vi) Manager's Role in Team's Effectiveness


Evidence suggests that certain organisational conditions need to be in place for teams to have a real chance of being effective. These conditions are linked with structural and contextual features. Creating the conditions for team effectiveness requires that managers know some things and know how to do some things.

What managers need to know

. Handle teams carefully. They are fragile entities that need sensitive approaches. To contribute to a team, people have to want to contribute. The job of a team manager is to encourage team members to want to contribute

. Assume that people want to make things work. In assembling the team, use people who will want to contribute and who want the team to succeed. Remember: a team will not turn conscripts into volunteers or egomaniacs into team players. Select the best people for the team task and trust them to do the right thing

. When things go wrong, fix problems rather than blame people. Focus on how the problem was caused and fix the cause, ie find out what went wrong and then try to fix it. By increasing the focus on causes and not blaming anybody, the team will be encouraged to help to find the causes. This approach will increase open communications

. Focus on behaviours, not perceived attitudes. Deal with behaviour and don't make assumptions about why the behaviour occurred, ie deal with the actual behaviour and not the person

. Focus on outcome and on the process. Ideally involve the team in setting the outcomes, as they will have ownership. Then focus on the processes that the team will use to achieve the outcomes

. Pick the problem that suits the team approach. Some problems are better solved by individuals rather than teams. Some criteria for judging whether a problem is suitable for a team approach are

- task is complex

- creativity is needed to tackle the task

- the way forward in tackling the task is unclear

- a team approach seems an efficient way to tackle the task, because, for example, the task requires many different perspectives

- fast learning is needed to tackle the task

- a high level of commitment is required

- implementation requires the involvement of many

- the task requires cross-functional input

. Teach people how to solve problems. Train people in the appropriate tools and approaches to solving problems so that they have ownership of the problems and then the solution is a lot easier to identify

. Be clear about purpose, roles, boundaries and resources. Need to check that the members are clear about that purpose; understand their roles; understand the constraints and boundaries within which they must do their work; ensure that there is complete clarity about the resources the team needs and can draw on

. Teams are a mechanism for getting a result, not an end in themselves. Teams are never the end; they are always a means, ie just a tool that can be used to deal with certain tasks. It is not the answer to every situation and problem. Need to use teams judiciously and not indiscriminately; be highly selective in using teams as a tool.

(source: Harry Onsman, 2004d)


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