One of the benefits of the work teams is the great variety of ideas, especially when team members come from diverse cultural backgrounds. This is especially beneficial in current times as globalization has increased international trade and companies are increasingly pursuing growth opportunities abroad. Work teams do not only generate more ideas than what an individual may by himself/herself but also develop more effective solutions by looking at issues and challenges from various angles (Kokemuller). At Apple, groups often meet offsite to share ideas and even Steve Jobs was known to convene weekly meetings with his executives to discuss ideas (Milian, 2011). Similarly, sometimes a challenge facing the organization may be more complex and require greater effort than what an individual may be capable of.
Work teams are capable of tackling more complex issues because the team members may come from different professional backgrounds and could share the work according to their strengths and capabilities. Team members may also encourage each other to think outside the box and consider perspectives individual members might never have thought of. Zappos claims that some of the best ideas in the company’s history have come from informal group meetings (Zappos). Work teams also help improve working relationships among the employees and, thus, the overall productivity of the organization. Work teams also help individual members improve soft skills such as communication, leadership, and problem solving skills that are increasingly important in the business world and significantly improve one’s career prospects.
Despite several benefits of work teams, there are also certain disadvantages that may arise in a team environment. Teams usually take longer to make decisions which might not be the ideal situation when decisions have to be made faster and quick responses are required to counter competitors’ actions. Teams sometimes engage in groupthink which may result in poor quality rather than better quality decisions (Janis). A good example of groupthink comes from ex President George Bush’s Administration which went to war with Iraq despite inconclusive evidence regarding Iraq’s nuclear weapons because no one within the administration wanted to challenge the dominant opinion. Teams’ performance may also be negatively affected due to power politics if one or few individuals try to dominate the group. For teams to perform well there should be trust and shared responsibility. If some team members do not adequately fulfill their responsibilities, it may negatively affect the morale of other members especially when the performance incentive may be based on overall group performance and not individual performance. Teams may also perform poorly if there is inadequate communication and individual members may be working towards different objectives. Successfully managing teams becomes an even more complex task when team members comes from different cultural backgrounds and, thus, may have different values, communication and work styles.
Work teams reduce the need for managers because team members are able to learn many valuable skills often associated with managers such as communication, conflict management, and problem solving skills and, thus, can self-direct and take responsibility for results. In addition, sometimes leaders emerge within teams who ensure that all members understand their roles and work towards the same objectives. Similarly, teams are often composed of individuals who are self-starters and require little or no guidance and management.
Janis, I. (n.d.). Groupthink. Retrieved January 15, 2013, from http://oregonstate.edu/instruct/theory/grpthink.html
Kokemuller, N. (n.d.). The Advantages & Disadvantages of Teams in the Workplace. Retrieved January 15, 2013, from http://smallbusiness.chron.com/advantages-disadvantages-teams-workplace-21669.html
Milian, M. (2011, August 25). Why Apple is more than just Steve Jobs. Retrieved January 15, 2013, from http://www.cnn.com/2011/TECH/innovation/08/24/steve.jobs.team/index.html
Zappos. (n.d.). Build A Positive Team And Family Spirit. Retrieved January 15, 2013, from http://about.zappos.com/our-unique-culture/zappos-core-values/build-positive-team-and-family-spirit