The article titled Time to Create Sound Teamwork by Diane Bandow talks about the importance of teamwork for running businesses successfully. Lack of teamwork within an organization can cost a lot more than what is obvious, for lack of trust and understanding in relationships between team members can decrease performance levels, inflate production cycles, and will even bring down the quality of product/service. But unfortunately, building functioning teams (also called Group Development) is not given due attention in most companies. This tendency is no longer acceptable in the new telecommunication age, where face-to-face communication happens less frequently and most members of the team are not properly acquainted with other members working across different locations. Building unity and a strong team ethic becomes even more difficult when employees are from diverse cultural, racial and ethnic backgrounds.
A seasoned manager would then try to answer the question: ‘How can teams be supported more effectively?’ In trying to answer this question, managers will have to look into many areas of the organization, including “organizational culture, managers and management practices, policies, procedures, work practices, reward systems, resources, task parameters, types of people assigned to teams, etc”. (Bandow, 2001, p.42) While some of these parameters are easy to work on, instilling a sense of trust is a much more challenging task. The concept of structured trust is particularly relevant to creating sound teamwork: “standardized processes, contracts and other verbal and written agreements can all serve as forms of structured trust, and managers can facilitate teams to help establish trust structures.” (Bandow, 2001, p.42)
Bandow goes on to list more questions that managers need to answer as a way of building sound teamwork. The next of these questions is ‘How can team members separated by distance work together better?’ As per the allusion made before, this question assumes special significance in the age of Information and Communication Technology and financial globalization. It is not unusual for teams to work across different countries or continents differentiated by contrasting sets of values and culture. For example, in North America, teams tend to focus straight-away on task at hand and don’t spend time in building relationships with team members. This tendency can prove counter-productive in the long-run, as team members develop and propagate their negative experiences to workers down the line. For example, counter-productive patterns like withholding information in meetings fear of being professionally harmed by other team members, uncertainty in their own abilities, etc.
Since at least 12 to 18 hrs are needed to establish trust in face-to-face interactions, teams that are geographically spread across need to put in extra efforts in building team ethic. Teams “whose members are separated by distance have consistently recommended an initial face-to-face meeting where all rules, responsibilities, roles, expectations, deadlines and parameters are clearly defined”. (Bandow, 2001, p.42) And experienced managers can tell good effective relationships that work in a mutually beneficial manner, when they see one. And finally, other key questions that managers should set about answering satisfactorily pertain to resolving issues within teams and improving team performance. Conflicts within teams can drag down the overall performance of the team. Being cognizant of this fact, managers will have to consider “different interpretations of expectations, misunderstanding of assignments and overlap of roles and responsibilities among team members”, in order to bring a suitable resolution for the conflict. (Bandow, 2001, p.42)
In sum, Diane Bandow’s article presents all necessary ingredients of successful teams in a concise fashion. It contains valid and easily implementable suggestions for common problem areas in team building, especially in the era of globalization. Hence, it can also be perused by managers as a ready reference.
Diane Bandow, Time to create sound teamwork, The Journal for Quality and Participation; Summer 2001; 24, 2; ABI/INFORM Global, pg. 41-47