The old paradigm or model of organizational structure was based on the assumptions of hierarchy – that top leadership knows all the answers and is in charge of the goals and work processes for the organization. The merging team paradigm, on the other hand, is constructed on new assumptions—that knowledge and therefore insight and answers are found throughout the organization in the abilities and know how of all organizational members when brought together in teams. In this model goals are mutually determined and work processes are built around teams of experts.
For example, to prepare for the twenty first century, CEO Jack Welch is trying to build a boundary less organization at GE. He is working to eliminate barriers within the business, such as those created by the functional groups most hierarchies are constructed around such as marketing, production, human resources, and engineering. To bring creativity, work processes and knowledge together, GE has introduced cross functional teams, project teams and partnerships. GE is also breaking down the barriers between the company and its environment by creating alliances with others and building teams with customers and suppliers.
With the organizational environment likely to remain unstable and turbulent the flexibility and adaptability created by teams is a significant advantage. In fact, Tom Peters and many others predict that teamwork will replace hierarchy as the dominant form of organization in the twenty first century. According to Fortune magazine, Peters Futurists such as Alvin Toffler and CEOs like Allied Signal’s Lawrence Bossidy all agree that “the demise of the old authoritarian hierarchies”, from the USSR to General Motors, is a global, historical phenomenon that none can evade. Like it or not, everyone who works for a living in helping create a new relationship between individual and corporation, and a new sense of employer and employee.
As envisioned by Peters, businesses of the future will be organized somewhat like a movie production company. Teams of specialists will come together for a specific project and then move on into other teams in the same or other organizations. Key to the success of this approach is the understanding that managers must share both power and responsibility with teams of people who were once disempowered by the rigid bureaucratic lines of authority.
The downsizing of many corporations, creating flatter organizations with fewer middle managers available to manage in the traditional hierarchical manner, has forced organizations to more fully empower organization members into the teams. The emphasis will be on people skills. Even those managers designated leaders will need to learn how to follow the team: A team is not like a pack of sledge dogs, with one dog as the leader. It is more like a flight of wild geese: The leader always changes, but they fly in a flock.
The team phenomenon is particularly suited to the era of information technology and globalization. Information highways and networks connect teams from all over the continent and the globe, facilitating the exchange of information and creative ideas. Global alliances create new opportunities to use multinational teams to develop cooperation and creative exchange. Global alliances will seem like “standard operating procedure” in the next century as multinational teams create new ventures for an exciting future.
Un-commonsense Findings About teams:
1. Companies with strong performance standards seem to spawn more “real teams” than companies that promote teams per se
2. High-performance teams are extremely rare.
3. Hierarchy and teams go together almost as well as teams and performance
4. Teams naturally integrate performance and learning.
5. Teams are the primary unit of performance for increasing members of organizations.