Teams are groups of two or more people who interact and influence each other, are mutually accountable for achieving common objectives and perceive themselves as social entity within an organization. All teams exist to fulfil some purposes, such as assembling a product, providing a service, operating a submarine or making an important decision. Team members are held together by their interdependence and need for collaboration to achieve a common goal.
All teams require some form of communication so members can coordinate and share common objectives. Team members also influence each other, although some members are more influential than others regarding the team’s goals and activities.
All teams are groups because they consist of people with a unifying relationship. But not all groups are teams; some groups are just people assembled together. For example, employees who meet for lunch are rarely called teams because they have little or no task. Interdependence (each person called just as easily eat lunch alone) and no purpose beyond their social interaction.
Types of Teams and Other Groups in Organizations
There are many types of teams and other groups in organizations. Permanent work teams are responsible for a specific set of tasks in the organization. For instance, most departments are considered permanent teams because employers directly interact and coordinate work activity with each other. Increasingly, employers with different skills work together on work processes. Some hospitals have moved in this direction by forming surgical teams made up of nurses, radiologist, anaesthetists, pharmacologists, and others. These people previously worked in departments based on their speciality. Now they work together on a specific work process.
Some companies take this team focus much further by forming a team-based organization. Team-based organizations rely extensively on self-directed work teams (SDWTs) organized around work processes rather than specialized departments as core work units. These teams are fairly autonomous so there is less need for direct supervision or someone to report continuously to the executive team.
They are also cross-functional. This means that unlike traditional departments where employees have similar competencies (e.g. marketing, engineering), SDWTs rely on people with diverse and complementary skills, knowledge and experience.
Employees often belong to secondary teams that parallel their more permanent positions in the organization. Quality circles fall into this category. Quality circles are small teams of employees who meet for a few hours each week to identify quality, and productivity problems, propose solutions to management and monitor the implementation and consequences of these solutions in their work area. Quality circles are usually permanent, and typically include colleagues in the same work unit.
Along with permanent teams, organizations rely on temporary teams to make decisions or complete short-term projects. Companies bring together employees from various departments to design a product, solve a client’s problem or search for new opportunities. Task force (also called ad hoc teams) are temporary teams that investigate a particular problem and disband when the decision is made.