ming more and more apparent in today’s dynamic business world. Increasingly managers are searching for a means to improve production and keep their organisation competitive in the global market. A lot of these managers have turned to the team as a means for achieving this improvement. Quality circles were looked at to fulfil this role. However, this form of team is being phased out and may have posed as incubator for the current trend; self – managed work teams (Klein, 1995).
These teams are increasingly being looked at today to solve many an organisation’s production problems and inefficiencies, and in the process are both badly failing and greatly succeeding. Therefore, the discussion of teams is a very important contemporary management issue to address. Managers should be aware of such a concept and learn about it so as a means to further their organisation and for when the time comes to implement a team they are armed with enough knowledge to implement the team properly. As with many management trends or processes, they are often labeled, producing a huge list of buzzwords, like total quality management, just in time management, management by objectives, downsizing, rightsizing, etc. The organisational team also pulls a long chain of buzzwords; workgroup, work team, project team, project group, task force, committees and so on and so on.
What these terms basically refer to is a collection of two or more individuals who interact with each other, share common beliefs, and perceive themselves as being in a group. (Vecchio, Hearn, Southey, 1996:846). This is a very basic interpretation of a team and which can be expanded upon. Metropolitan Life Insurance Company defines a team more specifically as a group of people with specific roles and responsibilities, organised to work together toward common goals or objectives, in which each member depends on others to carry out responsibilities to reach those goals and objectives. (1986, cited in Denton, 1992:87).
The implementation and operation of a team can either be a great success or a costly failure, both money wise and time wise. Many companies have benefited from teams, as Dumaine (1994) points out, when teams work, there’s nothing like them for turbocharging productivity. There are many examples of successful implementation of teams. To name a few, Federal Express and IDS boosted productivity by 40% and Boeing cut its engineering hang-ups on its new 777 passenger jet by more than half.
(Dumaine, 1994). The Ford Motor Company in the United States also had great success with teams when producing the new Mustang prototype. Ford produced the Mustang from design concept to the finished product under budget and in record time. (Klein, 1995). However, many companies and managers are put off by the very mention of the word team. As McGarvey (1996) suggests, are teams just another management fad or are they for real? He also points out that .
. . many businesses have had bad experiences with teams that flopped. (McGarvey, 1996:80). As is also pointed out by Magee (1997:26) . .
. ill – functioning teams can cause disastrous effects on the individuals involved, the organisation’s service delivery and customer service reputation, and the mood of the entire organisation. So, there is little wonder why many organisations and mangers are disillusioned by teams and apprehensive to implement them. Evidence of this apprehension could be interpreted from a study conducted by the Centre for Effective Organisations at the University of Southern California.
The Centre conducted a survey of Fortune 1000 companies and found that 68% of those companies used self – managed work teams. However, on the flip – side, only 10% of total workers are in such teams. (Dumaine, 1994). Not a large percentage of the total workers. These results may suggest that most companies are still learning and piloting work teams and are not ready to throw themselves into committing large chunks of their workforce to work teams.
As organisations and managers hear the success stories of Federal Express, IDS and the Ford Motor Company, they also want in on the action and want the benefits of successful team implementation as well. However, they obviously want to steer clear of the possible problems and costs that unsuccessful team