Advances in Interdisciplinary Studies of Work Teams: Volume 7


Table of contents

(14 chapters)

Team learning — what does it look like and why is it important? Peter Senge (1990) made the statement in The Fifth Discipline that teams are the fundamental units of learning in organizations. In order for the organization to learn, teams must learn. The literature, however, has not yet provided much in the way of a research-based description of either team learning processes or the conditions that foster them. This discussion presents the results of a seminal study on team learning conducted by the authors, which produced a model of team learning. It also relates highlights from two dissertation studies that affirm the model and provide additional insight into the nature of team learning in corporate settings.

We present an analysis of the effects of status on the information that members of an inter-organizational team contributed in decision-making meetings. Our analysis shows that the amount and content of members' participation was systematically related to their status in the group. More specifically, team members who occupied managerial levels in their respective organizations contributed ideas and opinions (as well as other information types) at higher rates than those not holding such higher status positions in their organizations. This bias occurred even though team members agreed that abilities related to managerial level were not relevant to the decision-making task. What is particularly striking about these findings is that the members of this team had participated in team building training prior to embarking on the decision-making task, and reported a high concern for and commitment to equal participation in the decision-making task. Our results clearly demonstrate the ubiquitous effects of social status on participation in teams, even when: (1) the basis for status is not necessarily relevant to the group's objective, and (2) team members have explicit awareness of such status processes and are committed to overcoming them. These results along with the conceptual framework we elaborate suggest that team building training alone may not be sufficient to overcome the powerful and often detrimental effects of status processes on effective decision making. We discuss alternatives and supplements to team building training that may increase the advantages and effectiveness of teamwork in organizations.

This chapter proposes a theory that explains how increased levels of diversity within and among members of teams increase innovation and creativity in team decision making and problem solving. Using the work ofHartmann (1991), Koestler (1964), and Zerubavel (1991), our conceptualization of team diversity is based on the concepts of schemata and mental boundaries. Our model demonstrates that teams composed of individuals with heterogeneous schemata and thin mental boundaries possess greater creative potential than groups composed of individuals with homogeneous schemata and thick mental boundaries. Implications of this model for research and practice in diversity management and organizational creativity are discussed.

Using a naturalistic paradigm, this study explored the key dimensions necessary for a climate for creativity specific to virtual teams, groups of geographically dispersed organizational members who carry out the majority of their activities through information technology. Through maximum variation sampling, thirty-six individuals from nine teams were selected. One semi-structured, telephone interview was conducted with each participant. Team members also completed a background survey. Through grounded theorizing, eleven environmental features that influenced virtual team members' creativity emerged: trust; acceptance of ideas and constructive tension; freedom; challenge; goal clarity; collaboration; sufficient resources and time; management encouragement; information sharing; dedication/commitment; and personal bond. From these identified dimensions, a model was developed which included three components necessary for virtual team creativity — connection, raw materials, and management and team member skills conducive to creativity. Implications for organizations, managers and team leaders, and individual team members are discussed.

The fascination with leadership seems an enduring human condition. Numerous theories of leadership have been espoused over the centuries. The primary emphasis of these theories has been the individual leader. The purpose of this research is to widen the debate on leadership to include, not only individual level leadership, but also to explore the possibilities of `shared leadership' at the group level of analysis and thus suggest movement toward a multi-level theory of leadership.

There is no one best type of team pay plan. In order for team pay plans to be effective, they must be carefully matched to the development stage of the team. To further develop this argument, a three stage model of team pay is advanced (novice, intermediate, and advanced), and each stage is defined by several dimensions (strategic focus, individualism/collectivism, team composition, plan owner/developer, and autonomy). Furthermore, the dimensions used to differentiate between various types of team pay plans are articulated (measures, measurement levels, evaluators, and pay form). The general hypothesis advanced is that team effectiveness is better explained by the interaction of team development stage and type of pay plan, than by the main effect for type of team pay plan alone. A case study of a Fortune 500 company is used to illustrate the importance of different types of team pay at different stages of team development. Implications for theory, research, and practice are discussed.

Turnover of employees in high tech companies is a serious problem. It disrupts teams, raises hiring costs, reduces production, and results in lost knowledge. This chapter examines the problem of turnover in the high tech industry based on a study of exit interviews. Myths regarding turnover are identified and discussed. Second level reasons for turnover are explored which raise questions about our basic assumptions about employment. A set of recommendations to address this costly issue is also provided, focusing on business strategy, corporate systems, and management action. A new organizational approach to the relationship between employees and employers is introduced.

Within the field of work and organizational psychology, team research has received renewed attention since the 1980s with researchers showing increasing interest in developing team effectiveness models. These models have taught us much about which factors determine team effectiveness. However, we notice some important shortcomings also, for example, the lack of attention to how certain factors influence team outcomes. This limitation, in our view, is the result of restriction in the paradigm that has dominated team research in the field of work and organizational psychology in recent years. In this chapter, we attempt to broaden our view by describing approaches that originate from different paradigms, specifically that integrate differing assumptions. With the help of Giddens' structuration theory, DeSanctis and Poole (1994) and Poole & DeSanctis (1989, 1990) have developed adaptive structuration theory (AST), which is such an integrative approach. Originally AST focused on groups using group technology only. This chapter makes a case for using this approach to ground future team effectiveness research efforts in the organization sciences.

There have been many attempts to enhance team effectiveness. However, even the most effective teams have the potential to go off track, or derail. This chapter describes an attempt to understand why top performing teams venture down the road to team derailment. Specifically, we describe four instances in which real world teams have derailed. Guided by the team competency framework offered by Cannon-Bowers, Tannenbaum, Salas and Volpe (1995), we identify a set of deficient team skills and attitudes associated with each team's declined performance. Lessons learned about how to prevent other teams from derailing are also shared.

Distinguishing between teams in earlier stages of development and teams who have matured, the author presents five strategies that help the mature team maintain or improve its performance, and three pitfalls that can hinder its effectiveness. Members of mature teams must be interdependent and they must have developed a well-functioning working relationship with each other. Based on research of what mature teams actually do, the following strategies and pitfalls are discussed. Strategies include: (1) It's okay to make it hard; (2) Be willing to be influenced; (3) Search the horizons; (4) Who's hot? Who's not?; and (5) Create a positive spiral. Pitfalls include (1) Distractions and energy drains, (2) Working to rule (soldiering), and (3) Promise too much.

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Advances in Interdisciplinary Studies of Work Teams
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Emerald Publishing Limited
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