teamwork 4953

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Michael A. West

Teams are a particular form of work group.
They are groups of people who share responsi
bility for producing products or delivering ser
vices. They share overall work objectives and
ideally have the necessary authority, autonomy,
and resources to achieve these objectives. Team
members are dependent on each other to achieve
the objectives and therefore have to work clo
sely, interdependently, and supportively to
achieve the teams goals. Members have distinct
and clear roles. Effective teams have as few
members as necessary to perform the task and
are ideally no larger than six to eight members.
And the team is recognized by others in the
organization as a team. The team rather than
the individual is increasingly considered the
basic building block of organizations and team
based working the modus operandi of organiza
tions (West et al. 2003).
There are multiple types of teams in organiza
tions: advice and involvement teams, e.g., man
agement decision making committees, quality
control (QC) circles, staff involvement teams;
production and service teams, e.g., assembly
teams; maintenance, construction, mining, and
commercial airline teams; departmental teams;
sales and health care teams; project and develop
ment teams, e.g., research teams, new product
development teams, software development
teams; action and negotiation teams, e.g., mili
tary combat units, surgical teams, and trade
union negotiating teams.
Why work in teams? In many areas of endea
vor, research has shown how team working can
lead to greater efficiency or effectiveness. An
analysis of the combined results of 131 studies
of organizational change found that interven
tions with the largest effects upon financial per
formance were team development interventions
or the creation of autonomous work teams (Macy
& Izumi 1993). Applebaum and Batt (1994)
reviewed 12 large scale surveys and 185 case
studies of managerial practices. They concluded
that team based working led to improvements in
organizational performance on measures of both
efficiency and quality. Similarly, Cotton (1993)
reports on studies examining the effects of team
working on productivity, satisfaction, and absen
teeism. The author reviews 57 studies that report
improvements on productivity, seven that found
no change, and five that report productivity
declines, following the implementation of self
directed teams. Finally, studies in health care
have repeatedly shown that better patient care
is provided when health professionals work
together in multidisciplinary teams.


The source of the stream of research on
teams can be traced to the Hawthorne studies
which established the importance of intergroup
relations in organizations, the influences of
teams on their members, and the importance