Teams are not a new invention; you have probably been part of one at school. How effective it was may be debatable. In fact, if you were a member of a sporting team which regularly got beaten by every other team you ever met, you could probably identify that the problem was for one of two reasons:
¨ The skills of the team was very poor.
¨ The team didn’t work well together.
To function as an effective team member in the workplace you need to possess the skills required to undertake your part of the work. Assuming you have these you also need to know two things:
¨ What teams are and what they are supposed to do, particularly in the business context.
¨ What other factors also operate to make a team effective, or disastrous (in other words, what exactly is teamwork?).
Definition of a team
You should understand, a team is different from a group. You may go out at the weekends with a group of friends but that does not make you a team. You could all have different interests, for one thing. There could be a half-hour debate each week on where you should go and what you should do. Even if you and your best friend have the same interests, this doesn’t make the two of you a team. You only become a team when you work together in a complementary way.
A simple example should make it clearer. I spent 18 years on New Brighton Lifeboat, joining as a young man in 1974. On the Atlantic 21 we had a team of 3 and on the shore we had a team that looked after everything else; the launch of the boat in this instance you had the tractor driver who played a crucial role in both the launch and the recovery of the boat. The whole team worked together as one, there was never any argument on who did what and when, we were so well practiced every member of the team knew their place but, there was always someone there who could take over at a moment’s notice.
Have you ever seen two nurses make a bed, you will witness teamwork? Each knows their own role. They work together to do the job in less than half the time it would take each of them to do it individually. They may then split up to do different, complementary jobs in different places. They don’t get in each other’s way, they don’t argue about “who does what”, they don’t “check up on each other”. They are both equally responsible for doing the work properly and by the required deadline.
My definition of a team therefore would be:
“A professionally trained group of people able to work well together, sometimes under pressure to get a job done with speed and efficiency without compromising safety”.
Teams in business
You may wonder why teams are considered so important in business today. The reasons are that effective teams have several benefits, both for the organisation and for the individuals who are in them.
¨ A variety of skills and abilities.
¨ Higher standard of work, as jobs can be allocated to maximise the strengths of individuals.
¨ Work done more quickly, this is often called (synergy).
¨ More flexibility, members of the team can be multi-skilled to cover for absences or to meet particular challenges.
¨ Less duplication of work effort, especially if communications are good and the team is used to working together.
¨ Far better cooperation between people, who will see the “team achievements” as important.
¨ A far happier and more motivated workforce, because team members support each other.
¨ Improved communications, because the team consult each other.
¨ A much higher level of commitment from staff, people are usually more motivated if they work with other people, they share problems and ideas, especially if this is done in a friendly atmosphere.
An organisation benefits because work is of higher standard and productivity. Individuals benefit because of the support from other team members; they exchange information, advice and guidance between one another freely as well as greater job satisfaction by being working cooperatively with each other.
This is a very interesting and complex area and should be explored more; over next few Blogs I will be covering important aspects of team building. Tomorrows Blog will be covering the importance of “Brainstorming” and how it fits in within a good team.