When Teams Aren’t Important Or Desirable
Teams aren’t always the best or most efficient way to get work done
Sometimes Teams Are Counter-Productive
On the surface of it, it would appear that effective teams are always good, and that it is always worthwhile to invest in team-building activities. That worries me. So far I have found nothing that works as a panacea for the ills of everything, particularly in the area of organization improvement. We know that teams don’t always make the workplace better, in terms of work climate or productivity. The North American effort to transplant Japanese Quality Circles has taught us that at least some team-building efforts can result in chaos and negative outcomes.
So that we don’t become blindly enamored with the notion of teams we need to look at whether there are situations where a team-based workplace may not be effective, and where investment in team-building activities may be a wasted investment.
Teams Exist In a Context
When organization improvement efforts “go wrong”, it is often because implementors forget that anything that occurs in an organization exists within an organizational system, or context. When we forget this, and don’t consider related parts of the system, we get into trouble.
Teams work within an organizational context that will either support teamwork or discourage it. In some cases, other factors in an organization will totally preclude effective teamwork, and can suggest that a team-based workplace is inappropriate.
Let’s take a look at these factors.
Some of the most bizarre things I have seen in organizations occur when autocratic managers or executives decide to force people to work in participatory teams. As often as not this occurs when the executive latches on to an idea or fad without a full understanding of its implications at all levels of the organization. In this situation, teamwork becomes something that is done TO…