Formal and Informal Teams

Formal teams or groups are created deliberately by managers and charged with carrying out specific tasks to help the organization achieve its goals. The most prevalent type of formal group is the command team, which includes a manager and all employees who report to that manager. In some organizations that want to de-emphasize hierarchy, the titles may change. For instance, at NCR, the managers of command teams are called “coaches” and the team members are called associates.

Another type of formal team is the committee, which generally lasts a long time and deals with recurrent problems and decisions. For instance, your university or college probably has a committee for student affairs to deal with recurring issues that involve students’ lives. While members of this committee may come and go, the committee remains in place over time.

A quality circle is a kind of team. At Reynolds Metal Company’s McCook Sheet & Plate Plant, based in McCook, Illinios quality circles have been a significant component of a quality program that has dramatically improved productivity and quality since 1981. In a program called Cooperative Hourly and Management Problems Solving (CHAMPS), quality circle teams meet for an hour weekly to discuss work-related problems, investigate the causes, recommend solutions it makes a formal presentation to the plant management ad staff. Of the almost 475 solutions offered in the first four years of the program, almost 400 were approved. The total savings from the ideas has been eight times their cost a significant mount in a major manufacturing facility where cost control is very important. Over a three year period, McCook was able to double the pounds of aluminium per employee that it shipped and deliver more than 2,000 items to a specific customer without a single rejection.

Some formal teams are temporary. They may be called task forces or project teams. These teams are created to deal with a specific problem and are usually disbanded when the task is completed or the problem is solved. For instance, President Clinton formed a project team, headed by Hillary Rodham Clinton, to formulate a proposal or a national health care plan.

Informal teams or groups emerge whenever people come together and interact regularly. Such groups develop within the formal organizational structure. Members of informal teams tend to subordinate some of their individual needs to those of the team as a whole. In return, the team supports and protects the individual members. The activities of informal teams may further the interests of the organization – Saturday morning softball games, for example, may strengthen the player’s ties to each other. Or a women’s group may meet to discuss various actions that can make the organization a better place for women to work.

The following example is case in point. In 1990, female employees at the telephone giant, NYNEX Corporation formed mentoring circles to assist women in moving up the corporate advancement ladder. NYNEX women created these informal groups independently and outside management auspices. The groups encourage, recognize and strengthen the bonds of women at all levels of the company. The NYNEX employees turned to the group format because there was a shortage of female upper level managers to serve as mentors. However participants believe the group process is actually better than one-on-one mentoring. In the circles which have a minimum of eight participants and a maximum of twelve, the mentored women have an increased women have an increased exposure to different ideas and an increased network.

Functions of informal Groups: Informal groups serve four major functions. First, they maintain and strengthen the norms (expected behavior) and values their members hold in common. Second, they give members feelings of social satisfaction, status and security. In large corporations, where many people feel that their employers hardly know them, informal groups enable employees to share jokes and complaints, eat together and socialize after work. Informal groups thus satisfy the human needs for friendship, support and security.

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