Work Team Term Paper

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Work Teams

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Teamwork has become in recent years one of the major strategies implemented by organizations. One of the important implications raised by teamwork is the relationship between individual performance and team performance. Sonentag & Frese (2002) stated that because teams are composed of individuals, team processes and team performance cannot be completely understood and improved without taking individual performance into account. The authors argue that three interrelated aspects are important here: first, which individual difference variables predict individual performance within a teamwork setting? An answer provided by researchers to this question refers to the idea that task-related skills and knowledge are not sufficient when accomplishing tasks in a team-work setting. Another aspects that are regarded to be essential for performing well in a team-work setting are interpersonal and self-management skills and knowledge (Stevens & Campion, 1994, cited in Sonentag & Frese 2002). The second question tries to establish which aspects of individual performance are relevant for team performance. The most important issue from this point-of-view is individual task performance as the necessary ingredient for high team performance. The third question is concerned with establishing how does individual performance translate into team performance. Answering to such a question involves a discussion on multiple levels within organizational research (Kozlowski & Klein, 2000; Rousseau, 1985, cited in Sonentag & Frese 2002). For instance many researchers suggested that when the tasks to be accomplished are additive the team performance is just the sum of team members' individual performance, the classic example from this point-of-view concerns the work actions to assemble different parts of a product; on the other hand, in some teamwork settings in which tasks are disjunctive and in which members are mutually dependent on one another, the combination of individual performances into team performance is much more complex (Sonnentag, 1999, cited in Sonentag & Frese 2002).

Term Paper on Work Team's Assignment

Teamwork is considered a key element in a high performance workplace. It has been stated that a highly performing workplace focuses both on valuing the people and their influence on the business and on the impact of processes, methods, the physical environment, and the technology and tools that enhance their work (Burton et al., 2005). Some forms of organizations have been called holistic since they have a flat hierarchical structure and practice job rotation, self-responsible teams, multi-tasking and a greater involvement of lower-level employees in decision-making processes.

In a constantly changing business environment it has been stated that one of the adaptive features that help organizations become competitive is the flattening of traditional, hierarchical structures in favor of teams and multiteam systems. For a long time it has been acknowledged the value of teams in overcoming the challenges presented by chaotic context (Lewin, 1951, cited in Salas et al. 2004).

With respect to the study of teams, a concern was to establish a taxonomy to classify team phenomenon. In an effort to integrate research, Sundstrom et al. (2000) (cited in Salas et al. 2004) identified six distinct types of teams (i.e., production, service, management, project, action/performance, and parallel). These teams can be distinguished by considering such factors as the degree of differentiation (i.e., specialization and autonomy), integration (i.e., degree of integration/interaction with the larger system outside the team), and work cycles (i.e., length and novelty). More recently, various writers focused on other contextual variables that may distinguish team type and proposed five characteristics as being most important in the process: tasks, goals, roles, process emphasis, and performance demands.

Integrating the two trends of research, Salas et al. (2004) concluded that teams may be distinguished by considering the following: (1) dynamics and coupling to external environments; (2) boundary spanning and permeability; (3) member diversity and distribution; (4) member and workflow interdependencies; and (5) temporal entrainments.

Another attempt made by many theorists and practicians was to try to explain effective teamwork. Different cases in time have proved, however, that effective teamwork is not the automatic result of just bringing team members together to accomplish interdependent tasks (Steiner, 1972, cited in Salas et al. 2004). It is important therefore to gain a deeper understanding of the factors that influence and are influenced by team effectiveness. Lack of understanding of these factors result even in catastrophes such as plane crashes (Simon, 1997, cited in Salas et al. 2004), plant explosions (Cullen, 1990, cited in Salas et al. 2004), and failed military engagements (Anderson & Sandza, 1987, cited in Salas et al. 2004).

A comprehensive model that explains team effectiveness has been put forth by Tannenbaum et al. (1992) (cited in Salas et al. 2004).. This model takes into account the organizational and situational characteristics, individual characteristics, work structure, team characteristics, tasks characteristics and team processes, interventions and changes. The model is organized using the model input - process - output immersed in the organization and situational characteristics. The organizational characteristics taken into consideration in this model are: reward systems, resource scarcity, management control, levels of stress, organizational climate, competition, intergroup relations, and environment uncertainty. The input in teamwork is made up of individual characteristics (task knowledge, skills and abilities, general abilities, motivation, attitudes, personality, mental models), work structure (work assignment, team norms, motivation, communication structure), team characteristics (power distribution, member homogeneity, team resources, climate - team, cohesiveness) and task characteristics (task organization, task type and task complexity).

The processes between input and output have been termed team processes and consist of coordination, communication, conflict resolution, decision making, problem solving, boundary spanning. Team interventions are: individual training, team training, team building. The output consists of team changes (new norms, new roles, new communication patterns, new processes), team performance (quality, quantity, time, errors, costs) and individual changes (task knowledge, skills, abilities, motivation, mental models).Organizational and situational characteristics play an important role in all three phases, and the process finishes with a feedback loop.

A simpler framework has been proposed by Campion et al. (1993), consisting of five categories of variables that have been proposed to relate to team effectiveness: job design, interdependence, composition, context, and process. Job design is proposed to subsume self-management, participation, task variety, task significance, and task identity. Interdependence is proposed to subsume task interdependence, goal interdependence, and interdependent feedback/rewards. Composition subsumes heterogeneity, flexibility, relative size, and preference for group work. Context subsumes training, managerial support, and communication. (Salas et al. 2004).

A discussion of the principles stated above is proposed in the following pages of the paper by taking into consideration the educational setting, more specific the case of Charter Schools USA. Charter Schools USA is set up as a corporation, run by a CEO and is made up of approximately 1400 employees. It is also important to note that it is an organization that has emerged as one of the nation's fastest growing and most successful education companies.

It has been acknowledged by now that a successful school does not involve only individual effort, but also teamwork. In education, teams may work on curricular reform, implementing new programs, or restructuring. The basic principles which ensure the success of a team are clear, shared goals, a sense of commitment; the ability to work together; mutual accountability; access to needed resources and skills (Peterson, 1995). The main aim of teamwork in education facilities is to meet the academic and social needs of all students in the school, or in other words, the mission of teamwork should be directed at improving student outcomes.

The advantages of working in teams are similar across different types of corporations. For instance, it has been acknowledged that teams are better at solving problems than individual problem-solvers, have a higher level of commitment and benefit from a larger number of people who implement the plan. An important ingredient in teams is leadership. There was a considerable research into the concept of educational leadership lately. A short overview it would be important since Charter schools lay a great emphasis on educational leadership; the reason for this is due to the great impact educational leadership has on student achievement, as several studies suggested. Educational leadership has a great indirect influence on student performance, therefore, in order to improve student learning it would be important to identify other features in the organization that may contribute to student success. For instance, Leithwood (unavailable year) exemplified how principals are in a very good position to influence the teachers. In any organization the direct supervisor should foster greater collaboration among teachers. This is how principals may foster greater collaboration in teachers, the fact leading to improvements in teachers' instructional practices, which in turn enhance student learning. Similarly, superintendents are in a position to ensure that their district achievement tests are aligned with the goals or standards of district curricula. Such alignment supports at its turn the teachers to focus on the most important curricular outcomes for students; this in turn, fosters student success by increasing the amount of instructional time devoted to those outcomes (Leithwood, unavailable year)

In the context of team work, distributed leadership has been proved to be more effective since it enhances the opportunities for the organization… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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