To understand team building and the methods best adopted to choose a project team, one must first define a team adequately. Biech (2001) suggests that a team includes a group of people or individuals that are “mutually dependent on one another to achieve a common goal” (1). Various other definitions of team suggest that a team must also function well together to succeed. Functionality is an important part of team work, and typically the purpose of a team with respect to a given project.
There are multiple advantages to working in teams, including increasing the likelihood that an organization will achieve a better end result with respect to a project (Beich, 2001). Many organizations are adopting a team based approach to respond to the needs of a changing global marketplace. Teams often have the ability to more closely gauge customer needs and provide more information regarding technological changes, as well as provide a faster response to problems than “traditional hierarchies” (Biech, 2001:2).
There are multiple characteristics of successful teams; these include: established clear goals, have defined roles, open and clear communication, provide for effective decision making, provide balanced participation, value diversity and manage conflict efficiently (Biech, 2001:14). How does one go about developing teams that do this? Team responsibilities must be clearly identified and delegated. This can occur through open channels of communication and by sharing role perceptions within the team (Biech, 2001).
A team must include a master leader responsible for mentoring and coaching other members of the team, as well as promoting decision making activities within the team (Williams, 1998). The leader should serve as a mentor, encouraging team members to develop effective methods of communicating a shared vision by providing an example of how to do so; the leader must also serve to motivate and empower people to attain their desired outcome (Williams, 1998). The leader may serve as a chairperson to the team, helping provide continuous support and reaction to other members.
Code, Langan-Fox & Langfield-Smith (2000) suggest that effective team building and functioning can only result when members of the team share a team “mental model” that is clear and precise or represented. Further they suggest that effective team functioning results when an individual or chair within the team work with other team members to help influence the development of a mental model that will elicit the desired outcomes within the team (Code, et al., 2000). A mental model may include specific interventions and objectives for making decisions with the intent of achieving organizational objectives. This can be achieved by providing team members with a ‘verbal protocol analysis”, but analyzing and representing information or by brainstorming various methods and providing guidelines to team members (Code, et al., 2000).
Hughes (1993) suggests that a facilitator should be present within a team to help explain in detail how every participant’s talents, insights and contributions are necessary for the team to achieve their end goals and objectives. Further the researcher suggests open communication is the most essential component of a successful team, allowing individual team members to help understand issues and avoid barriers that “cause company failures” (Hughes, 1993:20). Someone should also according to Hughes, be appointed to “track and measure team progress” toward specific goals, organizing “follow up sessions” for all team members to gauge the teams progress and effectiveness toward achieving team goals (p. 20).
The fastest way to achieve goals and build a team is through a “straight path” one that empowers staff members to use their individual talents within a team as part of a “combined effort” so that the organization as a whole benefits as well as individual members of the team (Hughes, 1993: 20). An organization must also work toward establishing a well defined team-building process that includes use of well defined objectives (Hughes, 1993:20). Goals for the team should include creation of effective knowledge sharing and exchange, sharing of ideas and sharing of individual team member’s skills and abilities (Hughes, 1993). An effective team is created when each member of the team uses their strengths and experiences to produce a whole that is stronger than the sum of the individual parts of the team (Hughes, 1993).
Cooperation is also vital to successful team building. A chairperson or facilitator can adopt multiple strategies when building a team to enhance cooperation and communication. These strategies for improving team building include: (1) creating a team that is interdependent, where all members coordinate their efforts to achieve corporate goals, (2) identifying leaders that support the overall goals and objectives of the team but also help support and define a “team concept”, (3) Encourage members to try new ideas and “identify was to relate to leaders and peers”, (4) establish communication patterns that are open and enable the team to easily understand the expectations of other team members and management, (5) team members must work with a competent facilitator to identify any underlying issues that may impede group development and lastly (6) senior group members must believe that positive results can come of new changes and strategies introduced by newer members of the team (Hughes, 1993:20).
Brannick, Prince & Salas (1997) suggest that effective team building can only occur when team performance measurement tools are in place to evaluate the teams achievements, purpose and progress toward achieving certain goals. Teams according to the authors, are a “fact of life” and can account for “real differences in outcomes” when created and utilized effectively (Brannick, 1997:3). There are multiple approaches to evaluating team performance.
Among the more commonly adopted include evaluating the team’s progress and success at achieving organizational goals and objectives within the scope of the team’s project (Brannick, 1997). Teams are more than just groups of people; teams are groups of people within the organization that share a certain function and whose roles and responsibilities are interchangeable, particularly with regard to a given project (Brannick, 1997). Given this sentiment it makes sense that teams should be not only brought together to complete or achieve a specific purpose but also evaluated based on their ability to achieve this purpose and serve the organization as a whole (Brannick, 1997).
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