The Four Essential Elements of Teams

In this age of rapidly changing technology, market-driven decision making, customer sophistication, and employee restlessness, leaders and managers are faced with new challenges. Organizations must build new structures and master new skills in order to compete and survive.
As work settings become more complex and involve increased numbers of interpersonal interactions, individual effort has less impact. In order to increase efficiency and effectiveness, a group effort is required. The creation of teams has become a key strategy in many organizations. Team building is an essential element in supporting and improving the effectiveness of small groups and task forces and must be a key part of a total program of organizational change.
Hellriegel, Slocum, & Woodman (1986) state that team building is used to improve the effectiveness of work groups by focusing on any of the following four purposes: setting goals and priorities, deciding on means an methods, examining the way in which the group works, and exploring the quality of working relationships. A cycle then develops; it begins with the awareness or perception of a problem and is followed sequentially by data collection, data sharing diagnosis, action planning, action implementation, and behavioral evaluation. This style is repeated as new problems are identified.

Not all work groups are teams. Reilly and Jones (1974) list four essential elements of teams: goals, interdependence, commitment, and accountability. The members must have mutual goals or a reason to work together; there must be an interdependent working relationship; individuals must be committed to the group effort; and the group must be accountable to a higher level within the organization. A good example is an athletic team, whose members share goals and an overall purpose. Individual players have specific assignments they are responsible for, but each depends on the other team members to complete their assignments. Lack of commitment to the team effort reduces overall effectiveness. Finally, the team usually operates within the framework of a higher organization such a league.
The overall objective of a work team is to exercise control over organizational change (functionally, this involves increased decision-making and problem-solving efforts), although a side effect may be to increase the productivity of individual members. A primary objective of team building is to increase awareness of group process. In essence, the group members will learn how to control change externally by experimenting internally. The team-building effort will concentrate on barriers to effective functioning and the selection of strategies to overcome these barriers.
Organizational failures often are not a result of poor leadership but of poor followership. Few training programs teach how to be an effective member of a democratic group. A team member is one of a group of mutual followers. Observation of individuals functioning within teams leads to the following list of characteristics of an effect team member. Such a person:
Understands and is committed to group goals;
Is friendly, concerned, and interested in others;
Acknowledges and confronts conflict openly;
Listens to others with understanding;
Includes others in the decision-making process;
Recognizes and respects individual differences;
Contributes ideas and solutions;
Values the ideas and contributions of others;
Recognizes and rewards team efforts; and
Encourages and appreciates comments about team performance.
These characteristics are in sequential pattern, alternating task and relationship behaviors. This pattern of behaviors is the starting point for the development of effective team building.
Team Building is a planned change intervention that focuses on the dynamics of a team”s functioning. The purpose of team building is to improve the team”s capacity to adapt, allow members to function at their most productive resourceful levels, and to achieve the teams goals. In developing teams there are four different stages that must be fully accomplished in order to reach its mission through achieving higher quality in the workplace. These stages in sequence are: Forming, Storming, Norming, and Performing. The first three stages of team development must be completed in order to achieve stage four. In each stage there are distinct behaviors, feelings and questions which team members can experience.
In stage one, Forming, personal relations are peculiar by strength. Team members depend on considerate and imitated behavior and look to the team leader for standpoint and guidance. The conjoint or mutual feelings that are used in forming are:
Excitement, expectancy, and uniformed optimism.
Happy to be selected as being part of the team.
Showing conditional attachment to the team.
Having doubts, concerns and uncertainty about the job or the task ahead.
The team members also have questions and remarks that they expect to be answered by team developers, they are:
“Who are all these people?”
“Everyone is being so polite.”
“This might be kind of exciting.”
An effective and efficient behavior is expected from the team leader. A leader should answer all the questions the team members have. A leader should also guide them through each step and verify the expected need of each member. A team will be formed efficiently. All of the teams ideas and goals will have a positive effect in the organization.
The second stage, Norming, is characterized by cohesion within the team. Team members recognize each other”s positions and benefits and are willing to change their preconceived ideas to achieve common consent. The common feelings that are used in Norming are:
Team members have the ability to communicate without being afraid of retaliation.
Team members accept their membership to the team.
Feeling comfort that certain things will go the way they were planned.
Team members are friendlier and they share more revealing feelings with each other.
The questions and comments that are stated in Norming are:
“How are we going to get along with each other?”
“What are the rules of membership?”
“Seems like we are all on the same track finally.”
“We seem to be operating more unified, and we try to avoid conflict, when possible.”
In Norming, the team members finally put the fear of failure behind them. They are willing to work out any conflict that may occur. Positive and negative feedback becomes more accepting within the team. As feedback increase, members have a better understanding of where they stand and become more involved in decision making.

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