Whether Jobs should be designed around groups

Groups, not individuals, are the ideal building blocks 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 in promoting creativity and innovation.

Third, in a wide variety of decision situations, groups make better decisions than individual 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 means by which large organizations can fend off many of the negative effects of increased size. Groups help to prevent communication lines from growing too long, the hierarchy from growing too steep, and the individual from getting lost in the crowd.

Given these arguments 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 would hire groups. Similarly, they would train groups rather than individuals, pay groups rather than individuals, and so on.

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

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. Moreover as capitalism and entrepreneurship have spread throughout Eastern Europe, we should expect to see less emphasis on groups and more on the individual in workplaces throughout the world. Looking at the United States we can see how cultural and economic values shape employee attitudes toward groups.

America was built on the ethic of the individuals. 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. When Americans are assigned to groups, all sorts of bad things happen, including conflict, groupthink, social loafing and deviant behavior.

The American worker likes a clear link between individual effort and a visible outcome. It is not by chance that the United States, as a nation, has considerably larger proportion of high achievers than that exist in most pf the world. America breeds achievers, and achievers seek personal responsibility. They would be frustrated in job situations in which their contribution is co-mingled and homogenized with the contributing 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 of their promotion or termination would be the performance of their group. So jobs need not be designed for groups but a suitable individual must be considered for a job needed in the organization.

Though 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 group especially among workers raised in capitalistic economies.

In practice with some exceptions if results and goals have to be achieved assigning responsibility to an individual seem to be more appropriate which is already seen in most countries of the world where their enterprise is growing and achieving success.