2015); teamwork is not only about communication, a contribution is cooperation and this cooperation can only occur when there is trust between members of a team, further identifies why this lack of performance occurs for global dispersed teams.

So, the question now arises with all these challenges, in assembling an effective team how does management achieve this and does it actually resolve the challenges identified.
Research conducted has identified various management theories to achieve this, however in this essay, we look at the theory of Team Design; which looks at enhancement of the team functionality via the processes of intervention and we evaluate whether this is successful in reducing the challenges.
Authors (Cohen & Bailey, 1997; Kozlowski & Bell, 2003) identified the key components of team design as group composition, task design, and organizational context. Group composition examines the characteristics that an individual brings to a team in terms of skill, ability, and disposition(Driskell, Hogan, & Salas, 1987; Hollenbeck et al., 1995). Group composition can be further divided in two key areas; diversity in characteristics of group members and size of the group itself. Firstly, group composition states that it is necessary to build a team composing of desirable individual characteristics and abilities as it provides teams with a resource of talent. Next, the composition must consider the impact of having a diversity in the team. A few authors (Bantel & Jackson, 1989; Magjuka & Baldwin, 1991) have argued that teams with heterogeneity bring creativity as a result of diverse viewpoints and skill sets and thus they perform better. Whereas others (Campion, Medsker, & Higgs, 1993; Wiersema & Bird, 1993) have argued that homogeneity of teams result in less conflicts and thus is more desirable. Next team composition looks at the size of groups. It suggests that teams should be large enough so that members can express their feelings among each other, can engage in aggressive problem solving and lastly it should intake all the diverse skills necessary to perform the task (Magjuka & Baldwin, 1991; Yetton & Bottger, 1982).  At the same time, it needs to be small enough to facilitate coordination in manner where there is no process loss (Gooding & Wagner, 1985; Markham, Dansereau, & Alutto, 1982; Mullen, Symons, Hu, & Salas, 1989). The CEO of Amazon Jeff Bezos has supported this belief and established a ‘two-pizza rule’(Robbins & Coulter, 2016; Samson & Daft, 2015). Stating, that team size should not be larger than one where two pizzas, can feed the team.
From these findings, on group composition, I can state that it provides a basic framework for managers in terms of what needs to be considered. Yet the findings are ambiguous regarding what needs to be done. In terms of Individual characteristics; we can see that it is important to be considered however the research on whose basis it has been identified to add value is on individual performance level and the impact this on the collective performances is inconclusive. On the other hand, diversity of team characteristics fails to identify a definitive solution whether heterogeneity or homogeneity of characteristics will bring improved performance. This research on heterogeneity has also faced further criticism for considering the impact of demographic heterogeneity rather than job related heterogeneity. Similarly, the information on the ideal size of a team provides an obscure solution; as it states teams shouldn’t be too big nor too small. I believe this should be further broken down based on the type of business and the size should be identified on the basis of that context.  If we consider Jeff Bezos’s ‘two-pizza rule’, that too can be critiqued for not mentioning the size of the pizza nor telling us if this would be considered as a meal or a snack for the attendees.

Team level task design is concerned with providing guidelines and task-driven remedies for coordination of numerous tasks (Campion et al., 1993; Cohen & Bailey, 1997; Hollenbeck et al., 1995). It has three elements; one being meaningfulness of tasks. Which implies team performance increases when workers find meaning in the tasks they perform. Authors accredit this to workers receiving higher levels of internal motivation (Batt & Appelbaum, 1995; Campion et al., 1993). The next element is autonomy of the team; it implies that teams which are empowered with greater decision-making power experience heightened self-determination (Spreitzer, 1995). Authors identified this higher collective autonomy improves team performance by increasing the information held by team members (Hollenbeck, Ilgen, LePine, Colquitt, & Hedlund, 1998). A few authors (Adler & Cole, 1995; Stewart & Barrick, 2000) have presented an opposing view; stating autonomy may not be always useful for team, for certain tasks the hierarchically prescribed processes can lead to increased efficiency and performance. The last element is intrateam coordination; it’s focused on how tasks are coordinated within the teams and how often members rely on each other for information, materials, and shared inputs (Campion et al., 1993). Teams with interdependence develop shared expectations and norms for appropriate behaviour (Bonacich & Schneider, 1992; Stewart & Barrick, 2000), thus reducing social loafing. Yet authors argue that high levels of intrateam coordination creates high interdependence among team members, and this may display negative impacts for teams performing routine work (Adler & Cole, 1995; Stewart & Barrick, 2000). By analysing the theories on team level task design, we can see that it too provides an overview of the area which managers need to focus on and a perfect solution is not presented. In terms of task being meaningful it can be identified the impact at team level task meaningfulness and team performance is uncertain as the research of individual level was transferred to the group level. Similarly, research in team autonomy implies some teams and tasks need autonomy while others function better in a hierarchical process.  From the findings on intrateam coordination it can be assessed high coordination is beneficial for some teams and this same interdependence is harmful for other teams.

The context of the surrounding organization is primarily associated with leadership. Usually the interaction between teams and organization occurs through team leads and the guidance that a team receives through this lead represents the organizational context. Research identified that effective leadership improves performance of individuals (Wayne, Liden, Kraimer, & Graf, 1999) and organizations (Waldman et al., 2001). Teams leadership is made up of transformational leadership; which encourages followers to transcend personal self-interest in order to accomplish team goals; this is achieved through the leaders charisma and intellectual stimulation (Bass, 1985; Keller, 1992). The other component is empowering leadership which gets teams to actually lead themselves; through the development of self-interest (Manz & Sims, 1987). From the findings it can be easily identified the impact of this empowering form of leadership on team performance.

Limitations & Conclusion

In this essay, we discussed how team building is a n essential task for management. Then I explained what a team is and what are the different types of teams that can exist. I then noted down the challenges which mangers face when managing such teams. Finally, I used the theory of team design to identify if these challenges faced by management is overcome.
To summarize my findings, it can be concluded that team management theories like team design can assist management identify the areas they need to focus on to attain high performance. However, these theories don’t completely provide managers with a clear-cut solution to resolve all the management challenges associated with teams. The extent to which this information is useful varies across team settings and factors effected by other management decisions like leadership, strategy, environment, culture, and rewarding systems greatly impact the success of the theory implemented. We also need to keep in mind there are some limitations of the findings; only one theory has been used to conclude the findings at the same time we must keep in mind the challenges faced by management (for example conflict) doesn’t always have a negative impact and at times management maybe looking to foster it as it would help improve performance.
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