Teams : Concept and Types of Teams

Concept of Teams

The importance of team was first highlighted from the result of Elton Mayo's Hawthorne study in the period of 1927 – 1932. However, the importance of team was given in the McGregor in 1960s. Team takes time to develop. It is qualitatively different from the group in several ways. Working with teams is an essential part of a manager's remit. Team working is rapidly becoming the preferred practice in many organizations as traditional corporate hierarchies give way to flat and multi-skilled working methods. Managing teams is an indispensable and practical guide to leading teams with expertise, covering subjects such as defining the skills required to complete a project, establishing trust between individuals within a team and maximizing the performance of that team. A true team is a living constantly changing dynamic force in which a number of people come together to work. Team members discuss their objectives, assess ideas, make decisions and work towards their targets together. All successful teams demonstrate the same fundamental features:

Related Topic: Process of Team Development

  • Having strong and effective leadership
  • Establishing precise objectives
  • Making informed decisions
  • Having the ability to act quickly upon these decisions
  • Communicating freely
  • Mastering the requisite skills and techniques to fulfill the project in hand
  • Providing clear targets for the team to work towards excellence

Difference between Group and Team

The team is accountable for reasons and collective responsibilities are taken. There is mutuality and complementary among the members of the team. The most important characteristics of the team is that it creates synergy, the performance of the team is better than the collective performance of the individual members. There are some differences observed between group and team that are explained in the following table:

Same as organization
Work products process
Individual Discuss, decide, delegate
Collective discuss, decide, do
A single leader
Open, problem solving
Individual and mutual

Types of Teams

There are various types of team, formal and informal, each suited to fulfilling particular tasks. Team leaders need to understand the objectives and goals of their team clearly in order to match task to the most appropriate style of team.

- Formal Teams

Formal teams are fundamental to an organization – whether internal audit units or counter-staff in a supermarket. They are often permanent, carry out repetitive work and have a defined remit:

  • Cross-functional executive teams exist at director level to pool high levels of expertise;
  • Cross-functional teams at all levels pool their knowledge to solve problems and run projects,
  • Business teams at all levels of an organization, place people with similar expertise in long term to oversee specific projects;
  • Formal support teams provide internal experts administration backup in their own fields.

- Informal Teams

Casual groupings of people come together to work on an informal basis throughout all organizations. Informal teams can be formed on an adhoc basis to deal with many needs:

  • Temporary project teams stay together for the duration of a specific task;
  • Change teams discuss strategy or troubleshoot when a particular, one-off problem occurs;
  • 'Hot groups' brainstorm creative projects while retaining autonomy and spontaneity;
  • Temporary task forces deal informally with specific short-team tasks and issues.

The more formal the team, the more disciplined its leadership tends to be company rules and procedures have to be followed, reports to be made, progress to be noted and results to be obtained on a regular basis. By the same token, informal teams follow informal procedures. Ideas and solutions to problems can be generated on a more causal basis and procedures are less stringent. However, it is important to remember that team leadership always has to be results-oriented, whether in a formal or informal team. For example, the temporary, casual nature of a 'hot group' brainstorming a project should be an excuse to do way with team discipline altogether.

- Problem-solving Teams
The problem-solving teams are concerned with ways of improving quality, efficiency and work environment. They consist of members from the same department. The teams meets for a few hours each week and solve the problems that are emerging in the organization.

Quality circle presents an example of such team. It is concerned with solving problems related to quality, efficiency and safety at work place. Problem solving teams share ideas and offer suggestions. However, they lack authority to make and implement decisions.

- Cross-functional Teams

The cross-functional teams or project management team are made up of employees from different working areas. They come together to accomplish a specific project. The membership cuts across departments and functions. Members are experts in various specialties.

Project, committee and task force are example of cross-functional teams.

Cross functional teams are effective to: 
  • manage complex projects 
  • exchange information 
  • develop new ideas and solve problems
  • solve problems 

However, these teams take time to build trust and team work. Members need to learn to work with diversity and complexity. Effectiveness of cross-functional team depends on: 

  • Establishment of clear and specific goals and constraints. 
  • Careful selection and development of members. 
  • Equity in rewarding efforts of members. 

- Virtual Teams

Virtual teams use information technology and computers to tie together physically dispersed members in order to achieve a common goal. Members collaborate on-line through communication links such as: 

  • Wide Area Networks (WAN)
  • Video conferencing 
  • E-mail, Voice-mail etc. 

Virtual teams lack fact-to-face communication. They have limited social interaction. But they overcome time and space constraints. They allow people to work together who are miles apart.

Types of Team to Certain Tasks
Types of Team
Tasks and Characteristics
Executive Team
A cross functional group headed by chief executive. Member's chosen by role for example, finance director.
-          Manages organization or divisional operation on day-to-day basis. Meets regularly with agenda and minutes.

-          Depends on information from lower levels. If badly controlled, can be forum for personality battles.
Cross-Functional Team
A multi-disciplinary, inter-departmental team found at any level in an organization.
-          Removes obstacles to exchange of ideas in a variety of specific tasks for example, a new product launch.
-          Team members bring their different areas of expertise and skill to a problem or task.
Business Team
-          Runs a unit and optimizes its results.
-          Depends on the leader who may change too often for the group to settle into optimal team-working. Usually subject to fairly close supervision.
Formal Support Team
A team providing support and services, such as finance information systems, administration, and staffing.
-          Carries heavy load of routine work, such as the postal system, whose efficiency is indispensable for success.
-          Depends on processes, offering scope for raising productivity by teamwork.
Project Team
A team selected and kept together for the duration of a project such as the construction of a new facility.
-          Requires a large number of sub-groups, sub-tasks and detailed planning, plus tight discipline.
-          Depends on close understanding among members and well organized work practices.
Change Team
A group of experts briefed to achieve change. Value depends on collective ability. Sometimes starts off-campus.
-          Influences corporate cultures to achieve radical improvement in results by applying new methods.
-          Led by believers in change with a high level of dedication to their organization.
Temporary Task Force
A short-term body set up to study or solve a specific problem or issue and report back to management.
-          Establishes new IT systems, removes production bottlenecks, or involves itself in similar tasks, usually working under intense time pressure.
-          Uses informal processes and generates alternatives.

Identifying the Key Roles within Teams
Team Roles
Team Leader
Finds new team members and develops the team working spirit.
-          Excellent judge of the talents and personalities of individual within the team.
-          Expert or at finding ways of overcoming weakness.
-          It is a first class two way communicator.
-          Good at inspiring and sustaining enthusiasm.
Guardian and analyst of the team's long term effectiveness.
-          Never satisfied with less than the best solution.
-          Expert at analyzing solutions to find the possible weaknesses within them.
-          Merciless in insisting that faults be corrected
-          Constructive in pointing way to possible remedies.
Ensures the momentum and smooth running of the team actions.
-          A born time table who thinks methodically.
-          Anticipates threatening delays in schedule  in time for them to be prevented.
-          Has a 'can-do' mentality and loves to fix things.
-          Able to rally support and overcome defeatism.
Puts together the work of the team as a whole into a cohesive plan.
-          Understands how difficult tasks inter-relate.
-          Has a strong sense of priorities.
-          Has a mind able to grasp several things at once.
-          Good at maintaining internal contacts.
-          Skilled at heading off potential trouble.
Ideas Person
Sustains and encourages the team's innovative vitality and energy.
-          Enthusiastic and lively, with a zest for new ideas.
-          Eager for and receptive to the ideas of others.
-          Sees problems as opportunities for successful innovation rather than as disasters.
-          Never at a loss for a hopeful suggestion.
Ensures that high standards are sought and maintained.
-          Strict and sometimes even pedantic in enforcing rigorous standards within the team.
-          Good judge of the performance of other people.
-          Unhesitating in bringing problems on the surface.
-          Able to praise as well as to find fault.
Source: Heller, R. (2008), Managing Team, A Dorling Kindersley Book

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