Approaches And Theories To Team Formation

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In the modern society, the value of team work has continued to be valued highly, especially in organizations settings. Individuals no longer consider working alone as the very best way to achieve desired outcomes. Sociologists have proven that a task is well done when a team is involved. This is because every member of the team possesses unique skills, and when these skills from every member are brought together the outcome will be remarkable. Organizations, whether service industries or manufacturing industries have held team work as an important tool or means of achieving the objectives of the organizations. This is why many theories and approaches to forming a team have being developed. This paper addresses two approaches to team formation: the System approach and the Novel approach. The System approach consists of a laid down process of forming a team, while the Novel approach uses two theories; the Fuzzy set theory and the Grey decision theory in team formation. The approaches and the theories will be critically analyzed by addressing their benefits and limitations.
















(Bratton, 2007, p.) states that,  ‘‘work and organizational behavior provides both a psychologically and sociologically based view of behavior in work organizations, from a critical perspective.’’ According to (Kozlowski, 2006, p.79) a team means two or more persons who interact on the basis of having similar objectives to achieve in an organization setting that provides them with an opportunity to do similar tasks but accomplish this through participating in different roles and depending on each other. There are two types of team formation approaches, namely: System approach and Novel approach, which considers the use of theories

The systems approach requires using a technological way of forming teams at work place. As pointed out by (Zych, 2011, p.104), there are three steps in the System approach of team formation. The first phase is requires looking out for an organization where technology for team formation can be carried out. This organization can be either a production industry or a service industry. The main reason as to why some organizations have not adopted this kind of team formation is because it is in its early stages of development and it requires managers who are risk takers and very innovative to take up the idea. The main idea here is to be able provide technology to assists in forming of a team. In addition, managers need to have knowledge on how they can rearrange and reconstruct the organization so that team formation technology can be realistic (Hiregoudar, 2001, pp. 88-90).

The second step in system approach of forming a team is team formation. This step is further divided into several phases. These phases are: the awareness phase, the system analysis phase and the team formation phase. The awareness phase requires that top level managers should be made aware that there is need for team formation and they should therefore reorganize and reconstruct the organization. (Kilcourse, 1984, p.13) Meetings should be held starting with a top level managers meeting and then a meeting comprised of middle level managers and other influential employees such as those who usually takes positions of other managers through delegation.

There is need to fully understand how the organization conducts its operations through observing critically the various functional areas that make it. This is all done in the second phase in team formation step which is system analysis. All of the organizations’ operational areas are interrelated in a way. An organization itself is referred to as a system because to making or forming requires various integrated parts. (Clegg, 2006, p.412) states that an organization has to be strong, and like a system it will mostly have a name, inputs, outputs, interrelated elements and a mark pointing out its environment. No single part of the organization can function on its own. Therefore, since in forming a team there is need to get team members from every functional area of the organization, then there is need to understand these functions and how they are related. These can be achieved through observing the organizational chart and the overall layout. From this there will be light on how information and materials flow from one department to another. This phase also requires critical observation of how the departments function and holding dialogues either formally or informally.

The third phase of the second step of system approach is team formation. There is no best given formula or a way of forming a group or a team of employees whether in a service industry or in a manufacturing industry. Any method that is used to form a team is welcomed if at all such a team formed can work harmoniously and be able to come up with solutions that can solve problems in that area. However, (Peck, 1998, p.766) recommends that the number of employees to form a team should be optimized. This is to mean that the team members must be able to make the best out of themselves. In addition, the team must be able to perform all the tasks associated found in that functional area. Some of the teams formed may be functional, to perform tasks related to one functional area; while the rest can be cross- functional to perform tasks related to different functional areas. This is important so that there is a balance in the organization. (Moses, 2009, p.896) affirms that the involvement of a cross-functional gives an opportunity for representation from all areas of operation.

Other phases in the second step; team formation are such as pilot implementation phase, where some of the teams are used to find out whether team formation will be of any help to the management. Employees will see the seriousness in the issue and any mistakes done will be corrected. The other phase is referred to as post pilot implementation analysis. If there were cases of experienced resistance among employees during the pilot phase, key role players in the team formation process will form a meeting to solve these problems or any other problem experienced.  (Inalhan, 2009, p.18) notes that, one of the most obstacles to implement change is resistance to change. The key role players in the process are termed as ‘implementation team’. They comprise of a team leader, team members and experts from outside the organization.

The last phase is referred to as the ‘brain storming sessions’. (Casse, 2011, p.48) notes that, brainstorming requires a leader who is leads through team working. This is where the implementation team continues to meet to discuss on solutions to the problems experienced in the pilot implementation phase. The team must focus on sorting out all of the problems encountered. This will be achieved through the help of the outside expert. Such a person has no interest in the organization or to be biased in offering solutions to any problem. Furthermore, these are considered to be experts in areas of team formation and therefore their sentiments in this stage and in the previous stages are highly regarded. (Ford, 2007, p. 413) says that there is need to draw a difference between management and leadership. Management has organizational interests at hand, while leadership holds both personal and organization equally.

The third step in the system approach is final implementation. This step comprises of three phases: the installation of the teams, the training on how the teams are expected to perform and maintenance of the system. There should be a formal way to show that the teams are now installed and the employees should abandon the old method of having things done. (Sheard, 2004, p.14) observes that a team formed by a small number of employees will be more effective than that formed by a greater number employees. Training on how the approach works and how it helps in team formation is important. In the end these teams need to be maintained through regular evaluations.

This approach has several advantages and disadvantages linked to it. As a benefit, it develops a sequential way of forming a team. As outlined above, there is a process composed of three steps that should be followed. This will help in the evaluating the process in case the team formation fails and look out to see if there was a step or phase left out. If the organization is well equipped in terms of resources, this process can help save on time because there is a well defined process for allocating resources in terms of money or time in a balanced way. Another benefit is that, the approach takes into consideration the most important assets of the organization, the people. (Pinnington, 2009, p.58) argues that the organization should not focus on the benefits they get from the employees, but also consider their other interests. It considers problems of resistance among employees and how and when to be solved. This approach integrates every employee of the organization, whether managers at any level or just a typical employee. Another advantage is that, it uses the help of an outside expert. Therefore, cases of becoming biased are eliminated. This expert also brings in their knowledge and experiences in making this approach a reality.

However, as a limitation, the approach is quite cumbersome and requires a lot of time and resources. It needs a dedicated team of managers, especially the operational managers because they have to reorganize the employees at their functional levels. Therefore, if these managers fail to comply the whole approach will be in vain. In addition, it will be discouraging if at the pilot implementation phase the approach had failed. Managers may also feel discouraged to go back and analyze the whole process to see where they failed. The employees may also lack trust in their managers. This approach may also have some resistance from some members of the organization, thus causing difficulties in explaining its importance.

Another approach as pointed out by (Tzu-Liang, 2004, pp. 147-159) is the Novel approach used in forming multi-functional teams. Multi-functional team refers to a group of employees selected from every area of operations in an organization. In many organizations these areas are referred to as departments. Common areas of operation may include the production department, sales and marketing department, purchases department, human resource or the personnel department and the accounts and finance department. These departments work harmoniously and if one of the departments experiences failure, effects of the same will be experienced in the rest of the departments. Therefore, it is very important that these departments cooperate for the purposes of achieving overall organization’s objectives. This is why the Novel approach to team formation requires that the team be comprised of representative members from every department. Unlike the System approach to team formation, this approach does not require a laid down procedure to form a team. However the approach uses two theories, which are: fuzzy sets theory and the grey decision theory.

Generally fuzzy sets theory is used to solve problems that are have a lot of uncertainties in them and employees are indifferent about the several solutions to solving these problems. (Chan, 2009. p.1243) claims that this theory was developed by Zadeh in 1965. They are confused in choosing the best solution to use in solving the problem in terms of time and resources. This is because the problem is cannot be outwardly figured out, it offers no clear boundary.

The grey decision theory uses information available concerning every employee in all the departments. This information can be gathered from the supervisors in the various departments or through the different methods of performance appraisal used by the organization. (Baykasoglu, 2007, pp.156-158) remarks that, this theory considers the best employee in terms of how competent he or she is in a specific line of activities for selection. Therefore, this theory shows some type of reliability in it because it considers the value of the team to be formed since it ensures that only the best employees form as team. However it does not put into consideration the effect of this on the rest of the employees not selected.

The term ‘fuzzy’ means not being clear about something. It has several synonyms such as: vagueness, imprecise, uncertain, ambiguous or inexact. It is surrounded by a high degree of probability. In team formation it occurs when a problem has crossed boundaries and the causes of the problem or the problem itself cannot be clearly pointed out. (Singh, 2006, p. 1738) indicates that this theory was developed to overcome the limitations provided by a problem that is full of uncertainties. The fuzzy theory is used in situations where the management is not sure whether the various employees selected will actually help the organization in solving the problems. The chosen employees may be referred to as the fuzzy sets and are subjected to the fuzzy condition facing the problem.

The most advantageous thing in using this theory, it is that it offers an opportunity to create decision models full of uncertain information. Another benefit is that, only this theory can be used in practical situations full of vague information. In addition it offers a most realistic way of solving problem and costs associated with obtaining information are greatly minimized. However, the major limitation of this theory is that in using vague information a very best solution may not be achieved from the many other solutions provided.  Another disadvantage is that, the fuzzy set theory does not provide a method on how to solve problems related with information of certainty. Furthermore, this theory is quite complex, uses many variables and requires a lot of analytical, hence it consumes a lot of time and resources. (Singh, 2006, p. 1738).

As earlier noted, the grey theory uses information about the employees to form a team. This information is about the overall performance of an employee and level of competence in line of duties. Employees who are excellent in terms of performance are used to form a team. These employees are drawn from every line of operations. It will depend with the desired number of employees required to form one team. If there are only five functional areas and the desired number of employees to form a team is ten, then only the best two employees from every functional area will be picked. (Rousseau, 2010, p.751) notes that, the aim of this theory is to ensure that the very best teams are formed.

The benefit of this theory is that, the management is assured that the very best teams are formed since only the best employees were selected. Employees with greater level of performance are usually utilized than employees who are considered lower as indicated by (Clarke, 2010, p. 10). It also saves on time because information about the employees is readily available through performance appraisal databases. It also draws efforts from all corners of the organization, because employees are selected from every functional area of the organization. This can bring about role cohesion and hence increased efficiency. However, this theory is very subjective since it selects the best employees; hence it might make employees not selected feel unwanted. This can cause job dissatisfaction which can lead to reduced productivity.

As a conclusion, there is no very best approach or theories that can be used in every organization to form teams. From above, every approach and every theory has its benefits and limitations. Therefore, in selecting any approach or theory, it will depend on the type of organization its management. Only the Fuzzy set theory offers team formation in vague situations. It is therefore important to consider the uncertainties and the certainties surrounding the organization. Consideration of all the functional areas within an organization is also very vital. It is also important for managers to organize, advice, explore, control and link members of a team to ensure higher performance. (Margerison, 1984, p. 9).



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