Organizational theory is continually debating the challenges of teamwork and the issues that face the practice. Are teams more effective decision makers and problem solversThis study will assess this question utilizing a combination of reflective experience coupled with relevant theory. Beginning with a base overview of the challenges faced in the formation of a working team, this essay will lay out an infrastructure. Following this section with an evaluation of the issues faced once the team has been created will illustrate the dynamic nature of the teamwork process. A combination of the initial sections will enable a demonstration of the primary challenges facing teamwork in the workplace, which in turn will provide the foundation for a resolution to these experiences.
In the end, this study will have examined the formation, execution and potential challenges faced when utilizing the organisational tool of teamwork with the stated goal of identifying the primary challenges in order to enable better future decision making.
Challenges Forming a Team
Shared purpose and responsibility are a primary challenge in team formation: a team is defined as having a shared goal, which they work towards as a unit sharing the responsibility and direction of the research (Hackman 2011). Most research has illustrated that services provided by a group of professionals working towards a common goal are more effective than the past methods of development such as individual assignments (Atkinson 2013). This research supports the argument that the team is a better decision maker. However, Doina, Mirela and Constantin (2012) assert that emerging reliance on organized research is a weakness that has the potential to slow the progress research. Others have widely utilized the challenges to the teamwork concept over the course of the past generation to produce quick and successful project results (Eddy, Tannenbaum and Mathieu 2013).
Personal experience has shown that by working with a team and by being a vital part of the effort to find miniscule details in several literary research projects, the team potential for effective decision making is markedly increased (Ibid). During the challenge to identify specific passages that related to research in the texts, team efforts aided during the process of wading through a wide range of literature. The experience and camaraderie increased positive feelings, which in turn served to further enhance the research results (Ibid). Hackman (2011) identifies the clear challenge that the concept of shared responsibility created between the collaboration group and the team enables a better decision making model.
The very first challenge to the concept of teamwork is for management to weigh the effort of team formation versus the streamlined and much less complex individual application (Ibid). However, with only one person on the task, the likelihood of delay or detriment increases (Eddy, Tannenbaum and Mathieu 2013). This is a very effective argument for teams: redundancy. Teamwork has been found to increase the potential for success substantially (Murase, Doty, Wax, Dechurch, and Contractor 2012). As technology evolves and more resources became available, teams have evolved past the simple construct into a much more complex creation that are commonly able to meet challenges that exist at the start up stage. However, a question that must be asked is if the effort of forming a team offset by the potential knowledge gained from the experience (Ibid)If the decision can be better accomplished alone, the effort of creating a team is not worth the result.
Organisational theory is utilized in the effort to streamline business and predict human behaviour that occurs in the organisational setting (Dyer,Dyer, and Dyer 2007). Teamwork has become a growing challenge in this field as the strength of the potential for gain has been recognized in the business world (Ibid). The Contingency Theory argues that there is no best method to the creation of a team, but each situation is unique and must be fit to the individual application (Decostanza, Dirosa, Rogers, Slaughter, Estrada, and O. 2012). This is a primary challenge that must be addressed in every team operation process. Others cite the process of teamwork decision process as cumbersome and a burden to individual potential (Zingone, Franks, Guirguis, George, Howard-Thompson, and Heidel, R. 2010). The challenge to the teamwork decision making concept is that it has the potential to be as positive or detrimental as the members allow. Personal experience has illustrated how team decisions and course correction was essential due to the fact that the work simply could not be done by one or two people and benefited from the teams input (Ibid). Further, there were many points of view that required a varied field of knowledge, making team decisions essential. Finally, the deadline was very short increasing the pressure, which the team was able to minimize (Decostanza et al 2012). It took a team decision that served to guide the project past the difficult points in order to achieving the target goal (Ibid). A primary challenge from the outset of any team effort is morale and energy (Ibid).
Another challenge to an effective team decision making is the creation of a cross functional working environment that will be conducive to supporting the entirety of the effort (Tohidi 2011). The process of team process requires that the members know how to function and provide incentive (Ibid). Personal experience has demonstrated that especially as a project begins to develop, the pressure creates issues that cause members of the team to leave, or splinter from the original. This form of teamwork friction can turn a small issue into a major problem (Beatty et al 2012). Challenges in this area include disputes over leadership positions which in turn hobbles the entire decision making process and serves to skew the research (Ibid). Beatty et al (2012) Identifies four particular challenges that must be addressed in order to enable a team decision making process to be successful:
a) Appropriate formation
b) Members are accountable for both individual and team work
c) Assignment promotes team development
d) Timely communication
In each case, careful consideration before implementation has the potential to increase effectiveness consequently reducing issues (Ibid).
The creation and implementation of an effective team is essential in the decision making process and is faced with many challenges as the group comes together to find a solution (Dyer et al 2007). A primary hurdle facing a team is the initial assessment of which person will be best suited to which specific task within the scope of the project (Ibid). As Dyer et al (2007) Illustrates, the role determination at the outset can have a tremendous impact on the subsequent performance of the entire team. Personal experience has demonstrated the fact that the right leader can make or break a team project from the very beginning (Ibid). Further, primary challenge that the leader will mitigate is the identification of the proper employees to become part of the team decision making experience (Ibid). Weak leadership in a team setting often leads to many voices, which in turn have a variety of directions and takes away from the capacity to make effective decisions (Ibid). Leaders in a team provide resources, rewards and management that are effective focusing and maintaining the project goals (Schultz, Wilson, and Hess 2010). Lacking any one of these elements will quickly become a challenge to the entire organization. Teams have a real potential to start off well, and then flounder when the perceived leader does not provide the pieces necessary to progress as a group (Ibid). If there is a method but no practical application for that method, the entire group is left at a standstill.
Team leadership is responsible for guiding the members to produce the best effort for the benefit of the entire project (Ibid). The style of leadership in a teamwork setting is important, as it must fit with the temperament of the project. A successful team decision is due to the capacity of the leader and team to work together in a positive, upbeat environment (Sarrafzadeh and Williamson 2012). Leaders that have instilled a sense of doom and gloom have seldom evoked the same level of skill from the teams (Ibid). Management leadership that is worth their pay assists t development of the teamwork effort while integrating the individual goals with that of the group.
Atkinson (2013) defines the role of organisational culture as reflecting the overriding assumption regarding the method of work and the limits of what is and is not acceptable. Principals are often at the heart of dissension in the teamwork environment if there is a lack of structure and coherence during the formation period (Ibid). Personal experience has illustrated that different team approaches can cause substantial strife. With no clear structure the negative discussion took up vital research time (Ibid). The dynamic of teamwork issues will vary according to the size of the team, the bigger the effort the more complex the application (Goldman, B. and Shapiro 2012). Research has shown that when working in larger groups, the difficulties are multiplied and the need for coordination is only enhanced as the group grows in scope (Ibid). Conversely, personal experience with a small team of three or four individuals has the capacity to be as effective as much larger, less communicative teams (Atkinson 2013).
Once the team has begun to work issues such as Groupthink must be avoided in order to progress (Sikorski, Johnson, and Ruscher 2012). As the establishment of routine sets in during the team environment, there is the threat of following the leader (Ibid). There is the potential for team members to follow the group, even if they had an opposite opinion (Ibid). This has clear potential to set the entire effort back as it is necessary to go back and deal with the issue. Further, this mentality lacks creativity and innovative depth that can doom a team’s effort from the very beginning (Ibid). Tannenbaum, Mathieu, Salas, and Cohen (2012) identify three modern challenges to the operation of an effective team:
a) Dynamic composition of the members
b) The distance and technology that are involved.
c) Empowerment and delayering
Personal experience has illustrated that there are significant challenges in each of these areas, particularly cross cultural challenges as research partners are often on completely different sides of the planet (Sweet and Michaelsen 2012). Recent projects commonly have had to include translation programs and uncommon times to meet. In each case the culture and area of my partner serves to influence the project (Ibid). Emerging technology has made it possible to extend the resources which can be a significant enhancement to the team potential (Ibid). Others argue the extreme increase in the cultural diversity of team makeup creates more issues than benefits and adversely impacts the underlying integrity of the study in question (Sweet and Michaelsen 2012). When an international team first comes together, the very basic elements of language and cultural understanding are very critical points that must be considered as the team is given assignments. A lack of adequate understanding of the social dynamics has the potential to not only hobble and slow a team’s efforts, but in very many cases completely derail the process (Ibid).
An emerging challenge to any team decision making model is the continuous upgrade and application of technology (Buchanan, and Huczynski 2010). With computers, tablets and mobile computers becoming a vital tool, the mix of the forms of technology can lead to a significant issue. Personal experience with this dilemma came when during the attempted transfer from an Ipad to a research partners PC. This quickly became an issue as it was necessary to obtain the correct application to make the one program work with the other. Further, this same concept translates into the manner in which the entire team communication effort is managed (Child, 2005). The method and manner of organization throughout the team process has the potential to create a myriad of issues. The issue of finding emails and means of transferring data from my platforms to the groups is a continuous challenge which creates a situation in which the group cannot fully share scheduling information and updates due to the different nature of the programs used (Ibid). Leadership must account for and adapt to the many layered technological nature of the modern work place (Ibid).
The concept of team decision making in organisational theory is credited with being the next evolution in business. With the evidence presented in the study illustrating many of the potential benefits, there were areas of concern that could serve to diminish many of the expected returns of implementing a team based network.
The primary expectation for a team project is the increase in resources and depth, which in turn adds to the capacity to make more informed decisions. Issues surrounding the team itself ranging from organisation, leadership, technology and personal cohesiveness all serve to come together to impact the overall effectiveness of the concept. There is clear evidence to support the assertion that a team can produce better decisions, yet, this is dependent on the unique factors that surround the formation, implementation and result of the team experience. If any one area of the teamwork process is lacking, so too is the final result.
Beginning with the determination of needing to form a team, choosing leadership and structure, to communication and goal sharing the team decision making process is a highly complex, delicate instrument that has the potential to make better decisions than past models. In every case, the team has the potential to exceed expectations or fail miserably, which in turn will be determined by the members themselves. In the end, a team is individuals that share a common vision and the will to make it happen.
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