Ask five different employees whether they think working in teams is productive and successful, and you'll likely get five vastly different answers, all of which are at least partially true. Working collaboratively can get the job done, but only if all members of the team are committed. Understanding the pros and cons of building a work team can help prevent the team from failing before it begins.
Because Team Sounds Good
Sometimes work teams begin because the input of more than one employee is necessary to complete a project. Sometimes teams are created when several employees come together with an idea. When teams come together organically, they work. Otherwise? Not so much. "The belief that working in teams makes us more creative and productive is so widespread that when faced with a challenging new task, leaders are quick to assume that teams are the best way to get the job done," Diane Coutu writes in "Harvard Business Review." Collaborative work is rarely collaborative if team members get the idea they're there not because they have anything useful to contribute, but because someone thought a team was a good idea.
There's No I In Team
On the other hand, when faced with a multi-faceted project that draws from several disciplines or will affect multiple departments or the entire organization significantly, involving a number of employees is often integral to success. This is only the case, however, if all members of the team are empowered, or, if not, they realize that. "Most organizations proliferate with groups that call themselves teams but aren't," Jon Katzenbach of Katzenbach LLC tells "Fast Company," emphasizing that there's a difference between a true team and a group that's being led by a person in charge. "It causes big problems in the workplace. If a group tries to become a team when the performance challenge requires a single-leader approach, performance and morale suffer. The opposite is equally true," Katzenbach said.
Point A to Point B
In soccer, the team's goals are clear: get the ball to your goal, keep the ball from your opponent's goal. Everyone understands what it takes to make these two goals happen. In work teams, that's rarely the case. The goal is in sight, but it's not always clear how it will be best reached. "Make sure everyone knows their role and the deliverables for which they are accountable. Don't leave any aspect of the project neglected. Schedule specific discussions with the team where each member can clearly present their approach and expected deliverables," writes Kevin Daum at Inc.com.
Even when the team is together for the right reasons and the goals and objectives are laid out, things can go awry. Most employees will say that the worst part of working in a team is when disagreements or troubles arise. "Take the time to understand what you're going to do and how you're going to deal with the possible bumps along the way," Jeanie Duck of Boston Consulting Group tells "Fast Company." "Trying to undo a conflict between two team members when no one is prepared to handle such a situation is at least three times harder than taking the time to set up some ground rules at the beginning of the process."