Emerging Trends in Groupwork and Teamwork

Work teams are similar to task-oriented work groups. Generally made up of people with complementary skills, work teams are often successful in performing complex tasks that an individual could not do alone. Work teams are particularly helpful when knowledge, talent, skills, and abilities that are needed to do a particular job are scattered across the organization.

Newspapers, professional journals, and companies have long stressed the importance of effective teamwork. In recent years, organizations have been employing teams in the context of total quality environment, a philosophy driven by such objectives as doing everything right the first time, making continuous improvements, and putting the customer first. A current trend in human resource management is the empowerment of employee work teams. Table 4-3 compares the modern teamwork approach with the work environment of the past.

Table 4-3
Organizations and Their Employees: Then and Now.
Then Now
Employees were expected to follow orders and rules. Employees are encouraged to show initiative.
Employee alienation was not considered problematical. Employees are given maximum empowerment.
Teams were established by management. Teams are based on consensus.
Work groups followed directives. Work groups establish their own procedures.
Dissenting opinions were suppressed. Constructive criticism is welcomed.
Personnel resources were exploited. Human resources are valued and optimized.
Management was autocratic. Management is increasingly democratic.
Organizational structure was tall and hierarchical. Organizational structure is flatter.
Personal needs were ignored. Personal growth and development are encouraged.