Contemporary issues in managing teams



One of the central characteristics of total quality management (TQM) is the use of teams. But why are teams an essential part of TQM?

The essence of TQM is process improvement, and employee involvement is the linchpin of process improvement .In other words, TQM requires management to give employees the encouragement to share ideas and act on what they suggest. As one author put it, None of the various TQM processes and techniques will catch on and be applied except in work teams. All such techniques and processes require high levels of communication and contact, response and adaptation ,and coordination and sequencing. They require ,in short, the environment that can be supplied only by superior work teams.

Ford began its TQM efforts in the early 1980s with teams as the primary organizing mechanism. Because this business is so complex ,you can’t make an impact on it without a team approach, noted one ford manager. In designing its quality problem-solving teams, Ford’s management identified five goals. The teams should

1. Be small enough to be efficient and effective.
2. Be properly trained in the skills their members will need.
3. Be allocated enough time to work on the problems they plan to address.
4. Be given the authority to resolve the problems and implement corrective action.
5. Each have a designated champion whose job it is to help the team get around roadblocks that arise.

At Amana ,cross-functional task forces made up of people from different levels within the company are used to deal with quality problems that cut across departmental lines .The various task forces Each have a unique area of problem-solving responsibility. For instance ,one handles in-plant products, another deals with items that arise outside the production facility, and still another focuses its attention specifically on supplier problems. Amana claims the use of these teams has improved vertical and horizontal communication within the company and substantially reduced both the number of units that don’t meet company specifications and the number of service problems in the field


Managing diversity on teams is a balancing act .Diversity typically provides fresh perspectives on issues ,but it makes it more difficult to unify the team and reach agreements.

The strongest case for diversity on work teams is when these teams are engaged in problem-solving and decision-making tasks. Heterogeneous teams bring multiple perspectives to the discussion, thus increasing the likelihood that the team will identify creative or unique solutions. Additionally ,the lack of a common perspective usually means diverse teams spend more time discussing issues, which decreases the chances that a weak alternative will be chosen .However ,keep in mind that the positive contribution that diversity makes to decision-making teams undoubtedly declines over time. Diverse groups have more difficulty working together and solving problems ,but this dissipates with time. Expect the value-added component of diverse teams to decrease as members become more familiar with each other and the team becomes more cohesive.

Studies tell us that members of cohesive teams have greater satisfaction ,lower absenteeism, and lower attrition from the group. Yet cohesiveness is likely to be lower on diverse teams .So here is a potential negative of diversity. It is detrimental to group cohesiveness.

The relationship between cohesiveness and group productivity was moderated by performance –related norms .we suggest that if the norms of the team are supportive of diversity, then a team can maximize the value of heterogeneity while, at the same time, achieving the benefits of high cohesiveness .This makes a strong case for team members to participate in diversity training.


Mature teams are particularly prone to suffer from groupthink .Members begin to believe they can read everyone’s mind so they know what everyone is thinking. As a result, team members become reluctant to express their thoughts and less likely to challenge each other.

Another source of problem for mature teams is that their early success are often due to having taken on easy tasks. It’s normal for new teams to begin by taking on those issues and problems that they can handle most easily. But as time passes, the easy problems become solved and the team has to begin to confront more difficult issues. At this point ,the team has typically developed entrenched processes and routines, and members are reluctant to change the perfect system they’ve already worked out. The results can often be disasterous .Internal team processes no longer work smoothly. Communication bogs down .Conflicts increase because problems are less likely to have obvious solutions. And team performance can drop dramatically.

What can be done to reinvigorate mature teams? We offer four suggestion :

1. Prepare members to deal with the problems of maturity .Remind team members that they’re not unique—all successful teams have to confront maturity issues. They shouldn’t feel let down or lose their confidence in the team concept when the initial euphoria subsides and conflicts surface.
2. Offer refresher training. When teams get into ruts, it may help to provide them with refresher training in communication, conflict resolution, team processes, and similar skills. This can help members regain confidence and trust in one another.
3. Offer advanced training. the skills that worked with easy problems may be insufficient for more difficult ones. So mature teams can often benefit from advanced training to help members develop stronger problem-solving, interpersonal and technical skills.
4. Encourage teams to treat their development as a constant learning experience .Like TQM, teams should approach their own development as part of a search for continuous improvement. Teams should look for ways to improve, to confront member fears and frustrations ,and to use conflict as a learning opportunity.

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