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Towards Effective Team Building in the Workplace

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Abstract

Team building involves a wide range of activities, designed for improving team performance. Its aim is to bring out the best in a team to ensure self development, positive communication, leadership skills and the ability to work closely together as a team to problem solve. This article reviews current literature on teams in an attempt to outline some of the attractions and challenges of implementing teams so as to give a realistic preview of what can be achieved through teamwork. The literature indicates that the effects of teamwork (both positive and negative) are contingent upon many factors, including the organizations' culture and climate, effectiveness of team leadership, employee commitment, the system of compensation and rewards, and the level of employee autonomy. This article outlines eight key points that have been identified by a number of authors which facilitate the effective development of teams. These points are: clear goals; decision making authority; accountability and responsibility; effective leadership; training and development; provision of resources; organizational support; and rewards for team success.
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Towards Effective Team Building in the Workplace
Fapohunda, Tinuke. M.
Department of Industrial Relations and Public Administration
Lagos State University Ojo. Nigeria
E mail: tkfapp@gmail.com
Abstract
Team building involves a wide range of activities, designed for improving team performance. Its aim is to bring out the
best in a team to ensure self development, positive communication, leadership skills and the ability to work closely
together as a team to problem solve. This article reviews current literature on teams in an attempt to outline some of the
attractions and challenges of implementing teams so as to give a realistic preview of what can be achieved through
teamwork. The literature indicates that the effects of teamwork (both positive and negative) are contingent upon many
factors, including the organizations’ culture and climate, effectiveness of team leadership, employee commitment, the
system of compensation and rewards, and the level of employee autonomy. This article outlines eight key points that
have been identified by a number of authors which facilitate the effective development of teams. These points are: clear
goals; decision making authority; accountability and responsibility; effective leadership; training and development;
provision of resources; organizational support; and rewards for team success.
Keywords: Effective, Team, Building, Workplace
1. Introduction
Team building is an important topic in the current business climate as organizations are looking to
team-based structures to stimulate further improvements to their productivity, profitability and
service quality. Managers and organization members universally explore ways to improve business
results and profitability. Many view team-based, horizontal, structures as the best design for
involving all employees in creating business success. Team-based improvement efforts strives to
improve results for customers. Team building involves a wide variety of activities, presented to
organizations and aimed at improving team performance. It is a philosophy of job design that sees
employees as members of interdependent teams rather than as individual workers. Team building is
an important factor in any environment, its focus is to specialize in bringing out the best in a team to
ensure self development, positive communication, leadership skills and the ability to work closely
together as a team to solve problems. While work environments often target individuals and
personal goals, with reward and recognition singling out the achievements of individual employees,
with good team-building skills, employees can be united around a common goal to generate greater
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productivity. In the absence of teams, employees are limited to individual efforts alone but with
teambuilding, workgroups evolve into cohesive units and share expectations for accomplishing
group tasks, added to trust and support for one another and respect for individual differences. From
the early 1980s team-based structures have been replacing the highly formalized, centralized and
departmentalized mechanistic structures that were previously the norm in work organizations. The
use of teams has spread rapidly arising from the belief that the development of strong and effective
production and managerial teams will lead to the potential for higher performance and increased job
satisfaction. There are synergies to be gained from greater levels of involvement in the workforce.
The team builder leads the team towards cohesiveness and productivity. A team takes on a life of its
own and has to be regularly nurtured and maintained like individual employees. In a team-oriented
environment, individuals contribute to the overall success of the organization. They work with other
members of the organization to produce these results. While they have specific job functions and
belong to specific departments, they are unified with other members to accomplish the overall
objectives. The bigger picture drives their actions; and their functions exist to serve the bigger
picture. Teamwork is fostered by respecting, encouraging, enthusing and caring for people, rather
than exploiting or dictating to them. Heap (1996) affirms that the crux of the team building
approach is love and spirituality which results in mutual respect, compassion, and humanity to
work. People working for each other in teams are a more powerful force than skills, processes, and
policies, annual appraisals, management-by-objectives etc. Teams usually become great teams when
they decide to do it for themselves.
Fostering teamwork involves creating a work culture that values collaboration; where people
understand and
believe that thinking, planning, decisions and actions are better when done cooperatively. Creating
a culture of teamwork is dependent on management communicating clearly the expectation that
teamwork and collaboration are expected; modelling teamwork in their interaction with each other
and the rest of the organization; members talking about and identifying the value of a teamwork
culture; rewarding and recognizing teamwork; people discussions within the company emphasizing
teamwork and the performance management system
emphasizing and valuing teamwork.
The paper examines the development of teams in organizations. It explores key issues associated
with the implementation of teamwork and examines the prospects and challenges of team building
to present a realistic idea of what can be achieved through teamwork.
2. The Team Building Concept
A team is a group of people working towards a common goal. Team Building involves the process
of enabling the group of people to reach their goals. It consists of steps like clarification of team
goals; identification of hindrances to goal achievements; facing the identified challenges and
enabling the achievement of the goals. Fajana (2002) asserts that teamwork is an integration of
resources and inputs working in harmony to achieve organisational goals, where roles are
prescribed for every organisation member, challenges are equally faced and incremental
improvements are sought continually. Katzenbach and Smith (1993) notes that a team can simply
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be defined as a small number of people, with a set of performance goals, who have a commitment to
a common purpose and an approach for which they hold themselves mutually accountable.
The suggestion here is that teams must be of a manageable size and that all team members must be
committed to reach team goals. Also, the team members must be jointly accountable for their
actions and the outcomes of these actions.
There are two basic skills in the team building process. The first involves recognizing the right
issues, and the second has to do with tackling them in an appropriate way and order. Team building
has various forms depending on the size and nature of the team. For instance in situations where
team composition is continually changing, the emphasis is on developing the skills in individuals to
be effective team members and it endeavours to change the skills and abilities of the individual at
operating within a team or within multiple teams. However, where team membership is relatively
static like in management teams the emphasis is on efforts aimed at improving relationships
between team members.
The largest scale is that of organizational team building. With the exception of the senior
management team, the
ability of individuals to make an impact on the corporate culture is very limited. One of the key
aims of the
team building is to change the behaviours and attitudes prevalent in the organization, which are
almost independent of who actually works there. Team building doesn't just mean getting the team
together. It is more than generic activities imposed upon teams without any real consideration for
what the team wants or needs. There is need for a more considered approach and above all,
something where the objectives are clearly stated and can be met. It is necessary to take into
account specific issues that need to be addressed and the sorts or personalities involved in the team.
Dianna (2006) affirms that teamwork is a form of collective work that might involve individual
tasks, but usually involves some kind of collective task where each member is contributing part of a
collectively written document that is supposed to reflect the collective wisdom of the group. As
opposed to group work, which relies on exchange, teamwork relies on discussion. Discussion
occurs when each member shares their view, and is heard by the rest of the group. Discussion
requires fairness so that each member’s ideas are aired and shared in a balanced way. It can take
more time than exchange, but with practice, a time keeper, and a few rules, groups can create fair
discussions that are also time efficient.
Since the tasks are usually collective, the natural outcomes of teamwork discussions are negotiation
and compromise. While no members might get all their own way, the outcome always reflects the
best thinking and priorities of each group member. Teamwork can be quite efficient since it results
in everyone feeling that his or her point of view is adequately represented and accounted for. The
discussion helps to identify each person’s highest priorities and the negotiation and compromise
helps to synthesize these into an outcome that reflects the group’s collective priorities for success.
3. Determining the Need for Team Building
Several factors may be indicative of the need for team building. Some of these include; negative
reactions to the manager; decreased productivity; apathy and lack of involvement; complaints about
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quality of service; lack of initiation, imagination, innovation; routine actions taken for solving
complex problems; conflicts or hostility among staff members; ineffective staff meetings, low
participation, minimally effective decisions; decisions misunderstood or not carried through
properly; confusion about assignments, missed signals, and unclear
relationships as well as complaints of discrimination or favouritism.
4. Objectives of Team Building
Team building has several major objectives one of which is enhancing good communications with
participants as team members and individuals. There is also increased productivity and creativity.
Another objective of team building is to achieve better operating policies and procedures thereby
motivating team members to achieve goals. It is also aimed at ensuring clear work objectives and a
climate of cooperation and collaborative problem-solving. Furthermore team building enhances
higher levels of trust and support. With team building, diverse co-workers work well together and
there are higher levels of job satisfaction and commitment.
5. Stages of Team Development
Basically team development involves five stages each with its own special challenges as
propounded by Tuckman (1975) in a revision of the four stage model he first proposed in 1965.
The first stage of team building is the forming which is the stage at which a group of people come
together to accomplish a shared purpose. Next is the storming stage which involves disagreements
about mission, vision, and approaches and team members getting to know each other. This stage can
be characterized by strained relationships and conflicts. This is followed by the norming stage
where the team has consciously or unconsciously formed working relationships that are enabling
progress on the team’s objectives. The fourth is the performing stage in which relationships, team
processes, and the team’s effectiveness in working on its objectives are synching to bring about a
successfully functioning team. The final stage is the transforming stage where the team is
performing so well that members believe it is the most successful team they have experienced; or
the ending stage where the team has completed its mission or purpose and it is time for team
members to pursue other goals or projects.
It must be noted however that not every team moves through these stages in the stated order. Again,
various activities such as addition of new team members can send a team back to earlier stages. The
experience of the members, the support the team receives and the knowledge and skills of the team
members are factors that determine the length of time necessary for progressing through these
stages.
6. Building Effective Teams
Katzenbach and Smith (1993) lists the following requirements for building effective teams: (i) it
should be small enough in the number of members. (ii) adequate levels of complementary skills.
(iii) truly meaningful purpose (iii) specific goal or goals. (iv) established clear approach to the
team's work. (v) a sense of mutual accountability. (vi) defined appropriate leadership structure.
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Effective team functioning requires finding time, selecting team members, empowering team
members, providing training in relevant skills and knowledge, developing shared goals, and
facilitating team functioning - particularly in the early stages of the team's work.
Effective teams are carefully designed. When assembling a team it is very important to consider the
overall dynamics of the team. La Fasto (2001) identifies five dynamics that are fundamental to team
success. The first dynamic is team membership. Successful teams are made up of a collection of
effective individuals who are experienced, have problem solving ability, are open to addressing the
problem and are action oriented. Second is team relationship which has to do with the ability of
team members to give and receive feedback. The third dynamic is team problem solving which
implies that team effectiveness depends on the level of focus and clarity of the goals of the team.
Fourth is team leadership. Effective team leadership depends on leadership competencies. A
competent leader is focused on the goal, ensures a collaborative climate, builds confidence of team
members, sets priorities, demonstrates sufficient “know-how” and manages performance through
feedback. Organizational environment is the fifth dynamic of team success and it has to do with the
climate and culture of the organization being conductive to team behaviour.
Several authors (for example, Brower 1995; Carr 1992; La Fasto (2001); Fajana 2002) have come
up with ways of developing effective teams. While there is no best way to design, develop and
support highly effective teams, this paper summarizes the major components of effective team
building as:
i. Clarity of Expectations and Objectives - For team building to be effective the objectives must
be specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and have a time frame. As much as possible, input
from all members must be included in the design and wording of the goals. All expectations must be
clearly stated and this must be clearly understood by team members who must also understand the
reason for the creation of the team. There must be clear means of measuring the ongoing
effectiveness of the team which should be written down for eventual communication to and
discussion with all team members. Carr (1992) affirms that team goals should be specific enough to
give the team direction while at the same time stating the ends, rather than the means. This gives
teams the freedom to work out how best to achieve the goal. Added to the provision of clear goals is
the development of meaningful and acceptable performance measures so that the team members can
feel confident in their own achievements. Clear performance expectations affect happiness or
unhappiness at work. Consequently management must clearly communicate its expectations for the
team’s performance and expected outcomes to align each area of the organization with the overall
mission and vision. The manner of communication is important in the effective working of teams to
bring about an organization where all components are connected and pulling in the same direction.
Again, team members need to understand the reasons behind team creation and the expected
outcomes. The higher level goals must be translated into the outcomes necessary for each
employee’s job within the organization and employees must be clear about their expected
contributions. Robbins (1998) identifies three key means by which organizations can achieve
performance expectations. The first is showing constancy of purpose in supporting individuals and
teams with the resources for them to accomplish their goals which sends a strong message of
support. Second is giving team tasks enough emphasis as a priority. This indicates that the
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organization really cares. Third is the reward and recognition system. When performance
expectations are achieved there should be a combination of public recognition and private
compensation so that their feeling of success is enhanced and reinforced. With this employees can
develop accountable, productive, meaningful, participatory teamwork.
ii. Perspective: Perspective has to do with team members understanding the reasons behind their
participation on the team and how the team fits within the organization. Team members need to
know not only where their team fits but how the team strategy fits in the total scheme of plans and
success goals, mission, goals, principles, vision and values.
iii. Dedication: This involves the willingness of team members to participate on the team and
seeing their mission as important. Visions must be shared with employees in ways that compel them
to act. The dream and direction of the team should be presented in such a way that other people
want to share and follow. This is because the leadership vision goes beyond written organizational
mission statements and vision statements to permeate the workplace and manifest in the actions,
beliefs, values and goals of leaders. To excite and motivate employees to buy in the vision, the
direction and purpose of the vision should be clearly set; the peculiar strengths, culture, values,
beliefs and direction of the organization must be reflected. Again loyalty and care should be
inspired through the involvement of all employees and the vision must be regularly communicated
and shared. Employees must be challenged to outdo themselves. The vision should also inspire
enthusiasm, belief, commitment and excitement in organization members; and assist employees
believe that they are part of something bigger than themselves and their daily work. For teams to
succeed members must be dedicated to working together effectively to achieve team goals. The
relationships team members develop out of this obligation are significant in the success of team
building.
The level of dedication of team members is usually dependent on factors like team choice; belief in
the importance of the team; team members feeling valued; challenge, excitement and opportunity;
as well as recognition. Appropriate environment for team success improves team performance, and
reduces dysfunctional behaviour.
iv. Capability: For effectiveness to be achieved, there is need for the team to feel that participants
are appropriate and that its members either possess requisite knowledge, skills and capabilities to
address the issues for which such teams were formed or have access to needed help. The team
members may need training to learn new skills which allow them to work together effectively, such
as effective communication, conflict resolution and problem solving skills. Training and
development allows them to take on new responsibilities. Where team members possess inadequate
work skills and knowledge, teams are less likely to succeed.
v. Contract: Contract involves the team taking its assigned area of responsibility and designing its
own mission, vision and strategies to accomplish the mission. Consequently the team must define
and communicate its goals; its anticipated outcomes and contributions; its timelines; and means of
evaluating both the outcomes of its work and the process the team followed in accomplishing tasks.
vi. Resources: Team members must feel that the resources, strategies and support needed to
accomplish the stated mission are available. Robbins (1998) affirms that teams need access to
resources such as money, time, equipment, technology, people and information for them to operate
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effectively. Providing the resources depends on trust on the part of the organisation and
responsibility on the part of the team members. Brower (1995) adds that as obtains for authority,
resources should not, and cannot, be unlimited and should therefore be given to employees
gradually.
vii. Power: For effectiveness teams need authority to take decisions. Consequently a certain level of
empowerment is necessary for them in order to carry out their work efficiently. Without this
authority they would need to get approval for their ideas and these ideas may be rejected before they
are either proven or not proven. For innovation to occur, teams must be allowed to experiment.
Brower (1995) suggests however that to avoid costly mistakes, it is appropriate to give teams this
authority within certain boundaries. It may also be necessary to hand over authority on a gradual
basis so team members are not overwhelmed by their newly-acquired authority. People are able to
empower themselves through a clear focus and the removal of the sense of fear in what they do.
Wilson (1996) asserts that the team must have enough freedom and empowerment for the
ownership necessary to accomplish its obligation. However, there must also be a clear
understanding of boundaries by team members. To achieve this management must create a work
environment in which people are empowered, productive, contributing, and happy.
Employee empowerment, accomplishment, and contributions can be reinforced through
demonstrating value for people, sharing leadership vision, sharing goals and directions, trusting the
intentions of people to do the right thing, make the right decision, and make choices that, while
maybe not exactly what one would decide, still work. In addition, information for decision making
should always be provided. Also delegation should go beyond just work to authority and
opportunities should have effect. This helps employees to grow and develop new skills. Frequent
feedback should be given so that people know how they are doing, and also to reward and to
recognize. Rather than pinpointing problem people, problems should simply be solved.
viii. Cooperation: This has to do with the team members understanding team dynamics and group
processes. They must understand the stages of group development, their roles and responsibilities as
team members and be able to work together effectively at the interpersonal level. Cooperation also
involves the team being able to approach problem solving, process improvement, goal setting and
measurement jointly. Added to which team members need to cooperate to accomplish the team
contract and obligation. Group norms or rules of conduct in areas such as conflict resolution,
consensus decision making and meeting management must be established by the team using an
appropriate strategy to accomplish its action plan.
ix. Communication: Effective team building involves clarity about the priority of team member’s
tasks with an established method for the teams for feedback. Feedbacks must however be received
with grace and dignity bearing in mind that people hesitate to give feedback to others out of fear of
hurting them or having to deal with defensive or justifying behaviour. To obtain feedback there
should be openness to feedback. Nevertheless, it should be noted that feedback is not always right.
The reliability of the feedback should be determined by checking with others. There should be
important business information regularly with team members communicating clearly and honestly
with each other and bringing diverse opinions to the table. Necessary conflicts must also be raised
and addressed.
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x. Creative Improvement: Teambuilding is about change and the interest in change must not only
be real, it must value creative thinking, unique solutions, and new ideas while at the same time
rewarding people who take reasonable risks to make improvements rather than those who fit in and
maintain the status quo. There must also be adequate provision for necessary human resource
development to stimulate new thinking. The process of reviewing employee ideas, and encouraging
creative thinking from employees, has evolved over the years. Adequate time must be created to
read about new ideas, revel in the creative thinking of staff and make changes.
xi. Responsibility and Accountability: In spite of the obvious value of employee recognition, it is
so closely guarded in many organizations and several reasons have been adduced for this including
time and the fact that it often results in employee complaining, jealousy, and dissatisfaction. Team
members need to feel responsible and accountable for team achievements. Rewards and recognition
must be given when teams are successful with reasonable risk being respected and encouraged in
the organization rather than team members fearing reprisal. Team members need to spend their
time resolving problems not finger pointing and the reward systems must be designed to recognize
both team and individual performances. In the same vein, the gains and increased profitability must
be shared with team and individual contributors. Prioritizing employee recognition results in a
positive, productive, and innovative organizational climate. People who feel appreciated are more
positive about themselves and their ability to contribute. People with positive self-esteem are
potential best employees. However, for effective employee recognition the need arises to decide on
the goal of the recognition efforts. Goals and action plans for employee recognition should be put in
place. There must be fairness, clarity, and consistency and those that make similar contributions
should have equal chances of receiving recognition. Clear criteria for eligibility must be established
and anyone who meets the criteria should be recognized. However, employee recognition
approaches and content must also be inconsistent. Employee recognition should be consistently fair,
but must not become expectations or entitlements. Inconsistency is therefore encouraged in the type
of employee recognition given. Employee recognition is one of the most powerful forms of
feedback. Timely employee recognition enhances positive feelings and positively affects confidence
in their ability to do well in the workplace.
xii. Harmonization: Harmonization involves the synchronization of teams by a central leadership
team that assists the groups in obtaining what they need for success. It involves the planning of
priorities and resources allocation across departments. Cross-functional and multi-department teams
should be coordinated to work together effectively. Carr (1992) observes that managers and
supervisors who become team leaders experience a significant change of role because team leaders
do not direct or control work, but instead work as coaches and mentors. Effective communication,
leadership and consulting skills will be required which may necessitate training and development. A
new mindset is also required. Robbins (1998) notes that team leaders concerned with a loss of
power need to understand that their new role is pertinent to the success of the teams, and that their
knowledge is required now more than ever. The issue is therefore not about the erosion of power,
but a shift in the source of power from legitimate to knowledge based.
xiii. Cultural Change: Culture is the environment that surrounds a workplace at all times. It is a
powerful element that shapes work enjoyment, work relationships, and work processes. Culture
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involves the values, beliefs, underlying assumptions, attitudes, and behaviours shared by a group of
people. It is the behaviour that results when a group arrives at a set of - generally unspoken and
unwritten - rules for working together. An
organization’s culture is made up of all of the life experiences each employee brings to the
organization. Culture
is especially influenced by the organization’s founder, executives, and other managerial staff
because of their
roles in decision making and strategic direction. Culture is reflected in language, decision making,
symbols, stories and legends, and daily work practices. Thompson and Luthans (2006) identified
several characteristics of culture. The first is that culture is behaviour. Culture describes the
behaviours indicative of the general operating norms in an environment and aspects of the culture
may support progress and success while others may impede progress. Second, culture is learned.
People learn to perform certain behaviours through either the rewards or negative consequences that
follow their behaviour. When behaviour is rewarded, it is repeated and the association eventually
becomes part of the culture. Third, culture is learned through interaction. Employees learn culture
by interacting with other employees. Most behaviours and rewards in organizations involve other
employees. Fourth, sub-cultures form through rewards. Oftentimes subcultures are formed as people
get social rewards from co-workers or have their most important needs met in their departments or
project teams. An organization’s culture is made up of all of the life experiences each employee
brings to the organization. The team-based, collaborative, empowering, enabling organizational
culture of the future is different from the traditional, hierarchical organization. Therefore
contemporary organizations must either be in the process of or have plans of changing systems of
rewards, recognition, appraisals, recruitment, selection, development, planning, motivation and
management of the people it employs. The more an organization can change its climate to support
teams, the more it will receive in pay back from the work of the teams.
7. The Prospects of Teamwork
The prospects of teamwork may vary for across organizations because they are dependent on
several factors, like the culture and climate, effectiveness of team leadership, and the organization.
Great teams make things happen more than anything else in organizations. Empowered teams get
the best results. Empowering people has more to do with attitude and behaviour towards staff than
processes and tools. Heap (1996), Roufaiel and Meissner (1995), Sundstrom, De Meuse &Futrell
(1990) suggest that as a reaction to increased competition teams are being implemented in ever-
increasing numbers. Added to global competition, there is also a growing need to cater for niche
markets and to compete on cost, and innovation. The resultant effect is that companies can no
longer rely on mass production and economies of scale to compete in the marketplace. Teams give
employees increased autonomy, increased participation, and ownership regarding decisions, they
can therefore maximise organizational innovation. Rather than being told what to do employees are
given goals, or they develop goals with their team leaders, and are then free to decide on the best
method of achieving the goals. Teams also provide other attractions for the organizations where
they operate. First, teams optimize the use of human resources by allowing organizations to gain
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access to individual knowledge and skills. An implication of increased complexity is that managers
can no longer know everything about all aspects of organization operations and it is essential that
the knowledge and skills of the workforce be utilised. Second, as Wageman (1997) asserts teams
enhance organizational learning because employees are able to experiment and create strategies that
are best suited to their work. Katzenbach and Smith (1993) notes that teams can create a synergy by
bring about gains in individual productivity and efficiency. Kirkman and Shapiro (1997) affirms
that teams bring about increased levels of job satisfaction, motivation and employee commitment
since they are associated with a greater variety of tasks and added responsibility for team members.
The resultant effects of this include reduced staff turnover and absenteeism and consequently
reduction in organizational costs and improved organization memory or knowledge base.
8. Impediments and Challenges to Teamwork
The implementation of teams is, fundamentally, an organizational change and development process.
Teams are, therefore, susceptible to all the challenges that can occur during any organizational
change process. In particular, employee resistance may result where employees are required to work
with other employees with whom they are unfamiliar. In this case, the new teams are breaking up
established social relationships. One way in which this can be overcome is through teambuilding.
Field & Swift (1996) notes that teams often face issues that can decrease the effectiveness of the
team and specifically its ability to make decisions. The team may not share clear goals or purposes,
and therefore as earlier discussed defining specific goals is very important. The time trade-offs in
decision making (team decision making can take time away from working. There may be problems
of "groupthink" and pressure to conform as well as the potential for increased conflict over decision
making. Without adequate team training and preparation, it is unlikely that teams will work
effectively to develop and realize a shared vision. There are also the challenges arising from lack of
communication; personal conflict; overemphasis on give and take relationship.
Teambuilding attempts to ‘improve group performance by improving communication, reducing
conflict, and generating greater cohesion and commitment among work group members. Employee
resistance may also result for other reasons. Where teamwork requires job enlargement it may be
necessary to either reduce some of their duties or to change the system of compensation and
rewards. Teamwork is also often associated with empowerment, ownership and added responsibility
and managers usually assume that individuals prefer to be involved in decision making instead of
being told what to do. While this may be true in most cases, it is not true in all cases. It may bring
about alienation for some employees and ultimately lead to job dissatisfaction, labour turnover
and/or decreased performance. There is no simple remedy for this problem but training or a change
of position within the organization is often useful if possible.
A major risk of team building is that a team member may become cynical of the organization. Team
building events must be complemented with meaningful workplace practice. Where team members
do not see an improvement within an organization associated with team building events, they may
view such events as a waste of time and this may consequently result in loss of trust in the
organization, harm motivation, decrease employee morale and production.
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Another problem is that which occurs when the teams are not trusted enough to make major
decisions and consequently the teams and the organization to which they belong, are not reaching
their full potentials. Seeking permission before implementing ideas reduces timeliness and
ownership. Nahavandi and Aranda (1994) assert that innovation is also reduced as teams are forced
to suggest solutions that are likely to be accepted. Again, team members may believe that
management is merely paying lip service to the fundamental ideas of teamwork a situation that
almost certainly reduces employee morale. Inability to trust teams to make decisions results in
teams taking up more time than the system they replaced. The experience is similar where
coordination is required and a number of teams are interdependent. This type of challenge requires
continued training and development of team members. Argote and McGrath (1993) suggests that
coordination needs effective team leadership and team performance requires a balance between
autonomy and decentralisation of power on the one hand, for the sake of both motivation and
flexibility, and centralised control on the other hand, for the sake of coordination and predictability.
As obtains with all organizational change and development initiatives, the organizational culture
and climate must be considered. One cannot assume that the goals and values of employees are the
same as the goals of management, or even that goals and values are consistent across the
organization. Employee attitudes about teams determine the likelihood of success. Carr (1992)
observes that successful team implementation involves an extension of existing values but team
implementation may also be useful for desired culture change. Teamwork demands such a shift in
attitudes that organizations may turn to it when they want to achieve a cultural transformation.
Also important are the effects of team building as they relate to employees' families and people's
broader life needs. Divisive treatment of employees' spouses and families undermine the loyalty and
motivation of employees, and create additional and unnecessary stress for workers in close loving
caring relationships, especially for young families, which have evolved a strong sensitivity to such
pressures. Strong work commitments put pressure on employees' families and spouses and modern
organizations should be doing minimizing the effects, not making them worse. Families of
employees can be rewarded for their support and loyalty, rather than alienated by creating selfish
staff-only events and benefits.
Fostering a healthy work and home life balance tends to make organizations run smoother and less
problematically, especially in areas of grievance and counseling, stress and conflict, disputes and
litigation, recruitment and staff retention, succession planning, company reputation and image.
There are also the implications and risks of organizing socially irresponsible team events and
activities which affect performance, management distraction, and staff retention; risks of litigation
and bad publicity. A socially responsible employer should be able to demonstrate they have been
duly careful and diligent in minimizing such risks when organizing any work events. Finally, there
are always going to be those resistant to the very idea of “team building” or others whose comfort
zone is very small. This must be acknowledged and programme that takes it into account created.
9. Conclusion
Implementing and supporting teams in an organization, needs considerable organizational change
and consideration of many issues. The entire organization ranging from the team members,
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12
supervisors, managers, the organizational structure, culture, work processes, methods, and social
relationships are affected. The depth and scope of the changes implies that team building and
implementation is a lengthy process presenting many challenges. However the benefits are
enormous and those implementing teams have no plans to revert to their previous structures.
Despite the challenges, effective teambuilding provides many benefits to organizations.
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