The Team-Based Approach to Improving Productivity and Reducing Costs
Today’s evolving workplace necessitates organizations to search for novel ways of maintaining their competitive advantage, and in recent years this has been through a transition from traditional organizational designs to a team-based approach. The advantages of a team-based approach include quality improvement and cost reduction. Working in teams relieves boredom from repetitive tasks and leads to job enrichment which subsequently leads to low turnover, less sabotage, and healthier workers (Williams, 1995). There is thus reduced advertising and marketing costs as quality is improved and trust in the company’s products builds up. Low employee turnover as well as job security reduces recruitment and training costs and since employees work for a long time, retirement costs are also delayed or reduced. Despite the numerous benefits delineated, transitioning from a traditional approach is difficult and faced with numerous issues.
The automobile industry has extensively utilized work teams for continuous improvement and defect prevention. Toyota, for example, utilizes work teams to find and solve product defects, make processes more efficient, and offer suggestions on improvements to vehicles. While other automobile companies have embraced Toyota’s model, others are yet to implement the team-based approach and this paper looks at the challenges an organization willing to make the transition will have to endure.
Training issues likely to be faced
Perhaps the biggest difficulty in transitioning to a team-based approach is opposition from various stakeholders in the organization. A team-based approach requires comprehensive training not only on how to work effectively in teams and solve problems but also on basic management skills. Supervisors and managerial employees may feel that they are losing power and control as the teams take on the work and also the managerial duties for the work. Employees are also likely to oppose any training efforts as it gives them additional roles and may undermine the training exercise altogether (Tudor & Trumble, 2000). In teams, employees require additional skills for doing and managing their work and also that of every team member. Many employees will resist this change as it requires learning novel skills for which they might not be too keen on doing. Without the concerted efforts of all stakeholders, a high-involvement environment will be hard to achieve.
Since a team-based approach involves training on management, leadership, and novel skills that most employees did not possess, a lot of time is taken during training, with most work teams spending 20 percent of their time on ongoing training (Griffith & Moorhead, 2013). Numerous employees will also encounter difficulties during the training which might call for special training or extended periods. Despite the training, employees may also find it difficult to work with peers than in a supervisor-subordinate relationship and when problems occur they may revert to taking control instead of working within the teams. Over time, management commitment may wane especially if the progress is slow or results are pathetic.
Overcoming these difficulties
To curb the issue of resistance to change, special support material and training should first be offered to the supervisors to facilitate their changing roles and bring them on board. It also entails giving honest feedback to the employees on their future in the company and whether there are any likely changes in roles (Clampitt, 1991). This aids in alleviating the concerns and fears of the employees and mitigating the effects of negative office politics. Team members should also be made aware of their roles and objectives and channels of communication opened to air their grievances and thoughts on the transition to a team-based approach. The employees should also be taught how to meet their personal goals and equal attention given to every employee.
Management commitment to training and enhancement of the team-based approach should be always noticeable, ongoing and strengthened with enough resources and time. Even when too many resources are seen to be spent on training without the benefits being realized in the short-term, management should exhibit patience and tolerance as transition takes time and delays and mistakes are part of the learning process. On average, developing mature teams takes two to five years filled with challenges, and management should anticipate and prepare for it. As a way of reducing resource use in training, training facilitators should first be taken for training and these facilitators will in turn train the other team members on what they have learned. External consultants should also be brought in to assess progress and offer suggestions on improvement as they not only have prior expertise but are also not subject to the biases of the corporation’s culture (Tudor & Trumble, 2000).
Improving collaboration also requires that members are given roles that utilize their strengths and makes them feel valued and the picking of members is done not on management experience but on skill set and personality. Training on improving interpersonal skills is also pivotal in reducing conflict within the teams. Picking team leaders who are neither in management or a supervisory role will also improve cooperation. These team leaders relate well with the other employees hence eliminating the perception that management is trying to control the employees and thus improving cooperation with training and transition.
In conclusion, the team-based approach to organizational design not only leads to quality improvements but also to reduction in costs. Implementing the design, however, is faced with numerous challenges especially in training. These include resistance form all levels of the bureaucratic structure, low resource allocation, and issues to do with company politics. Eliminating these difficulties requires management support and resource allocation, honest and open communication, and giving an equal chance to everyone in the organization without bias.
Clampitt, P. (1991). Communicating for managerial effectiveness. NewBury, California: Sage Publications.
Griffith, R. W., & Moorhead, G. (2013). Organizational Behavior: Managing People and Organizations. New York: Cengage Learning.
Tudor, T. R., & Trumble, R. R. (2000). Work Teams: Why do they always fail? S.A.M Advanced Management Journal, 31.
Williams, R. (1995, November 01). Self-Directed Work Teams: A competitive advantage. Retrieved from m.qualitydigest.com: m.qualitydigest.com/?url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.qualitydigest.com%2fMAGAZINE%2f1995%2Fnov%2Farticle%2Fself-directed-work-teams-competitve-advantage.html&width=412