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Informal Organization & Effective Team Work -
April 14th, 2008
The informal organization is the interlocking social structure that governs how people work together in practice. It is the aggregate of behaviors, interactions, norms, personal and professional connections through which work gets done and relationships are built among people who share a common organizational affiliation or cluster of affiliations. It consists of a dynamic set of personal relationships, social networks communities of common interest, and emotional sources of motivation. The informal organization evolves organically and spontaneously in response to changes in the work environment, the flux of people through its porous boundaries, and the complex social dynamics of its members.
Tended effectively, the informal organization complements the more explicit structures, plans, and processes of the formal organization it can accelerate and enhance responses to unanticipated events, foster innovation, enable people to solve problems that require collaboration across boundaries, and create footpaths showing where the formal organization may someday need to pave a way.
An informal organization refers to all the channels of interaction that are not defined by the formal organizational structure. As opposed to the formal organization, the various relationships in an informal organization arise spontaneously as people interact with one another and discover common areas of interest. There are various differences between a formal and an informal organization. In a formal organization, the primary focus is on the official position, held by an individual while in an informal organization; it is on the relationships between people. Another significant difference between formal and informal organizations is that power in a formal organization is derived from the position held in the organization, while, in an informal organization, the personality of the individual .
According to J. L. Gray and F. A. Starke, formal and informal organizations also differ from each other on the parameters of organizational structure, position terminology, goals of the organization, basis of influence, control mechanisms, channels of communication, chartingofmember,relationships,andmixedcharacteris tics.
Members of an informal organization differ from one another in their experience, seniority, salary, educational or technical qualifications, personality, birthplace and the nature of their workplace. These characteristics not only differentiate the members of an informal organization, but also accord status to them. The informal leaders are chosen on the basis of the status ascribed to them by the other members of the informal organization. These leaders wield a considerable amount of personal power and can affect the productivity of the organization either positively or negatively.
Although it is not necessary for an informal organization to have only one informal leader, the person who exercises a greater degree of control over the other members of the informal organization is generally considered the primary leader. The management of an organization should identify these informal leaders and develop a good professional relationship with them to facilitate the smooth functioning of the organization.
Informal organizations benefit the organization in many ways. They help in the development of an effective organizational system and reduce the workload of managers. Informal organizations also provide employees with an outlet to express their anxieties and problems, improve job satisfaction, and reduce employee turnover.
In spite of its merits, informal organizations, at times, also create many problems. It may act as a barrier to organizational change. Conflicts may also arise between the members of the informal organization. Sometimes, its members may experience a conflict due to the diverse roles they have to play as members of the formal work group and the informal group. The biggest problem an informal organization faces is to ensure that the members conform to its norms and the use of penalties and sanctions to punish those who deviate fromthesenorms.
The communication channel in an informal organization is called the grapevine. The grapevine thrives in all those places where people interact with one another and tends to be active in periods of stress or insecurity. The nature of a person's job as well as his personality affects the role he plays in a grapevine. Earlier, the management ignored the grapevine. Now however, in many organizations, the management acknowledges the presence of the grapevine. It tries to identify the key players in the grapevine and how informationtravelsalongthegrapevine.
Rumors are so strongly associated with the grapevine that these two terms are often used interchangeably. However, they do not mean the same. A Rumor is incorrect information that is not supported by substantial evidence. It generally arises out of ambiguity and interest in a particular situation. Various types of rumors may spread in an organization and the management can control rumors by paying heed to them, identifying the causes, and above all, by releasing the facts behind the rumors. The management can also seek the support of union leaders to prevent the damage caused by rumors.
The management should realize that informal organizations cannot be done away with. They should try to integrate both formal and informal organizations such that it facilitates the achievement of organizational goals.
In addition to formal organizational structures, an organization may also have a hidden side that doesn't show up on its organizational chart. This hidden informal organization is defined by the patterns, behaviors, and interactions that stem from personal rather than official relationships.
In the informal organization, the emphasis is on people and their relationships; in the formal organization, the emphasis is on official organizational positions. The leverage, or clout, in the informal organization is informal power that's attached to a specific individual. On the other hand, in the formal organization, formal authority comes directly from the position. An individual retains formal authority only so long as he or she occupies the position. Informal power is personal; authority is organizational.
Firmly embedded within every informal organization are informal groups and the notorious grapevine; the following list offers descriptions of each:
• Informal groups. Workers may create an informal group to go bowling, form a union, discuss work challenges, or have lunch together every day. The group may last for several years or only a few hours.
Sometimes employees join these informal groups simply because of its goals. Other times, they simply want to be with others who are similar to them. Still others may join informal groups simply because they want to be accepted by their coworkers.
• The grapevine. The grapevine is the informal communications network within an organization. It is completely separate from — and sometimes much faster than — the organization's formal channels of communication.
Formal communication usually follows a path that parallels the organizational chain of command. By contrast, information can be transmitted through the grapevine in any direction — up, down, diagonally, or horizontally across the organizational structure. Subordinates may pass information to their bosses, an executive may relay something to a maintenance worker, or employees in different departments may share tidbits.
Grapevine information may be concerned with topics ranging from the latest management decisions to the results of today's World Series game to pure gossip. The information may be important or of little interest. By the same token, the information on the grapevine may be highly accurate or totally distorted.
The informal organization of a firm may be more important than a manager realizes. Although managers may think that the informal organization is nothing more than rumors that are spread among the employees, it is actually a very important tool in maintaining company-wide information flow. Results of studies show that the office grapevine is 75 percent to 90 percent accurate and provides managers and staff with better information than formal communications.
Rather than ignore or try to suppress the grapevine, managers should make an attempt to tune in to it. In fact, they should identify the people in the organization who are key to the information flow and feed them information that they can spread to others. Managers should make as big an effort to know who their internal disseminators of information are as they do to find the proper person to send a press release. Managers can make good use of the power of the informal organization and the grapevine.
If you scratch the surface of any business, you’ll find two very different organizations. There’s the formal organization - the one that can be represented by the boxes of an org chart. And then there’s the informal organization, the one shaped by the day-to-day interactions of employees – conversations in hallways or in airport lounges, exchanges of messages through email and voicemail, glances and whispers in meetings.
The formal organization is important, if only because it tends to determine how much one gets paid. But it’s nowhere near as important as the informal organization. It’s the informal one that governs the real flow of information and influence in a company, that defines who’s in the loop and who’s not, what’s important and what can safely be ignored.
Most corporate IT systems, unfortunately, are geared to the needs of the formal organization and ignore the informal one. Designed through elaborate, top-down processes, these so-called enterprise applications usually end up as rigid, cumbersome systems that are disconnected from the everyday jobs of workers. The informal organization is served, instead, by simpler, personal software programs like email, PowerPoint, and Excel. As a result, most of the really useful information that flows through a company never gets captured in corporate databases or broadly shared by employees. It ends up scattered across scores of individual hard drives.
That brings me to My Space, Face book, Bebo and the various other social networks that have become so popular on the Web. It’s easy to make fun of these sites. Used mainly by kids and students, they often resemble the junkyards of popular culture – crude, silly, and disposable. But don’t be fooled by the garish surface. Social networks are popular – and powerful - because they are constructed in response to, and through, the actions and conversations of their members. In stark contrast to corporate IT systems, social networks shape themselves to their users rather than forcing the users to adapt to preset specifications.
Because they seem so natural to use, the social networks end up being incredibly sensitive mechanisms for recording the real life of a human organization. They serve not only as a flexible communications medium but as a means for identifying, refining, and recording valuable information. They do what corporate systems so often fail to do: they make the codification and sharing of valuable information easy.
Given their benefits, I think that social networks will inevitably be adapted to corporate use. Of course, that’s not going to be easy. Matters of data security, for instance, need to be worked out, as do protocols for sharing sensitive information within and between organizations. And the implications for corporate politics will be, to say the least, interesting. Just imagine what will happen when the informal organization suddenly becomes as visible as the formal one. I suspect that some people at the top of the org chart will be less than pleased.
Reasons for informal organization
There are many different reasons for informal organization:
• Informal standards: personal goals and interests of workers differ from official organizational goals.
• Informal communication: changes of communication routes within an enterprise due to personal relations between coworkers.
• Informal group: certain groups of coworkers have the same interests, or (for example) the same origin.
• Informal leaders: due to charisma and general popularity, certain members of the organization win more influence than originally intended.
• Different interests and preferences of coworkers.
• Different status of coworkers
• Difficult work requirements.
• Unpleasant conditions of work.
How Does the Informal Organization Emerge?
The Organization Structure is designed by management to be consistent with its environment, technology, and strategy. This structure, with its rules, procedures, and job descriptions, creates a set of prescriptions for employees to follow. Individuals and groups are expected to behave in certain ways. If they perform their task as prescribed, the organization is efficient. This ideal may not happen as much as managers would like, however, for several reasons.
The Informal Organization emerges from within the formal structure as predictably as flowers grow in the spring. The result of this combination is different from what managers may have expected in at least three ways. First, employees act differently than required. They may work faster or slower than predicted, or they may gradually modify a work procedure on the basis of their experience and insight. Second, employees often interact with different people, or with different frequencies, than their job requires. Georgia may seek advice from Melissa instead of Todd, and candy may spend more time helping José than Steve. Third, worker may embrace a set of attitudes, beliefs, and sentiments different from those the organization expects of them. Instead of being loyal, committed, and enthusiastic about their work, some employees may become disenchanted and enthusiastic about their work, some employees may become disenchanted, and other is openly alienated. The lesson for Manager is painfully obvious- they must be aware of the informal activities, interactions, and sentiments of employees in addition to the required ones. The combination of required and emergent behaviors sometimes makes it difficult to predict levels of employee performance and satisfaction
Member Status and Informal Leaders
Members of work group like that described above have identifiable characteristics that distinguish them from one another and give rise to status differences. As seen in the example, they differ in age, seniority, earning, birthplace, and nature of their workplace. Other factor, such as technical competence, freedom to move around the work area, and personality, are also recognizable. Each of these elements can provide status to its holder, largly based on what the group members value. The causes of informal status are nearly numberless.
The Employee with the largest amount of status in the informal organization usually becomes its informal Leader. This Person emerges from within the group, often acquiring considerable informal power. Informal leader may help socialize new members on to organization, and they may called upon by the group to perform senior partner would often stop by the operating room during a particularly delicate operation to assist briefly in the removal of a brain tumor, and then quietly move on when help was no longer needed.
Key roles of informal leaders:
The informal leader plays several useful roles for a work unit. For example, the informal leader is expected to model and explain the key norms (informal standards of behavior) of the informal group for new members. And if someone fails to comply with the groups norms, the informal leader will likely play a dominant role in applying sanctions- various forms and degrees of punishment- to the individual to induce the desired behavior in the future. In addition informal leader often engages in a range of behavior in the future. In addition, the informal leader often engages in a range of behavioral to help build and sustain the informal group’s level of cohesiveness. For example, the leader may assume responsibility for recognizing the daily achievements of works, for organizing after- hour’s social events, or for initiating a modest level of teasing and bantering among employees.
Multiple Informal Leaders:
Informal groups overlap to the extent that one person may be a member of several different groups, which means that there is not just one leader but several of varying importance. The group may look to one employee on matters pertaining to wages and to another to lead recreational plans. In this way several people in a department may be informal leader of some type. There might be an experienced person who is looked upon as the expert on job problems, listeners who serves as counselor, and a communicator who is depended upon to convey key problems to the managers.
Identifying and Rewarding Informal Leaders:
Sometimes the Informal leadership of a group is unclear, at least to outside observes or managers. However, informal leader often exhibit distinct behaviors that allow them to identify. For Example, Ellen may serve as the unofficial representative to management when workers have a question or complaint. Or managers may notice that other employee’s gatherer around willies workstation to swap stories whenever there is coffee break. Sarah may voluntarily train new employees when they ask for technical help. These examples suggest that acting as spoke person wisdom and guidance all provide useful clues regarding information leadership.
Why are some employees, such as Ellen, Willie, and Sarah, wiling to be informal leaders? To some workers informal leadership is form job enrichment, providing them with Varity in their workday and a feeling of greater significant. Other find that it helps satisfy their social needs by dramatically increasing their interpersonal contacts during the day. Many find it a source of recognition for their esteem needs away of being acknowledged for their skills and experience while avoiding the responsibilities of formal supervision. By recognition these rewards for informal leadership, managers can better understand the behaviors of some individuals.
BENEFITS OF INFORMAL ORGANISTION S:
Makes a more effective total system
Lightens workload on management
Helps get the work done
Tend to encourage cooperation
Fills in gaps in a managers abilities
Gives satisfaction and stability to work groups
Provides a safety valve for employee emotions
Encourage managers to plan and act more carefully
Contributes to higher cohesiveness
Makes a more effective total system: Although informal system may lead to several problems, they also bring a number of benefits to both employers and employees. Most important is that they blend with formal system to make an effective total system. Formal plans and policies cannot meet every problem in a dynamic situation because they are preestablished and partly inflexible. Some requirement can be met flexible and spontaneous.
Lightens workload on management: Another benefit of the informal organization is to lighten the work load on management. When manager knows that the informal organization is working with them, they feel less compelled to cheak on the workers to be sure everything is shipshape. Managers are encouraged to delegate and decentralize because they are confident that employees will be cooperative.
Helps get the work done: In general, Informal Group support of a manager probably leads to better cooperation and productivity. It helps get the work done.
Fills in gaps in manager’s abilities: The Informal organization also may act to fill in gaps in managers abilities. If a manager is weak in planning, an employee may informally help with planning.In this way, planning is accomplished in spite of the manager’s weakness.
Work Group Satisfaction: A significant benefits of the informal organization is that it gives satisfaction and stability to work groups. It is the mean by which workers feel a sense of belonging and security, so satisfaction is increased and turnover reduced.
Improves Communication: an additional benefit is that the informal organization can be a useful channel of employee communication. It provides the means for people to keep on touch, to learn more about their work, and to understand what is happening in their environment.
Provide a Safety Valve for employee emotions: Another benefit, often overlooked, is that the informal organization is a safety valve for employee frustrations and other emotional problems. Employees may relieve emotional pressures by discussing them with someone else in an open and friendly way, and ones associates in the informal group provide this type of environment.
Encourages managers to plan and act more carefully: A benefit of the informal organization that is seldom recognized is that its presence encourages managers to plan and act more carefully than they would otherwise. Managers who understand its power know that the informal organization provides a check on their unlimited use of authority. They introduce changes in to their groups only after careful planning because they know that informal groups can undermine even a worthwhile project. They want their project to succeed because they will have to answer to formal authority if they fail.
Contributes to higher cohesiveness: The benefits of the informal organization are more likely to appear if the group is cohesive and its members have favorable attitude toward the firm. Cohesiveness is indicated by how strongly the employees stick together, rely on each other, and desire to remain members of the group. Productivity among members of cohesive group is often quite uniform, and turnover is low. Whether productivity will be high or low, however, is directly related to the cohesive groups internal work attitudes. If they are favorable toward the organization, performing will likely be higher, if they are negative, performance will likely be diminished.
PROBLEMS ASSOCIATED WITH INFORMAL ORGANIZATIONS:
Develops undesirable rumors
Encourages negative attitudes
Leads to interpersonal and intergroup conflicts
Rejects and harasses some employees
Weakens Motivation and satisfaction
Operates outside of managements control
Develops role conflicts
Develop Undesirable rumors: Many of the benefits of informal system can be reversed to show potential problems. In other words, informal system can help and harm an activity at the same time. For example, while useful information is being spread by one part of his system, another part may be communicating malicious rumors.
Encourages negative attitude: An informal system also can change its mood in a positive or negatives way. A work group, for example, may accept, welcome, and nurture new employee and thus facilitate their feelings of comfort and performance levels. By contrast, the same group may confront, harass, and reject other employees, causing dissatisfaction and resignations. Both positive and negative effects exist side by side in most informal systems.
Resists Change: One major problem with informal organization is resistance to change. There is a tendency for a group to become overly protective of its way of life and to stand like a rock in the face of change. What has been good is believed to be good enough for the future. If, for example, job A has always had more status than job B, it must continue to have more status and more pay, even though conditions have changed to make job A less difficult. If restriction of productivity was necessary in the past with an autocratic management, the group might believe to be necessary now, even though management is participative. Although informal organizations are bound by no chart on the wall, they are bound by convention, custom, and culture.
Leads to Interpersonal and intergroup conflicts: Informal organization also develop interpersonal and intergroup conflits that can be damaging to their organization. When employees give more of their thoughts and energies to opposing one another, they are likely to give less to their employer. Conflicts and self – interests can become so strong in formal organization that they reduce both the employer and employee. No one gains.
Rejects and harness some employees: Conformity is encouraged by norms, which are informal group requirement for the behaviors of members. These norms may be strong or weak (depending on the importance of the behaviors to the group) Group rigidly expect their members to follow strong norms, individuals may choose to accept or reject weak ones. Research studies show that group have norms for both their task responsibilities and their personal relationships at work.
Supports Conformity: A related problems is that the informal organization can be significant cause of employee conformity. The informal side of organization is so much a part of the everyday life of workers that they hardly realize it is there, so they usually are unaware of the powerful pressures it applies to persuade them to conform to its way of life. The closer they are attached to it, the stronger its influence is.
Develops Role Conflict: Another problem that may develop is role conflict. Workers may want to meet the requirements of both their group and their employer, but frequently those requirements are somewhat in conflict. What is god for the employees is not always good for the organization. Coffee beaks may be desirable, but if employees spend an extra fifteen minutes socializing in the morning and afternoon, productivity may be reduce to the disadvantage of both the employers and consumers. Much of this role conflicts can be avoided by carefully cultivating mutual interest with informal groups. The more the interest of formal and informal groups can be integrated, the more productivity and satisfaction can be expected. However, there always will be some differences between formal and informal organizations. This is not area where perfect harmony exists.
CREATING EFFICTIVE TEAMS
Introduction: People in every workplace talk about building the team, working as a team, and my team, but few understand how to create the experience of team work or how to develop an effective team. Belonging to a team, in the broadest sense, is a result of feeling part of something larger than yourself. It has a lot to do with your understanding of the mission or objectives of your organization. In a team-oriented environment, you contribute to the overall success of the organization. You work with fellow members of the organization to produce these results. Even though you have a specific job function and you belong to a specific department, you are unified with other organization members to accomplish the overall objectives
It has been becoming a common practice in organizations to produce high productive results through ensuring effective teamwork (Papers4you.com, 2006). Many experts have argued that teamwork is really an effective tool in organizations where work is highly interconnected and demands up to date information sharing. For that purpose, it is imperative to first build an effective team and second to motivate them in various monetary and non monetary ways to gain maximum output.
There are certain characteristics of an effective team that should be ensured for optimum out put. It is argued that effective teams always have clear team goals that encourage team members to replace priority of individual goals with that of team one. Team should also comprise of people with relevant skills according to the context of goals. Mutual trust is also imperative among team members and that can be facilitated through open, honest and collaborative organizational culture. It was further argued that such trust may give rise to unified commitment that is directly linked with high level of intensity to achieve team goals. Similarly good communications and negotiation skills through which each member can understand each other is also imperative and all these processes should be lead by an effective team leader who can motivate team members even in difficult situations.
Apart from ensuring such characteristics it is highly beneficial if organizations provide teams with any team incentives as it can have twofold benefits. First, it provides an opportunity for each team member to secure a bonus on a outcome of whole group that can push the member to work hard for group achievements. Second, due to common incentive for whole group, it will flourish cooperation instead of competition among team members hence increasing chances of achieving team goals .
Apart from giving monetary incentives, sometimes organizations may pursue non monetary motivational incentives such as giving them sense of involvement and empowerment. Quality Circles (QCs) as one of such techniques where team of 6-10 employees in meeting held weekly or fortnightly identifies problems from their own area through data collection methods and statistical techniques. These problems are then analyzed by same team, solutions are devised and then formally present to the manager who may implement this circle’s proposal. Thus a sense of power of their own destiny is felt by team members.
Hence effective team work can be achieved through effective team building and teamwork is always beneficial for organizations as it increase flexibility and speed as task is being done by more than one individual with different skills, effective use of diverse workforce is possible where more innovative ideas and efficient decision making is more probable due to heterogeneity in the team and more importantly provided by right set of motivation and support it can increase productivity far more than what can be achieved on individual basis.
Stages in Team Development:
Forming : When a team is initially formed, its members cannot accomplish much until they agree on what their purpose is, how they will work together and so on .Answering such questions brings team members face to face with the first obstacle to maturity, uncertainty, anxiety, and disagreement over power and authority. In this Stage, the focus is on the interpersonal relations among the members. Members assess one another with regard to trustworthiness, emotional comfort, and evaluative acceptance. Thus, the forming stage is characterized by a great deal of uncertainty about the team purpose, structure and leadership. Members are testing the waters to determine the type of behaviour that is acceptable. This stage is complete when members have begun to think of themselves as part of a Team.
Storming: The Storming stage is one of the inter- team conflicts. Members accept the existence of the team, but resist the constraints the group imposes on individuality. Further, there is conflict over who will control the team. After a team leader has emerged, the remaining team members must sort out where they fit in the group. Even if all group members accept the leader, the group enters a phase of conflict and challenge. One or more followers may test the leader. The team may split in to factions supporting and opposing the leader. If the team gets stuck in this phase of development, group members may engage in battles over turf and expend their energies on a variety of political tactics. When this stage is complete, a relatively clear hierarchy of leadership exists within the team.
Norming: In this Stage, close relationship develops and the group demonstrates cohesiveness. Entering and conducting the cohesion phase requires intervention by a group members who is emotionally unaffected by Power and authority issues. Typically, such a person encourages team members to confront these issues openly. If the group engages in this process, the cohesion phase usually passes quickly. Team members recognize where they fit in and the group agrees on how it will operate. A new leader may emerge, or the existing leader may become more aware of how much others in the group contribute. The norming stage is complete when the group structure solidifies and the group has assimilated a common set of expectations of what defines ‘correct member behaviour’.
Performing: The fourth stage is performing. The structure at this point is full, functional and accepted. Group energy has moved from getting to know and understand each other to performing the task at hand. Member’s attention is directed to self- motivation and the motivation of other team members for task accomplishment.Some members focus on the task function of initiating activity and ensure that the work of the team really gets moving. Other members contribute to motivation and commitment within the group through maintenance function such as supporting, encouraging and recognizing the contributions of members or through establishing the standards that the group may use in evaluating its performance.
Adjourning: For Permanent work teams, performing is the last stage in their development. However for temporary groups, there is an adjourning stage. In this stage, the group prepares for its disbandment; high task performance is no longer the group’s top priority. Instead, attention is directed toward wrapping up activities.
Here are the Ten Principles for creating highest performing teams that produce continuous Team Innovation:
Ten Principles for creating the highest performance teams and team innovation:
1. Establish the reasons and objectives of forming a team. Create a concise team vision and mission statement that is crisp and well understood.
2. Recruit the best team players who will be the most adept at achieving the said team objectives, vision and mission. Find employees both from within the organization through your own network of friends, peers and managers, and externally through the best recruiters available.
3. Establish clear, participatory, effective and elevating team goals and plans, preferably using SMART system. Ensure that the team’s plans and future direction are clear and supported, the team is kept informed of the ongoing progress, quality standards and effectiveness set, and there is complete commitment from team members towards achieving these objectives.
4. Articulate and communicate team task functions and relationship functions, and help the team understand the differences through examples. Organize and lead the team so that the team coordinates the efforts and cooperates well. Create a high degree of trust and confidence among the team members, ensure that the team members participate fully and communicate openly making sure that everyone is always included, encourage different viewpoints and foster diversity in thought and members, and build camaraderie, closeness and friendship within the team.
5. Develop healthy and productive group and meeting norms, grow team cohesiveness by building collaboration, and manage social loafing consequences. Make decisions by consensus after seeking opinions from each team member, help the team towards making its own good decisions, resolve problems and find solutions through mutual effort and open communications, and evaluate team behaviors and perceptions openly.
6. Proactively manage team behaviors and conflicts that could either encourage or harm member relations, and regulate situations where individual needs are not satisfied. The emphasis is on “proactively” managing conflicts. A high performing team will have conflicts, openly and often. Conflicts are a healthy sign of a team cooperating and communicating ideas frequently. The manager should create sound conflict resolutions techniques wherein the conflicts are addressed in a timely manner, and conflicts remain rooted in problems and issues, and not about members.
7. Cultivate and unleash Group Creativity and Innovation. A leader becomes indispensable and important to the organization when they can develop creativity throughout the organization--in their team, and in the processes the leader uses to tap and leverage that widespread creativity. What processes drive Group Creativity and Innovation? The team leader leverages Group Creativity techniques including Basic Brainstorming, Nominal Group Technique (NGT), and NGT-Storming. A creative team leader will always ask a lot of questions, never judges, encourages free-wheeling, goes for quantity (of ideas), and promotes piggybacking during the group creativity meetings. Finally, a witty quote about change, and stepping into the team member’s offices and asking a simple question: “any creative ideas today?” will always encourage creativity and innovation among the team.
8. Analyze, update and maneuver team communication according to the twelve categories comprising Bales’ Interaction Analysis. Bales’ Interaction Analysis allows the manager to review the team’s member communications in four categories: Positive reactions, Attempted answers, Questions and Negative reactions. By analyzing this once every few months, the leader can not only get insight on how the team communicates, but also provide individual members feedback. If the overall communications are moving towards increasing Questions and Negative reactions, the leader can take appropriate steps to enhance the communication flow.
9. Create a Team Assessment Inventory on the team’s general productivity and climate, team goals, processes and procedures, and member relationships every three months to analyze and calibrate the team performance. This is very important if the team is going to be working together on projects for the long term. Also, this would provide the manager a self-assessment on how well the term is performing.
10. Have fun!! Create an environment wherein the team members enjoy their work, and the team morale remains high. The leader needs to exude excitement, and inject that passion so that the team members also work with high degree of energy and excitement. Every month or once every few months, the leader should take time to enjoy the achievements, and plan fun activities with the team.
In order to create constant Team Innovation, first and foremost, the manager needs to understand the characteristics and traits of a well-functioning team.
Here are the Top Seven Characteristics of a high performance team that leads to steady and substantial Team Innovation:
1. The atmosphere is relaxed and informal, and work is fun
2. The task and goals are clearly understood by all group members
3. Ideas and feelings are expressed freely and openly, and with creativity
4. Conflict is productive and often, centered on issues as opposed to on people
5. The group is aware of its own functioning and dynamics, including inefficiences
6. In almost all cases, decisions are made by consensus, and consensus is not forced
7. When individual tasks are assigned, they are accepted and carried out in a timely manner by group members
Twelve Cs for Team Building
Executives, managers and organization staff members universally explore ways to improve business results and profitability. Many view team-based, horizontal, organization structures as the best design for involving all employees in creating business success.
No matter what you call your team-based improvement effort. continuous improvement, total quality, lean manufacturing or self-directed work teams, you are striving to improve results for customers. Few organizations, however, are totally pleased with the results their team improvement efforts produce. If your team improvement efforts are not living up to your expectations, this self-diagnosing checklist may tell you why. Successful team building, that creates effective, focused work teams, requires attention to each of the following.
Clear Expectations: Has executive leadership clearly communicated its expectations for the team’s performance and expected outcomes? Do team members understand why the team was created? Is the organization demonstrating constancy of purpose in supporting the team with resources of people, time and money? Does the work of the team receive sufficient emphasis as a priority in terms of the time, discussion, attention and interest directed its way by executive leaders?
Context: Do team members understand why they are participating on the team? Do they understand how the strategy of using teams will help the organization attain its communicated business goals? Can team members define their team’s importance to the accomplishment of corporate goals? Does the team understand where its work fits in the total context of the organization’s goals, principles, vision and values?
Commitment: Do team members want to participate on the team? Do team members feel the team mission is important? Are members committed to accomplishing the team mission and expected outcomes? Do team members perceive their service as valuable to the organization and to their own careers? Do team members anticipate recognition for their contributions? Do team members expect their skills to grow and develop on the team? Are team members excited and challenged by the team opportunity?
Competence: Does the team feel that it has the appropriate people participating? (As an example, in a process improvement, is each step of the process represented on the team?) Does the team feel that its members have the knowledge, skill and capability to address the issues for which the team was formed? If not, does the team have access to the help it needs? Does the team feel it has the resources, strategies and support needed to accomplish its mission?
Charter: Has the team taken its assigned area of responsibility and designed its own mission, vision and strategies to accomplish the mission.
Control: Does the team have enough freedom and empowerment to feel the ownership necessary to accomplish its charter? At the same time, do team members clearly understand their boundaries? How far may members go in pursuit of solutions? Are limitations (i.e. monetary and time resources) defined at the beginning of the project before the team experiences barriers and rework?
Is the team’s reporting relationship and accountability understood by all members of the organization? Has the organization defined the team’s authority? To make recommendations? To implement its plan? Is there a defined review process so both the team and the organization are consistently aligned in direction and purpose? Do team members hold each other accountable for project timelines, commitments and results? Does the organization have a plan to increase opportunities for self-management among organization members?
Collaboration: Does the team understand team and group process? Do members understand the stages of group development? Are team members working together effectively interpersonally? Do all team members understand the roles and responsibilities of team members? Team leaders? team recorders? Can the team approach problem solving, process improvement, goal setting and measurement jointly? Do team members cooperate to accomplish the team charter? Has the team established group norms or rules of conduct in areas such as conflict resolution, consensus decision making and meeting management? Is the team using an appropriate strategy to accomplish its action plan?
Communication: Are team members clear about the priority of their tasks? Is there an established method for the teams to give feedback and receive honest performance feedback? Does the organization provide important business information regularly? Do the teams understand the complete context for their existence? Do team members communicate clearly and honestly with each other? Do team members bring diverse opinions to the table? Are necessary conflicts raised and addressed?
Creative Innovation: Is the organization really interested in change? Does it value creative thinking, unique solutions, and new ideas? Does it reward people who take reasonable risks to make improvements? Or does it reward the people who fit in and maintain the status quo? Does it provide the training, education, access to books and films, and field trips necessary to stimulate new thinking?
Consequences: Do team members feel responsible and accountable for team achievements? Are rewards and recognition supplied when teams are successful? Is reasonable risk respected and encouraged in the organization? Do team members fear reprisal? Do team members spend their time finger pointing rather than resolving problems? Is the organization designing reward systems that recognize both team and individual performance? Is the organization planning to share gains and increased profitability with team and individual contributors? Can contributors see their impact on increased organization success?
Coordination: Are teams coordinated by a central leadership team that assists the groups to obtain what they need for success? Have priorities and resource allocation been planned across departments? Do teams understand the concept of the internal customer—the next process, anyone to whom they provide a product or a service? Are cross-functional and multi-department teams common and working together effectively? Is the organization developing a customer-focused process-focused orientation and moving away from traditional departmental thinking?
Cultural Change: Does the organization recognize that the team-based, collaborative, empowering, enabling organizational culture of the future is different than the traditional, hierarchical organization it may currently be? Is the organization planning to or in the process of changing how it rewards, recognizes, appraises, hires, develops, plans with, motivates and manages the people it employs?
Does the organization plan to use failures for learning and support reasonable risk? Does the organization recognize that the more it can change its climate to support teams, the more it will receive in pay back from the work of the teams?
Guidelines for Effective Team Membership
Contribute ideas and solutions
The willingness of all team members to draw on their own expertise and experience to contribute ideas and solutions is what makes an effective team. You should feel comfortable enough in the team setting to express yourself, and know that your ideas have value. Creative input from a variety of member perspectives is the basis of effective problem solving. Team "norms must encourage contributions, not inhibit them."
Recognize and respect differences in others.
Creative, effective teams bring together individuals with widely divergent skills and backgrounds who must work closely together to execute the tasks assigned to them. This can only be accomplished in an atmosphere of mutual respect and willingness to listen. You won't always agree with the ideas other team members bring to a discussion, but you should always be willing to listen without prejudice and contribute positively to the problem-solving process.
Value the ideas and contributions of others
A willingness to respect ideas and opinions that differ from your own is the cornerstone of positive and interactive teamwork. Input from every member of the groups should be carefully weighed and evaluated, never disparaged.
Listen and share information
Really listening to what other team members have to say is one of the most vital skills you can contribute to a productive team atmosphere. You should always be willing to give an attentive ear to the views of other team members and expect them to do the same for you.
Ask questions and get clarification
If an idea isn't clear to you, it is your responsibility to the team to ask questions until the matter is clarified. The field of education often has a language all their own; asking questions to cut through the jargon will benefit all participants.
Participate fully and keep your commitments
To fully participate, you have to contribute ideas, challenge conventional ways of doing things, ask questions, and complete the tasks assigned to you in a timely and professional manner. These are your responsibilities. Without the enthusiastic participation of all its members, a group is just a collection of individuals. The unique skills and viewpoints you bring to the team are crucial to the successful completion of tasks.
PROBLEMS ASSOCIATED WITH TEAMS:
Too much discord
Differences of opinion
Too much harmony
Corporate culture and reward systems
Too many meetings
Group norms: Awareness of group norms and the desire to be acceptable to the group may restrict individual personality effort, as was shown many years ago in the harthorne bank wiring room studies.
Too Much discord: Conflicting roles and relationships ( where an individual is a member of more than one group) can cause difficulties on communicating effectively.
Personality Problems: Personality problem will arise if one member dislike or distrusts another, is too dominant or so timid that the value of his ideas is lost, or is so negative in attitude that constructive communication is rendered impossible.
Rigid Leadership and Procedure may stifle initiative and creativity in individuals
Team working requires that managers share power with the team. Some managers find this difficult to do. Also, a coaching style of management is most appropriate for teams and this must be learned.
Differences of opinion and political conflicts of interest are always likely.
Too much harmony Teams work best when there is room for disagreement. They can become dangerously blinkered to what is going on around them, and may confidently forge ahead in a completely wrong direction. This is known as group think. The cosy consensus of the group prevents consideration of alternatives, constructive criticism or conflict. Alternatively, efforts to paper over differences may lead to bland recommendations without meaning. We will return to this subject later.
Corporate culture and reward systems: Teams will fail if the company promotes and rewards the individual at the expense of the group. Similarly, when teams rather than individual out put is measured, it is easier for un- motivated individuals to get by with minimal effort.
Too Many Meeting: Teams should not try to do every thing together. Not only does this waste time meetings, but team members are exposed to less diversity of thought. Decision making by teams can be excessively time- consuming and may not offer any advantage over the normal process of decision making by individual managers after consultation.
Powerlessness: People will not bother to work in a team or on a task force if its recommendations are ignored.
Suitability: Team working does not suit all jobs.
Risky Shift: Group Processes are such that individual characteristics can be reinforced and become exaggerated. A good example is the way that a group of risk- averse individuals may adopt a far less risk- averse approach to collective decision – making.
Some examples of effective teams in an organization of which either been a member or a leader?
12 Department heads and 175 employees in a Golf & Spa Resort.
The team managed to turnaround a resort that was losing significant money to a hotel that actually began producing profits.
What made it an effective team?
1. One of the major factors that turned the hotel around financially was that the management focused on having the right people in the right jobs.
2. The hotel management focused on selecting (both management and hourly staffed) the right talent, setting the expectations, and defining the right outcomes.
3. Over time, the hotel ended up with a group that embodied the term “team work”.
What could have been done better?
Give everyone a fair opportunity to prove themselves (after giving the tools and training necessary to be successful). However, once you have determined that it is not going to work out, you cannot wait too long to deal with poor performers. Not dealing with those issues will create frustration amongst those that are performing well.
Kitchen crew at a restaurant.
It was the most highly creative and fun group, that created great camaraderie and spirit in the kitchen that led to new innovations in food and service.
What made it an effective team?
1. A spirit of creative freedom was fostered by everyone, from the top down. Even though it was a very busy kitchen, there was always time to work on a pet project or to create a new dish or daily special.
2. For the most part, people were able to put aside their egos. It was very common to work on a dish, and to have someone come over and give his input, and then another person would come over and contribute his two cents. After awhile, a great new dish would emerge, which usually had little resemblance to the original thought - but was a collaboration of creative effort. Everyone would look at it with pride.
3. People were publicly praised and recognized for a job well done
4. There was a common passion and enthusiasm for what we were doing. The owners seemed to be very good at attracting and recruiting this type of employees.
5. The standards and expectations were always being raised. There was no room for complacency.
What could have been done better?
Many individuals eventually left and opened their own restaurants in the area.
Ownership was at times unreasonable, did not tolerate or forget mistakes.
The kitchen atmosphere took on an "us against them" mentality, which ironically brought the kitchen crew members together.
Process Quality team consisting of over ten managers from sales, service, product and infrastructure organizations.
The goal of this team was to surface any quality issues that the sales or service team experiences with the currently released or soon to be released products. If the issues required follow-up, the product and infrastructure managers provided a detailed follow-up analysis. If the quality issues required immediate resolution, the product and infrastructure managers will escalate these issues to executive management until they are resolved.
The team was effective in generating timely feedback and follow-up on quality issues.
A detailed log of quality issues was generated after each meeting, and the product or infrastructure managers were required to follow up on these issues via email and before the next meeting. A new meeting will go over any outstanding issues, and then dive into the new issues.
What made it an effective team?
1. The team goals were clearly defined.
2. The team deeply cared about product and service quality, and customer satisfaction.
3. There was active participation, frequent communication and collaboration among the team members and management.
4. The product and infrastructure managers followed through on the quality issues, and resolved them in a timely manner.
5. The team took pride and enjoyed the moments when the quality issues were resolved.
What could have been done better?
When there was a change in senior management (a new VP took over products), his position on the activity and escalation of issues by this team changed. Thus, when issues were escalated, they were not resolved, ignored, or even challenged. Ultimately, the sales and service team who were giving their pro-active feedback began realizing the lack of follow-through from the product and infrastructure teams (owing to the change in guard). Hence, the team was eventually dissolved. Later on, the new VP realized this mistake, and created a new team to handle this.
The Group Presentation
Group presentations present tremendous opportunities to create something much greater than an individual can normally do. It is always easier and quicker to do things on your own, but most of us will be more effective as part of a team that combines the knowledge and talents of several people.
Creating the Group Presentation
• Team Presentations vs. Group Presentations
• Building Your Lineup
• It’s One Presentation
• The Practised Presentation
• Execution of the Plan
• Towards Effective Group Presentations
Team Presentations vs. Group Presentations
Yes, group presentations are different! They involve teams, which is why much of this site is devoted to team building. The group presentation gives you opportunities to do much more than a lone presenter can hope to do. Consider these benefits:
• Variety is built right into the presentation by virtue of having different people presenting
• One person can manage audio-visual aids (run the video clip, change the overheads) while one concentrates on talking
• Greater expertise is available
• Presentation tasks (timing, dealing with questions) can be managed better
• When audience involvement is part of the presentation, the team can mingle and provide leadership
• Different faces, paces, voices and styles can complement each other
• Role plays and other creative techniques are more feasible
• This is reality. Team presentations are very common as teams of experts (engineers, sales people, financial experts) all present different aspects.
So what’s the difference between a team presentation and a group presentation? With some work by each member, there won’t be any difference. If the group fails to make itself a team, though, there will be an uneven, rough presentation that is not integrated.
Building Your Lineup
One of the reasons for the team-building process is to identify the strengths and weaknesses of each member in the presentation group. In some cases, groups can be chosen by their members, typically on the basis of friendship. In many situations, people find themselves part of a group that has a job to do and they must determine where to fit in.
This is essential to assemble a great team. Suppose you had to present a complete business plan, including marketing, finance and human resource issues. It turns out you have three people who are strong in marketing, but none with major finance strengths. The person who has the most strength in finance must fill that gap. For this group presentation, that is the role they will be asked to play, even though they would fit more naturally in marketing.
That’s what makes it a team presentation! Think of a jazz combo, with many skilled musicians who can play great solos. However, most of the time they are playing rhythm to support their colleagues. They are filling a role that makes the most of the team effort.
Matching Players with Positions: There are several factors to consider when deciding who will do what in the presentation:
• Strengths and weaknesses of individual team members will suggest speaking order, and who will deal with which content
• Styles and skills of your team are important to determine who should lead off, conclude or deliver each section.
• The audience itself is important; will they be technically-oriented, which suggests you better have a technical expert?
• The purpose of the presentation. If it is to persuade, your best salesperson should have a leading role. If it relies heavily on involvement, a freewheeling approach works well.
Typically, we want the quick thinker to handle the questions, the detail person doing the technical comments and the dynamo for the opening and closing.
When matching people with different parts of the project, take the time to realistically assess all these elements. Count on a couple of meetings to build the task list that will lead to your lineup.
It’s One Presentation
A very common error for those planning group presentations is to have each member run off to “research an area” and then have a quick meeting to glue the pieces together. Instead of a group presentation, you get a series of presentations equal to the number of presenters.
A more effective strategy starts with thoughtful consideration in your meetings of what you hope to accomplish in the presentation. A good rule is to think of the three key things you want the audience to take away from the talk. These become the core theme and unifying elements within the presentation.
With this general framework, all research can be funnelled in to key on those three items. The entire team gets a pretty good idea of what each part will discuss and duplication is virtually eliminated. Material that does not fit with the themes gets dropped.
There are many, many ways to organize, but here are some to get the wheels turning:
• Here is a problem, here is why it is serious, here’s a solution.
• Here’s how it was then, how it is now and the implications of these changes. (Can have several sections which use the same themes or do each one all at once.)
• Three reasons to...
• Past, present, future
• From the general to the particular (deductive approach), or from the particular to the general (inductive reasoning).
• The good, the bad and the judgement; analyze pros, cons and a conclusion
Be a Team: All team members should dress similarly. The rule is a level above your audience; it they are in jeans, go for casual slacks. If it suits the occasion, all might wear corporate or team T-shirts or caps. Never wear your usual clothes for a group presentation. It is a special occasion and your attire should show that.
Have a single presentation style (one PowerPoint show, for instance), rather than having each person do their own thing. Either have one person do the whole show, or develop a template which everyone uses. Take the time to ensure that every slide has the same look and feel and that type sizes, graphics and writing style are consistent.
Transitions are essential for an integrated presentation. Transitions are bridging elements that conclude one section and start another. Watch your local newscast for examples. The goal is to “tee up” the next speaker so we know who they are, what they will talk about and how it ties into what went before. Some helpful ideas:
• That’s an overview of the history of this project. Now, we will turn to Maria for the current situation.
• Those are the main reasons cited in support of this concept. However, to view things from the other side, we will hear what opponents have to say. To present those viewpoints, I will turn things over to Karim.
• With this overview of the internal issues for the company, we can now examine the external environment with Sucharita.
The Practised Presentation
Many athletes use the technique of envisioning their performance as a way of building up their confidence before an event. The race car driver imagines the car exiting a tricky corner, accelerating and setting up for the next turn. The skier sees herself swooping through a turn, holding steady on the icy patch, then biting in on a fast turn.
They know that the more you practice, both mentally and physically, the more confident you will feel in the actual situation; it’s as if you had already been there.
For presentations teams, the ideal is to use the room you will actually present in with a couple of non-presenters on hand for feedback. Videotaping is highly recommended.
It is important to use all the things you will actually use in the presentation. Run that video clip, use the overheads or slides, work with the microphone (if there is one) and do everything exactly as you hope it will go on the day.
Team members who are not presenting should make notes of any problems, such as spelling errors in slides, clumsy transitions and moments of uncertainty.
Recognize the difference between spoken and written language. Reading from notes is the most common criticism students make about others’ presentations. Unless you are highly skilled as a writer of speeches, your prose will be unsuited for a speech. Learn to work from the bullets on your slides (best) or very short notes.
Recognize that the timing in your rehearsal may not match what happens in the presentation. Presenters report that the real thing proved to be either shorter or longer than anticipated.
To deal with this, know how to “accordion” your section. How can you make it go longer or shorter to fit the time available? This is especially important for later sections. You need to know what is essential and what is nice to have.
Execution of the Plan
When the day of the presentation arrives, you will not regret one moment of preparation and rehearsal. Here’s a helpful checklist:
1. If you can access the room hours before you present, do so to check that all equipment is present and functional. You can solve many problems with hours to spare. Know where to find technical help.
2. As you are getting set to present, make sure all systems have been checked. If you are using a data projector, test it and have a slide showing your title at least in the moments before your start. If using videotape, set up the machine so one click is all you need at the right moment.
3. Identify where each person will stand during the presentation so it is easy to move unobtrusively to and from centre stage. Ensure you will not stand in the light from the data projector.
4. Have one person managing the visuals while another presents and ensure they are coordinated. (Where practice pays...)
5. At the start of the presentation, introduce your team and topic. Even if the audience knows all the presenters, this is still important as a way of kicking off the presentation. An interesting variation is introducing your agenda and associating each person with a part of that agenda. (“Nancy will be discussing the benefits of this proposal.”)
6. Tell them what you are going to tell them. Present a brief agenda to give an overview and context for the presentation. This also provides a logical transition to the first person.
7. As your teammates present, give them the same attention you expect from the audience. It is rude to chat among yourselves or to show disinterest in your own presentation. Think of the message you are sending your audience as you observe others in your team presenting.
8. Ensure that two people on the team are closely monitoring your time against expected length. It is important to end on time and allow opportunities for questions, while still getting all of your essential points out. Remember the accordion.
9. For questions following the presentation, have all taking part in the same location. If the entire group will handle questions, all should be centre stage. If one is designated, he or she alone should be up front.
10. Enjoy the moment. This is the payoff for your hard work.
Towards Effective Group Presentations
A random collection of tips on group presentations, based on bits and pieces picked up from my experience and from others. While I would dearly love to attribute these, they are from such diffuse and diverse sources that I could hardly begin to nail them down! Use the resources page for access to ideas on how others approach these issues.
• Recognize that a group presentation is a team presentation; take the time to build the team.
• Use such tools as formal meetings, contracts and plans to set out what the group hopes to accomplish.
• Never have each person “do one section” unless there is tight coordination before they go research it, when they present their key findings and when it is integrated into the overall themes of the presentation.
• Recognize the difference between a group presentation (talk #1, talk #2, ... last speaker) and a team presentation (introduction, components, conclusion).
• Rehearse. Videotape your entire show. Have a friend sit in and observe your trial run. Do a complete run-through of your entire presentation exactly as you would hope to do it.
• Provide one another with candid feedback, particularly ways to improve.
• Maintain an unwavering commitment to improve your communication and teamwork skills.
• Use resources like these to get better!
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