Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Copyright © 2000, MCB UP Limited
Teams are an essential part of organisational life and there is no shortage of texts on various aspects of teamwork. However, the Gower Handbook of Teamworking is one of the few that I have come across that is as all‐inclusive as possible, covering not only the usual “understanding teams” material, but also a range of innovative aspects such as the role of technology and virtual teams. Moreover, there is a satisfying mix of theory and practical help that the plethora of qualified contributors offer.
The text is divided into four parts; “Teams and the organization”, “Understanding teams”, “Managing teams” and “Teams and technology”. The first part examines teams in the organizational context, dealing with market‐place pressures that have caused businesses to restructure themselves in a team‐based form, and the cultural changes necessary to allow successful team‐working. The lessons learned from implementing 1990s buzz concepts such as total quality management, business process re‐engineering and empowerment are discussed. New organisational structures that have not been considered in the contexts of teams with other older texts are addressed here – the flexible organisation or team‐based organisation for instance. One crucial element when establishing team‐working is surely the development of strategic team leaders and a programme for developing strategic leadership sits well here. Another buzz concept, that of the learning organisation, is also discussed with the question of how teamworking organisations learn, being central.
Part 2, “Understanding teams”, starts with an examination of team needs analysis in which teams or groups are diagnosed and team models are presented. Team roles – not just those of Belbin – are outlined next with a lovely DIY team role inventory presented. This inventory is just one example of the practical and innovative techniques presented in this text that are sure to be adopted and widely applied across many organisations. Other highlights of this part include the chapter by Alan Mumford on how groups and teams learn and that of Chris Elgood on choosing, joining and leaving teams. Creativity in teams is also addressed in this part and, vitally, managing stress within teams in order to maximise performance.
Part 3, “Managing teams”, covers all aspects of team management, from leading team meetings to using management games. Along the way, the reader is treated to insights into the use of psychometrics in teamwork, problem‐solving using an innovative model called listening, exploring, goal‐setting, underpinning and pursuit (LEGUP) and coaching and mentoring within teams using the MacLennan seven‐stage model (rapport creation, vague notion of goals, assess the here and now, decide on the there and then, design bridge, build bridge and assess progress). The third part ends with a discussion on turning teamwork into knowledge creation.
The final part of the book, “Teams and technology”, is devoted to making the most of new technology when working with and developing teams. The highlight of this part for me has to be the chapter on virtual teams since many managers seem to flounder when it comes to managing what they cannot see.
Each of the 32 chapters of this text is packed with practical tips and sound advice that managers and team‐leaders will find valuable. In case any reader should want to know more, each also ends with a list of not only extensive references, but also recommended further reading and lists of useful organisations where appropriate. Overall, this is a text that will add immense value to anyone who is a team leader or manager (although the book does not seem to be aimed at novices) or even just a student of organisational processes.
Each chapter, which draws on real organisational examples, stands alone, so an added benefit is that busy managers needs not wade through a lengthy tome to dig out the relevant sections. The book is strewn with clear diagrams, models, matrices, inventories and questionnaires that not only bring the text to life but ensure that even the most casual reader will take something useful away.