Whether all jobs should be designed around groups



Groups, not individuals, are the ideal building block for an organization. There are at least six reasons for designing all jobs around groups.

First, small groups are good for people. They can satisfy social needs and they can provide support for employees in times of stress and crisis.

Second, groups are good problem-finding tools. They are better than individuals at promoting creativity and innovation.

Third, in a wide variety of decision situations, groups make better decisions than individuals do.

Fourth, groups are very effective tools for implementation
Groups gain commitment from their members so that group decisions are likely to be willingly and more successfully carried out.

Fifth, groups can control and discipline individual members in ways that are often extremely difficult through impersonal quasi-legal disciplinary systems. Group norms are powerful control devices.

Sixth, groups are a means by which large organizations can fend off many of the negative effects of increased size. Groups help to prevent communication lines from growing to long, the hierarchy from growing too steep, and the individual from getting lost in the crowd.

Given the above argument for the value of group-based job design, what would an organization look like that was truly designed around group functions? This might best be considered by merely taking the things that organizations do with individuals and applying them to groups. Instead of hiring individuals, they’d hire groups. Similarly, they’d train groups rather than individuals, pay groups rather than individuals, promote groups rather than individuals, fire groups rather than individuals, and so o-n.

The rapid growth of team-based organizations in recent years suggests we may well be on our way toward the day when almost all jobs are designed around groups.


Designing jobs around groups is consistent with socialistic doctrine. It might have worked well in the former Soviet Union or Eastern European countries . But Capitalistic countries like the United States, Canada, Australia, and the United Kingdom value the individual. Designing jobs around groups is inconsistent with the economic values of these countries. More over, as capitalism and entrepreneurship have spread throughout Eastern Europe, we should expect to see less emphasis on groups and more and more on the individual in workplace throughout the world. Let’s look at the United States to see how cultural and economic values shape employees attitude towards groups.

America was built on the ethic of the individual. Americans strongly value individual achievement. They praise competition. Even in team sports, they want to identify individuals for recognition. Americans enjoy being part of a group in which they can maintain a strong individual identity. They don’t enjoy sublimating their identity to that of the group.

The America worker likes a clear link between his or her individual effort and a visible outcome. It is not by chance that the United States, as a nation, has a considerably larger proportion of high achievers than exists in most of the world. America breeds achievers, and achievers seek personal responsibility. They would be frustrated in job situations in which their contribution is commingled and homogenized with the contributions of others.

Americans want to be hired, evaluated, and rewarded on their individual achievements. Americans believe in an authority and status hierarchy. They accept a system in which there are bosses and subordinates. They are not likely to accept a group’s decision on such issues as their job assignments and wage increases. It’s harder yet to imagine that they would be comfortable in a system in which the sole basis for their promotion or termination would be the performance of their group.

While teams have grown in popularity as a device for employers to organize people and tasks, we should expect resistance to any effort to treat individuals solely as members of a group— especially among workers raised in capitalistic economies.