Trouble with Teamwork
Mary Owen examines the role and efficiency of teams
Recruiters say that candidates who can give examples of work they have done as members of a successful team are in as strong a position as those who can point to significant individual achievement. Indeed, too much of the latter may suggest that the person concerned is not a 'team player' - one of the more serious failings in the book of management.
The importance of being a team player is a side effect of the increasing interaction across departments and functional divides. Instead of pushing reports, paperwork and decisions around the organisation, 'teams provide a dynamic meeting place where ideas can be shared and expertise more carefully targeted at important business issues,' says Steve Gardner, in his book Key Management Concepts. He adds, 'Globalisation has added a further dimension to teamwork. Multinational teams now study policy decisions in the light of their impact on the local market.'
But is teamworking being overdone? 'Some managers are on as many as seven or eight different teams', says Dr Cathy Bandy, a psychologist who recently ran a conference on the subject. 'They take up so much time that managers can't get on with core tasks.' Forming teams and having meetings has, she says, become an end in itself, almost regardless of purpose. There is also the danger of an unhealthy desire to keep the team going after the work has been done. 'People feel the need to belong, and team membership can provide a kind of psychological support.'
The idea behind teamworking is that, when the right group of people is brought together, a 'force' develops which is greater than the sum of their individual talents. This is often true in sport, where good players can reach unexpected heights as members of an international team. However,few business situations have as clear a set of objectives, or as clear criteria of success or failure, as winning a match.
'In business, everyone needs to be clear about what the challenge is and whether a team is the right way of approaching it', says Steve Gardner. 'Unfortunately, people focus instead on who the members of the team should be and what roles they are to play' Dr Bandy agrees. 'There is always a danger that teams can turn into committees,' she says. 'In a lot of situations, one or two individuals would be much more effective.'
So what makes a successful team? There are some general qualities that have been identified. Steve Gardnerrecommends that in every team there should be someone who is good at researching ideas and another who is good at shooting down impractical ones. There should be those who can resolve the tensions that naturally occur in a team and others who are focused on getting the job done. Also, providing a clear and achievable target at the outset is the best way of ensuring that the team will move on to greater things.
13 What point does the writer make about teamworking at the beginning of the article?
A It is the most successful form of management.
B It has changed the recruitment procedure in companies.
C Well-run teams still allow individuals to demonstrate their talents.
D Being a team player is now considered an essential management skill.
14 According to the article, teamwork developed within companies as a response to
A modern office design.
B changing work practices.
C a reduction in administrative tasks.
D the expansion of international business.
15 In the third paragraph, Dr Bandy suggests that
A many employees do not enjoy working in teams.
B some managers are not very effective team leaders.
C some teams are created unnecessarily.
D few teams are well organised.
16 According to the writer, teamwork is more effective in the field of sport because the players
A know what they want to achieve.
B are more competitive by nature.
C have more individual talent.
D can be driven by national pride.
17 Steve Gardner and Dr Bandy agree that when a business team is created people do not pay enough attention to
A the structure of the team.
B alternatives to the team.
C selecting the team members.
D directing the team's activities.
18 What is Steve Gardner's advice on operating a successful team?
A Maintain a flexible approach to membership.
B Allow personalities to develop within the team.
C Select people who fit naturally into certain roles.
D Make every effort to avoid conflict between members.