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Manager’s Preference for Teamwork, Essay Example

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Introduction

In modern times there has been a strong preference by Managers to have their workers working in teams.  The concept of group dynamics is a powerful argument as it creates improved harmony amongst the workers and encourages both creativity and generation of ideas. The success of teamwork in Japanese management models has influenced many of the leading international business schools and international business corporations.  Psychologists have long argued the power of group dynamics and the need for motivation at work.  In particular the work of such people like Kotter, Herzberg and Maslow.  (Maslow, 1943).

The concept of team work also enhances organizational development and activity and provides a more integrated workforce that is more in tune with the strategic objectives of the business.  The recent concept of ‘Balanced Scorecards’ and group dynamics provides a more in depth holistic approach to organizational dynamics in meeting the goals and objectives of the business. This has been integrated to concepts of performance related remuneration and meeting business objectives.  (Kesler, 1992).

The paper addresses the issue of why Managers prefer teamwork and asks the question of whether teamwork delivers all of the outcomes that the Managers envisage?

Group Dynamics and Teamwork

It has been argued that teamwork should be resisted because it stifles the contribution of the individual and does not facilitate freedom of expression.  Equally, the decision making process is weakened by consensus decision making and lacks the power of decisive, clear and authoritative leadership.  This was the old philosophy in management and put forward by people like Morrissey in ‘Management by objectives’.  The resistance to teamwork is primarily due to a change in thinking and leadership style.  Conflict however can be overcome by education and persuasion of the benefits in the team approach. (Kirkman, 2000).

Case Study :  Corelogic Software Implementation

As a member of a team that placed the ‘Corelogic’ social care system for a Scottish Local Authority.  This was a small team of five people which comprised a number of subject matter experts, mainly on the IT technology side and two members that were social care workers representing the business user side of the team.  The team also had a number of other key business interfaces that included the Police, Emergency Services, and the regional Nurses and Doctors from the local Hospital. The objective of the team was to place an IT business solution that would use IBM Hardware and Oracle Relational Database Technology (RDBMS). This system would provide the means of providing the Authority and its important interfaces with a flexible reporting and management system. It would become a holistic business solution that would service the local Authority, the Social Workers and the medical support services.  (Franz, 2012)

Proper leadership would be vital if this project was to succeed. A transformational leadership style was required in order to harness the group dynamics of the team.  A Transformational leader and identified by the characteristics of a person with vision, a strong sense of purpose and very goal oriented. He believes that people will follow those who inspire them.  Hence, goal attainment is by inspiring your subordinates motivating them by enthusiasm and energy.  Working for these types of leaders can be a great experience as they derive a great deal of passion about their work and genuinely want you to succeed.  Such leaders start with a clear identification of a vision.  Leaders of this type are quick to exploit the vision by sharing it with their team. Such leaders are often seen to be using mind mapping or brainstorming sessions with their subordinates.  They believe in inclusivity and the power of team dynamics. They believe in structured approaches to Problem Solving and Decision Making and often follow a Kepner Tregoe Management style.   (Charles Higgins Kepner, 1997)

With a transaction leader at the head of the team, you are much more likely to see an organization driven by strategic thinking and objectives. The sense of developing a vision and purpose that all employees could buy into and they are rewarded for their part in achieving the strategic vision.  In modern society, those firms driven by a robust strategy and with a fully participative management and employee staff are highly likely to succeed not only in the short term but also into the future as they have a means of navigating to the required destination. (C.Handy, 1999).

Co-Operative Learning in the Team

The team worked within a co-operative learning environment.  This concept of group learning has been successfully deployed within a teaching environment, hence helping student with varying learning abilities.  The main advantage is that the students not only focus on the lesson being taught but are tasked with helping others who are having difficulties. This creates both teamwork and a collaborative work environment that fosters improved learning in a non-threatening environment. This form of teaching has become known in psychological terms as positive reinforcement.  In this environment there are no individual winners and the group fail or succeed together. This means the team have to work creatively together supporting one another in order to achieve the team’s objectives. (Agarwal, 2011)

Within our team, the subject matter experts were responsible for teaching other important technical aspects of the system.  The social workers responded by integrating their business knowledge and user interface knowledge into the systems development process. This vital interaction in the group dynamics was highly instrumental in the creation of a cohesive team.  (J.P. Meyer, 2004)

Teamwork Promotes Understanding of the Business

In order for the group to work as an effective team, it was vital to understand the business user requirements i.e. how the social work business functioned at the sharp end.  Social work is best defined as being an activity performed by committed people, volunteer groups who assist those people in society that  are vulnerable or in need of assistance. The work comprises professional people who are skilled and trained in the application of counselling, social psychology and basic nursing skills.  The work may be carried out with individuals, groups or communities of people. The work is involved with dealing with the interactions of people and those institutions of society that have a direct relationship with how people conduct their lives. Social work may therefore be said to contain three specific purposes:

  • Empowers the problem solving and development capacity of individuals
  • Create effective humane and operational systems
  • To create a bridge that links people with resources and services.

Social Care is important because it impacts the service delivery of healthcare throughout the life span of an individual.  People most vulnerable are those Senior Citizens who are on low income profiles, have health related issues, mobility issues or are living alone after the loss of a partner and suffering with trying to cope.  It may also be beneficial to low income groups and single mothers who are struggling to raise their children alone. Social workers have a lifetime of history and practical experience working with disadvantaged communities.  Social workers also assist in helping the mentally ill but this is a complex aspect of their work and will be dealt with later. (Sinclair, 1986).

Forming a Group or Team Process

In the forming stage the individual relations of the group are characterised.  In the first instance the group looks towards safe behaviour patterns and the determination of a group leader thast will both guide and direct them. The group start learning about the strengths and weaknesses of other individuals within the group and start to define preferences for those team members they feel comfortable working with in sub groups. The emphasis is building a safe working environment where they will be accepted and know the group is safe.  The early objectives are based upon keeping everything relatively simple and avoidance of controversy. (R.M. Steers, 2004)

The group also becomes concerned with the concept of orientation. This examines task allocation and how well the group interacts and works with one another. This often centred around defining scope of the work and identification of boundaries. In order to move into Stage 2 ‘Storming’  the team has to let go of the ‘non-threatening’ environment and be prepared to deal with issues of conflict (Tuckman, 1965)

Leadership and Teamwork

There exists a plethora of literature on communication, teamwork and leadership.  Despite ample research in these fields, Verma’s work makes it clear that an exact definition of  project leadership  is elusive.  He discusses amplitude of essential leadership qualities required by a manager. First, though, it is important to note that Verma makes a distinction between  managers and leaders, and that just because one is a manager, doesn’t necessarily mean they are a leader. (Verma, 1993)

Verma suggests that the aforementioned traits are an innate part of a one’s personality.  For those who do not possess these skills, there is no reason to believe that they will not make an effective manager. The aforementioned traits can all be developed through proper training. Training is, in fact, an essential element to success as a project manager, as there are other skills that Verma suggests a manager must learn in order to be effective. These are: conceptual, social, diplomacy, communication, and organizational/administrative skills. (Verma, 1993)

Based on the above-mentioned traits, Verma describes other methods of looking at essential leadership qualities. These qualities can be viewed as behavioral and not related to traits, for example tasks and relationships involving team member support, contingent/situational characteristics of a leader and the team members, combined with the team structure, attribution, and charisma, creating a common vision, opportunity creation, and promotion of team-members’ desire for self-direction. (Sinclair, 1993)

Verma uses the acronym LEAD to summarize four key attributes a manager should possess: Listen, Encourage, Act, and Deliver. Building on his high level overview, we have taken the principles of leadership that correlate to each trait and put in parenthesis whether the leader’s behaviour is task oriented (TO) or relationship oriented (RO) or both.

Listen to your project team and the client (build trust among stakeholders)

  • Have a vision and the courage and commitment to make it a reality (TO)
  • Know yourself; seek self-improvement (TO)
  • Know your people and look after them (RO)
  • Communicate effectively, keep people informed (RO)
  • Listen effectively; encourage new ideas (RO)

Encourage the heart of team members (motivate individual members of the team)

  • Encourage teamwork and participation (RO)
  • Empower team members (RO)
  • Give positive feedback and recognition (RO)
  • Match skills with resources (TO / RO)

Act as a real team (inspire team for high performance)

  • Seek responsibility and accept accountability (RO / TO)

Deliver the deliverables (with emphasis on quality)

  • Develop technical proficiency (TO)
  • Make sound, timely decisions (TO)
  • Emphasize long-term productivity (TO)

These fundamental leadership attributes, principles and behaviours provide a rudimentary baseline to compare the various theories and models of leadership explored by Verma such as: the contingency model (Fielder); the situational leadership model (Hersey and Blanchard); the path-goal model (House); and the leadership model (Vroom and Jago).  An in-depth analysis of leadership characteristics, theories and models could assist a manager to identify their own leadership preferences and gaps within context of determining how to achieve project success. (Legge, 2001).

Conclusion

Democratic leadership styles have helped Managers to achieve their objectives by creating an environment of inclusivity and teamwork. This type of management style provides for delegation of responsibility by assigning the staff team to complete specific tasks. The team may use their own approach and methods but are expected to complete the assignments on time, within cope and budget.

This approach makes the staff more motivated because they have an active participation in the decision making process. The Manager remains accountable  for the task but provides the staff with more freedom in the execution of their duties in the task assignment. (Bernard M. Bass, 2008).

Other Models like Laissez Faire have been more flexible but encourage group thinking.  Here the Manager takes a more relaxed approach in assigning the job to the staff and simply let them get on with it. There is little direct involvement and the manager acts more in the capacity of a mentor in guidance of the task accomplishment.

This approach encourages the staff to both more creative and innovative and to take on responsibility for the job providing added motivation. A good example being where A manager directs subordinate team of project managers. It is more appropriate in this context than with junior members of staff who might feel abandoned. (Dionne, 1997).

Works Cited

Agarwal, R., 2011. Cooperative Learning. 1st ed. New Delhi: Kalpaz Publications.

Bernard M. Bass, R. B., 2008. The Bass Handbook of Leadership: Theory, Research, and Managerial Applications. 4th ed. New York: Free Press.

C.Handy, 1999. On the motiovation to work, in undertstanding organizations. 4 ed. London: Penguin.

Charles Higgins Kepner, B. B. T., 1997. The new rational manager:. 3rd ed. Princeton NJ: Princeton Research Press.

Dionne, J. J. S. a. S. D., 1997. Leadership styles and Deming’s behavior factors. Journal of Business and Psychology, 11(4), pp. 447-462.

Franz, T., 2012. Group Dynamics and Team Interventions: Understanding and Improving Team. 1st ed. Chichester, West Sussex UK: Wiley / Blackwell.

J.P. Meyer, T. B. C. V., 2004. Employer commitment and motivation: A conceptual analysis and integrative model. Journal of applied psychology, 89(6).

Kesler, J. a., 1992. Performance related psy: objectives and application. Human Resource Management, 2(3).

Kirkman, B., 2000. Why do employers resist teams? Examining the resistance barrier to work effectiveness. International Journal of conflict management, 11(1).

Legge, K., 2001. Human Resurce Management : A critical text. 2nd ed. London: Thomson Learning.

Maslow, 1943. A theory of human motivation. Psychological Review , 50(1).

R.M. Steers, R. M. D. S., 2004. The future of work motivation theory. Acadamy of Management Review, 29(3).

Sinclair, 1986. Organizational psychology and the pursuit of the happy produtive worker. California Management Review, 28(4), pp. 40-53.

Sinclair, 1993. The tyranny of team ideology. Organizational Studies, 13(4).

Tuckman, B., 1965. Developmental Sequence in Small Groups. Psychological Bulletinf (63), pp. 384-399.

Verma, V., 1993. Managing the Project Team. 3 ed. New York: Project Management Institute (PMI).

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