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07.06.2007 Feature Article

Understanding Teams

The use of teams has become very important in the functioning of organizations. Many organizations are adopting the use of teams to solve problems and to function properly. It is therefore worth throwing some light on the subject “Teams”.
This piece is intended to discuss teams covering issues like the Importance of Teams, factors that make a team effective, how effective teams are built, and the stages a team goes through in its development.

What is a Team?
"A team is a small number of people with complementary skills who are committed to a common purpose, performance goals, and approach for which they are mutually accountable." (Katzenbach and Smith, 1993).

Why are Teams Important
The use of Teams in organizations (according to Sparks, 1993) is important because:
1. Teams can generate more successful and creative solutions
2. Teams build higher motivation and shared responsibility for implementation and
3. Teams provide a broader base of support and personal resources to accomplish complex changes.

Factors that make a Team effective
For a team to be effective, it must have clear goals and these goals should be shared and understood by all the members. It should also have assigned roles given according to the skill mix. The skill mix is very important so long as the objective to be accomplished is concerned. A team should also have a leader to coordinate its activities. The absence of a leader could lead to chaos in the team's function. It should also have adequate resources and a condusive environment to work in.
The size of a team shouldn't be big; usually teams are more effective when they come in small sizes. An effective team should also have norms to follow and there should also be cohesiveness. In addition to these, an effective team should support agreed guidelines, communicate freely, deal with conflict and be able to disagree to improve group function.

How Do We Build an Effective Team (Who do we put there)
Building a team often depends on the goals to be achieved. The skill mix will depend on what goals the team is expected to achieve. However, an effective team (according to Belbin) should contain people with the following skills:
1. Creativity – This is important when it comes to the creation of new ideas. Including a person who easily generates new ideas in a team contributes a lot in making the team achieve its objectives.
2. Information (The Talker) – This person has the skill of hearing information related to the topic. He also has the skill of putting the thoughts together as they flow and making it better understood by the team members
3. Coordination (The Administrator) – This skill is used in putting together the assigned roles and following up on team's progress and reporting at team meetings and also giving support to team members when necessary.
4. Encouragement (The Motivator) – A team may need motivation at a time when things are getting tough. It is at this time that a person with the skill to motivate will be very much appreciated.
5. Conflict Resolution (The Mediator)- As mentioned earlier, a team should be able to disagree to improve group function. But in order not for a group to break up in times of disagreement, there should be someone with the skill of mediation. The Mediator using his skills can bring the group back together anytime there is conflict.
6. The Finisher – This could be a person who has a skill in writing and who would put all the thoughts together beautifully in the group's final report. So, though a group's build up may depend on the objectives, including members with the above-mentioned skills will always be good for a group.

Stages In Team Development
Every team goes through five stages: The first of these is Forming stage. At this stage, the members meet and begin to learn about each other. They may not be comfortable with each other and the task may not be clear.
Next is the Storming stage. Here there is often conflict because the ideas, attitudes, and behaviours which team members have brought with them are often challenged and dismissed as the team members get to know themselves well and also understand the team's goals.
Then comes the Norming stage where things cool down. Here the norms under which the team will operate are established. The team at this stage establishes levels of trust, behaviour and decision methods.
Now the team, having established the norms under which it will operate goes ahead to perform the task for which it was formed. This takes it to the Performing stage.
The last stage is the Adjourning stage. The team breaks up after the task has been performed.

Source: Martin Nana Baffoe Pieterson
Email: [email protected]

Martin Nana Baffoe Pieterson
Martin Nana Baffoe Pieterson, © 2007

This author has authored 9 publications on Modern Ghana. Author column: MartinNanaBaffoePieterson

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