Introduction: concise, clear and succinct goal. The consequence


Teams, as defined by Katzenbach and Smith
(1993), are “a small number of people with complementary skills who are
committed to a common purpose, set of performance goals, and approach for which
they hold themselves mutually accountable” (p.112). In general, teams and
teamwork are seen among others to increase productivity, enhance communication within
the organisation and use resources efficiently (Robbins and Finley, 2000).
However, not all organisations use teams. In the following essay, I shall try
to answer the question “If teams are the most efficient structure for organising work
in contemporary firms why don´t all organisations use them?” To do so, I will
be looking at four different areas, which might induce organisations to not install
teams as a structure to organise work. Within the first two areas, I will
outline how inefficiencies, as far as teamwork is concerned, might emerge from bad
management as well as the team itself, on the one side challenging the
assumption made in the question, and on the other side providing reasons and
incentives for organisations not to install teams. Moreover, I will focus on
the opportunity cost of building an effective team in area three, providing a
further reason why organisations might be discouraged to introduce teams. Within
the fourth area, I will analyse how the organisational structure might influence
the decision of adopting teams.

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Bad Management:

For teams to work efficiently, proper management
is needed. One significant consequence of bad management is the assignment of
unclear tasks to the team. However, teams need to be assigned well-defined
tasks to act at their full potential. In fact, according to Hackman (2002) and
Wetlaufer (1994), being assigned clear tasks is one of the crucial conditions
for actually being a team. Robbins and Finley (2000) stated that a team “must
understand the inner nature of a goal or objective” (p.31). To do so, the
management must assign a concise, clear and succinct goal. The consequence of
bad management in the assignment of goals are inefficiency, confusion and
distraction, turning teams into inefficient structures (Robbins and Finley,

Furthermore, broadly-defined goals assigned by
management demotivate team members, hence leading to inefficiencies. According
to Locke´s and Latham´s (2006) goal-setting theory, a vital factor for ensuring
motivated workers and efficient outcomes is being assigned a well-defined and
precise goal. In the absence of functional management assigning concise goals,
team members become demotivated and inefficient.

A further critical area, in which lousy
management can turn teams into inefficient structures and thus induce
organisations not to install teams, is compensation, whereby here compensation
is understood as a monetary reward. While there are different perceptions about
whether compensations, rewards or extrinsic factors generally positively affect
a team´s productivity if assigned to the whole team (Heneman and von Hippel,
1995; Pierce et al., 2003), a management implementing an individual
compensation system can lead to counterproductive and inefficient outcomes.
With such a system, the degree of collaboration between team members is
decreased, as individual reward plans “reinforce the accomplishment of
individual goals at the expense of group goals” (Heneman and von Hippel, 1995,
p.64). Moreover, individual compensation would create a hostile environment for
the team members, as individual competition among team members, who pursue their
own personal goals, would be reinforced.

The team itself:

A further factor, which can lead to the creation
of hostile team environments, and thus, turn teams into inefficient structures,
is the team itself.

Within team projects, there are specific tasks
nobody is willing to do, so-called “hot potatoes”. These are relevant tasks
that need to be done, which can vary from undertaking the weekend-shift to yyy.
In fact, “hot potatoes” can lead to inefficiencies if the team members cannot find
an agreement concerning who is going to complete them. On the one hand, those
tasks simply do not get done. On the other hand, a possible solution is always
to take advantage of the same team member. In the case of hot potatoes occurring,
the weakest and most vulnerable member is abused, causing at a first stage
inequality and a later stage disharmony within the team. In fact, according to
Robbins and Finley (2000), “one in ten passive-nonaggressives undergoes a change
of heart at some point in their lives. They pivot dramatically from passive
nonaggressiveness to the opposite — active aggressiveness” (p.49). After being
exploited awhile, those team members might change their attitude resulting in
aggressive behaviour and violence in the workplace.

Another way, in which the team itself can turn
this organisational structure into an inefficient one is through so-called
“hidden agendas”. In the case of “hidden agendas”, certain team members put
their priority on pursuing individual goals rather than on pre-established
common team goals. The good of the team is only of secondary importance,
leading to inefficient team outcomes (Sinding and Waldstrom, 2007).
Furthermore, the existence of “hidden agendas” goes against the actual
definition of being a team (see introduction for Katzenbach´s and Smith´s
definition), as teams must be committed to mutual objectives. For teams to be
efficient, the common goal must be pursued without being distracted by
individual goals.

One more threat to team efficiency, emerging
from the team itself, is its composition. A wrong mix of team members might be
fatal to the team´s efficiency, since possible consequences are an unhealthy
environment within the team, lacking interpersonal chemistry and disharmony,
turning teams into inefficient structures. In fact, for teams to be efficient,
a wide range of skills is required from the various team members. Not only the
technical aspect of executing a task but also the members´ social, leadership
and managerial qualities shall be considered and included within the team.
According to Belbin (1981), there are nine team roles which are all required to
make sure teams operate efficiently. Building the right team and achieving a
satisfactory mix (involving all nine “Belbin team roles”) of team member
qualities is complicated and takes time. However, it is a crucial process for
ensuring efficiency.

Opportunity Cost:

Not only does getting together the right mix of
team members take time, also building a convenient environment in which teams
can enact their full potential does so. The cost of time, in that case, is
referred to as the opportunity cost of building efficient teams. To obtain a
convenient environment for teamwork, there must be firstly harmony within the
team, and secondly, the team is required to be in harmony with the
organisation. Achieving both “harmonies” requires time and thus has an
opportunity cost. As far as the first point is concerned, a crucial factor for
providing harmony and ensuring a convenient environment increasing teamwork
efficiency is trust. Here trust is defined as “a psychological state comprising
the intention to accept vulnerability based upon positive expectations of the
intentions or behavior of another” (Rousseau et al., 1998, p.395). Research
conducted by Dirks (1999) suggests that there is indeed a positive relationship
between a high level of trust and high performing teams. However, whereas, for
example, reward systems and goals affect team performance directly, trust has
an indirect effect. Trust affects the members´ motivation, and in turn,
motivation affects efficiency and team performance. In fact, Dirks (1999)
reveals that “in high-trust groups, motivation was transformed into
joint efforts and hence higher performance, in low-trust groups, motivation was
transformed into individual efforts” (p.18). (In that case, the terms “groups”
and “teams” are used interchangeably.) The positive effect of trust on
motivation increases team performance and efficiency. In contrast, other work
suggests that trust has a direct impact on a team´s efficiency and that for a
team to operate efficiently, trust is essential (Costa, Roe, Taillieu, 2010). Nevertheless,
despite the different perceptions about whether trust has got a direct or
rather an indirect effect on efficiency within teams, both approaches lead to
the conclusion that trust influences teams in a positive way and hence, increases
efficiency. However, achieving a high level of trust represents an elevated
opportunity cost to the organisation because of the long time required to build
trust among team members. As Nooteboom (2003) suggests, trust and learning are
very strongly correlated. To trust, a learning process must be undergone by the
individuals, which does not happen immediately but requires time.

order to achieve the second harmony type, the team is required to be in harmony
with the organisation as a whole. To do so, the organisation itself and more
specifically, the organisation´s leaders or board, must undergo a radical
change concerning work practices and mentality. It is necessary to make sure
the team members have got full access to the essential information and that the
information is not solely restricted to the organisation´s board. Moreover, as
the article “Why Some Teams Succeed (and So Many Don´t)” suggests, a change in
mentality by the organisation´s leaders is vital for ensuring teams are in
harmony with the organisation itself. That change involves leaders and
generally influential people within the organisation to put aside their own
interests to enable efficient teamwork without obstacles (Anon, 2006). Those
changes do not happen instantaneously, but implementing them takes time. The
high opportunity cost of achieving both harmony types might induce
organisations not to install teams.

Organisational Structure:

describing the second harmony type, the mentality change by the organisation´s
leaders was considered, which is supposed to enable teamwork. However, it might
not be solely the leaders´ or board´s fault if teamwork is not suitable for the
organisation. In fact, also the organisational structure might be crucial for
establishing if teams are appropriate for organising work. Here, two extreme
organisational structures are going to be juxtaposed, the
bureaucratic/mechanistic and organic organisation. According to Sinding et al.
(2014), mechanistic organisations are strict bureaucracies which are
characterised by division of labour, a rigid hierarchy of authority, rigorously
imposed regulations and impersonality. In contrast, organic organisations are
“flexible networks of multitalented individuals who perform a variety of tasks”
(Sinding et al., 2014, p.400). Regarding mechanistic/bureaucratic organisations,
the fourth characteristic mentioned -impersonality- prevents teamwork. Weber
(1978) suggests that impersonality at the workplace is crucial by stating that
the “bureaucracy develops the more perfectly, the more it
is ‘dehumanized’ the more completely it succeeds in eliminating from official
business love, hatred, and all purely personal, irrational, and emotional elements
which escape calculation” (p.975). However, the consequences of Weber´s
principle prevent teams from operating. Firstly, the complete elimination of
personal relationships and “dehumanisation” make it impossible for hypothetical
team members to build, on the one hand, trust, which is crucial for efficient
teamwork as analysed in the previous paragraph, and on the other hand,
cohesion, another fundamental factor for building effective teams (Carless and
De Paola, 2000). Secondly, due to Morand (1995), impersonality leads to
detachment and diminished emotional involvement. Both consequences inhibit



come to a conclusion, among others, there are four areas which might discourage
organisations from installing teams. The first area concentrates on how bad
management can create inefficiencies within teams by assigning vague and
broadly-defined tasks, which lead to confusion, demotivation and inefficiency
in general. Furthermore, individual reward systems can turn teams into
ineffective structures as well. Another factor, which might lead to
inefficiencies, is the team itself, namely through hot potatoes, hidden agendas
or the team´s composition. The inefficiencies caused by bad management and the
team itself might represent reasons for organisations not to install teams. Moreover,
the elevated opportunity cost of building efficient teams, and more
specifically, of building trust among team members, which is crucial for
effective teamwork, might induce organisations to choose different ways to organize
their work. One further area, which might discourage organisations to install
teamwork comes from the organizational structure, as mechanistic/bureaucratic
organisations, as opposed to organic, discourage the use of teams because of
their main characteristics. One limitation concerning the fourth area might be
that the two organisational structures I juxtaposed were two extremes, whereas
the majority of the organisations nowadays lay in between… The presented four
areas provide reasons for organisations not to install teams and explain why
not all organsations use them.