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Working as a team

The Olympics are over and what a grand show the British displayed for the world. Especially admirable was the historical and economic portrayal of the emergence of the British Empire, specifically the contribution of the West Indians to their economic growth and development after WW2 in the opening ceremony.

Let us forget the “fowl ups, bleeps and blunders” of our state-owned television station, what was of most significance was the cohesion of the groups and teams as they competed at the Olympic stadium. These various diverse groups have given new meaning to the words ethnic diversity and team work.

I am sure that most managers/supervisors were saying to themselves: “I wish that my staff could work at this level of cohesion and provide each other with the support that was so very evident among the athletes.”

What was obvious though was the way they all seemed to congratulate each other, win or lose, especially when the Grenadian Athlete (Kirani James won that race, oh what great sportsmanship and humility he demonstrated after the race).

So sorry I can’t say the same for some who at previous Olympics shouted to the cameras “this is what it’s all about” and then disappeared into oblivion. Now I am not saying anything about drugs, this article is about how managers can make use of groups and teams to ensure that the organisation reaches its objectives.

Before I move on, I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate the Jamaicans and Trinidadians for their successes and our own Olympians for a job well done. I am sure that our team did their best with whatever resources they had at their disposal. See you in Rio de Janeiro in 2016; may the best man win and may “the powers that be” start preparation from now.

Firstly, let me provide a bit of information about a group(s) as suggested by Robbins and Judge (2011). According to them a group can be defined as two or more people who interact interdependently and who come together to achieve a particular objective(s). Now there are all types of groups in an organisation. They are the groups who come in early and read the paper until coffee break.

They are those who are always in with the boss and who happen to tell him that another employee was late two to three times this or that week. And they are those who are working on some special assignment for the organisation. What I have described here are informal and task groups but there are several other types of groups. For instance, there are command groups that report directly to a manager about some special project.

Then there are special interest groups that come together to achieve some objective. Finally, there are friendship groups which are often developed out of some common interest. Such groups often spend time together outside the work environment like at clubs and so on.

Now since I am referring to the workplace let us now turn to work teams. According to Devine, Clayton, Phillips, Dunford and Melner as sited in Aamodt (2007) a work team is “a collection of three or more individuals who interact intensively to generate an organisational product, plan, decision or service” (p451).

I am not suggesting for one minute that all managers or organisations must put their staff into teams because this will not always work for the particular culture or task involved. So the manager must ensure that certain factors are considered before classifying a group of people as a team. Factors such as identification, interdependence, power differentiation, social distance and conflict management among others should be given consideration.

Then the types of teams being used must also be considered. Take for instance, a work team that manages themselves, assigns jobs, plans and schedules work and makes their own decisions. We know that very few of our employees today can achieve this without being provided with the relevant amount of training. So, formulating work teams may take months of preparation after some very astute recruitment and selection processes.

The main point here is to know when teams of the calibre of the Olympians will be needed and provide the necessary training to get them to achieve that standard. Having done this successfully, many organisations will find that they will successfully produce goods and services that augment the quality of their product.

In the end the increased quality will result in saving money, higher performances and reduced turnover. Think about it, if the Olympians did not receive months/years of training they would not have performed at such high levels. So, do you still consider training to be an unnecessary expense? Until next time….

* Daren Greaves is a Management & Organisational Psychology Consultant at Dwensa Incorporated. e-mail:, Phone: (246) 436-4215

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