Collaborative teams, the key to achieving successful projects
Nowadays most of the companies around the globe implement projects to achieve their business goals, but to achieve those successful business projects it is necessary to have work teams in the company (Colquitt, Lepine, & Wesson, 2015). For example, in the United States the majority of companies are using teams in their projects, regardless the organisation is small or large (Colquitt, Lepine, & Wesson, 2015). Furthermore, some surveys and researches have shown that the most important organisations in America are implementing the use of teams, for this reason it is common that 50 per cent of their workers are part of a team (Colquitt, Lepine, & Wesson, 2015; Dwyer, 2013; Ellis, 2009; Newman & Ober, 2013). The complexity and scale of some business projects require to be executed by qualified personnel and is here when it is necessary to form a team that can be able to successfully run these projects. A complex project could not be executed by a single person, teamwork is required ( Dwyer, 2013). On the other hand, the simple fact of having a team does not automatically guarantee the success of the project, there are many factors to take into account to achieve success, so it is essential to have a collaborative team (Sinclair, 2013).
The objective of this literature review is to describe the rise of teamwork as a popular organizational operating model in companies around the world, which had its origin in modern times after World War II, with the purpose of increasing business productivity and efficiency. So, this literature review will respond to the following five questions: Why are teams thought to be so effective? Where did this “movement” come from? What is ‘collaboration’, really? What is required to achieve it? Finally, why is collaboration essential in high-performing teams?
The first question to respond is why teams are thought to be so effective? It is evident that a team is a group of people that work together with the same objective to achieve a business goal (Dwyer, 2013; Sinclair, 2013; Glassop, 2002; Newman & Ober, 2013; Samson, Catley, Cathro, & Daft, 2012). One of the main reasons of team’s effectiveness is that often its members come from different backgrounds, said, culture, education, tradition, age, etc (Samson, Catley, Cathro , & Daft, 2012). Therefore, diversity of ideas, skills for sorting issues and performance, results on a bigger range of options and improvement of quality on the decision-making process ( Dwyer, 2013). For instance, Microsoft recruits the best programming engineers from different countries in the world to design their Windows operating system. As a result, 85% of worldwide computers are using this operating system(Halsey, 2015; Peña, 2013). This example shows that the success of the Microsoft’s operating system is due to the engineer teams formed by people with different backgrounds that have worked hard to design more than 80’000’000 of programming codes that this operational system possesses (Halsey, 2015). No doubt that teamwork diversity from Microsoft has permitted to Windows operating system became the “best” and most popular OS in the world (Peña, 2013).
The same case could be applied to companies like Google, Apple and Facebook; each year these companies recruit staff from different countries to carry out their projects (Beebe & Mottet, 2013). This kind of projects involves people from different culture and backgrounds to enable companies to have success in their business. According to Dwyer (2013), the fast increases in globalisation make it necessary that team members and leaders continue interacting with people of different religions, genders, ethnicity, race, etc. in order to achieve successful business projects. Likewise, Newman & Ober (2013, p. 51), argue that “diversity among employees provides richness and strength for an organization. People from varied backgrounds and perspectives help companies solve problems, make better decisions, and create a much more interesting work environment”.
A second reason, of the team’s effectiveness, is that increase business productivity (Glassop, 2002). This increasing of productivity is a valuable benefit provided by teams in the companies that results in improvement on the quality of products and services. Similary, Colquitt, Lepine & Wesson (2015), affirm that with the objective to carry out all kind of business processes and projects, many companies and organisations are using teams to achieve successfully their goals. For example, some small teams are created with the purpose of solving business problems related to quality and control (Glassop, 2002). The solutions implemented by the teams in this area of quality control circles permit the companies to increase the quality and quantity of their products (Insley, 2014). Consequently, increase the productivity and revenue of the company. Indeed, team working has a positive impact on four dimensions of performance and effectiveness, such as attitudinal, behavioural, operational and financial (Delarue, Hootegem, Procter, & Burridge, 2008).
The final reason that explains why people think teams are so effective is that many organisations have a variety of teams to execute their business process and projects (Colquitt, Lepine, & Wesson, 2015). In fact, today the expression ‘teamwork’ is very popular, and most of the companies require that their future employees can be able to work as a part of a team (Ellis, 2009). The evidence suggests that teamwork skill is a valuable quality to find employment in most of the organisations. Hence, without this skill could be difficult to be hired by an organisation. On the other hand, it is important to know where this ‘teamwork’ expression comes from, and how this term became very common.
The second question to respond is where did this “movement” come from? The broadcasting of teamwork has increased over the past 40 years (Weiss & Hoegl, 2015). Weiss & Hoegl (2015) have described the trajectory of teamwork as a diffusion that has gained much popularity since World Wars I and II, they affirm that:
The unique trajectory of the trend line suggests that the teamwork concept became increasingly important in times of major war. Specifically, during World Wars I and II, the trend line reflects a sharply increasing societal diffusion of teamwork. This increasing importance of teamwork in wartime might stem from the perceived need and desire for social cohesion in such times, just as intergroup conflict is likely to foster intragroup cohesion (Benard & Doan, 2011). (p. 600).
Consequently, the diffusion of teamwork became more popular after World War II, and this concept continued to expand globally until the 1960s (Weiss & Hoegl, 2015). However, during the 1960s, this concept of teamwork had not a great diffusion in societal, and the same trend occurred during the decade of the 1970s (Weiss & Hoegl, 2015). After that, the concept experimented a real comeback in the early 1980s and started its development. For example, in areas traditionally characterized by individual work processes, the organizational operating model of teamwork was implemented to replace individual work (Weiss & Hoegl, 2015). Afterwards, from the 1990s until now the movement of teamwork has continued increasing (Weiss & Hoegl, 2015).
Although Weiss & Hoegl (2015) explain the history of teamwork's social diffusion, they did not describe where exactly this ‘movement’ comes from. In contrast, Takada (1999) and Crainer (1998) provide a better understanding of it. For instance, Takada (1999) argues that ‘teamwork’ as a popular organizational operating model had its origins in modern times after World War II in Japan. So, Takada (1999) wrote:
The rapid economic growth in Japan from the beginning of the 1950s to the early 1970s did not only resulted from special government policies and revolutionary events but were also achieved by the cumulative effort and hard work by the people. The unique characteristic and ability of the Japanese people to imitate and improve the skills learned, and then applying them to their own system was the most important factor for their successes. (p. 12).
It is obviously true that the hard work performed by the Japanese teams contributed to Japan’s miraculous economic recovery after its devastation during World War II.
In the same way, Crainer (1998) said that in 1947 General MacArthur invited to Dr W Edwards Deming to come to Japan. Once there, Deming encouraged the development of Japanese industry in a short time. Further, he promoted the implementation of quality control to Japanese industrialists. In addition, Deming was possibly the only person in the world that trusted in the industrial and economic recovery of Japan (Crainer, 1998). Deming encourages replacing individual work for teamwork and encouraged the Japanese to share responsibility for achieving their industrial objectives; this ideology took root in the hearts of the Japanese and finally this thought contributed to the economic and industrial development of Japan (Crainer, 1998). In fact, according to Crainer’s words (1998, p. 43): “The Japanese were highly receptive to Deming’s message. His timing was right the country was desperate and willing to try anything. But, much more importantly, Deming’s message of teamwork and shared responsibility struck a chord with Japanese culture”. This industrial and economic recovery of Japan after its devastation during World War II is worldwide known as the Japanese Miracle (Forsberg, 2000). We may conclude, therefore, that this teamwork concept came from Japan after World War II, promoted by Dr W Edwards Deming when he was in Japan.
What is ‘collaboration', really? This is the third question to respond. Oxford Learner’s Dictionaries (2016) defines ‘collaboration’ as “the act of working with another person or group of people to create or produce something”. The evidence demonstrates that collaboration means ‘teamwork’. Further, collaboration etymology conveys a clear idea of teamwork. The next figure (figure 1) shows the etymology of the word ‘collaboration’.
It could be argued that effective collaboration involves communication. Even, teamwork requires a good communication skill by each team member. For this reason, Sinclair (2013) states, that the best support for collaboration within a team project is to guarantee that all team member has a strong communication skill. In addition, Sinclair (2013) says that good communication in a team includes respect for the ideas of each team member. It is obvious that in order to achieve the above mentioned it is necessary to be a skilled listener and pay careful attention when a team member is expressing their views and suggestions on the project. Actually, it is essential to encourage team members to feel free to express their opinions. Contrary to this, if the team does not have open communication and lack of mutual understanding, then the project cannot be successfully carried out.
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