What is teamwork?


Teamwork is about galvanizing a group of people towards a common objective while simultaneously addressing the head yet appealing to the heart. Teamwork is also about bringing the best out of each individual in the pursuit of a collective goal deemed worthy of being realized.

Therefore, according to Jon Katzenbach (a published author and consultant who is best known for his work on theinformal organisation.), ‘a teamis a small number of people with complementary skills who are committed to a common purpose, set of performance goals, and approach for which they hold themselves mutually accountable.’


A challenging business climate needs to be engaged by effective teamwork. It provides an opportunity to come together and establish a common ground for the fulfillment of specific objectives. Empathy, appreciation and encouragement are some of the critical ingredients of effective teamwork. The vision must be bold, stir the intellect and yet move the heart. What is at stake needs to be clearly spelled out.

Alcorn (2006) provides a definition of a team from 1886, which defines a team as “work done by several associates, with each doing a part but all subordinating personal prominence to the efficiency of the whole.” In a simple context, this means that a team is a collective whole of people that work together so that they are more productive. The key for any organisation is to possess a team that can be defined using Alcorn’s provided definition. A team isn’t a team simply because a company pulls a group of workers together and calls them a team, but instead as a result of careful planning, hard work, and constant tweaking of team processes on a continuous basis.

In today’s competitive world where every organisation is striving to gain the best position in the market the concept of Group Development and Teamwork are steadily gaining importance. Individual decision making has taken a back stage and paved the way for team management approach for problem solving and decision making which has been productive for the organisations. This strategy not only benefits the organisation but also the individual employee, hence it’s been rapidly adopted by businesses.

Management Professor Tracy McDonald states that “The teamwork push probably started in business in the late 1970s or early ’80s with the advent of quality circles [employee problem-solving teams],”she says innovation, creativity and change have been some of the main drivers of team success and since the past 30 years, organisations have embraced this concept with welcoming hands.

Yuki Funo the Chairman and CEO of Toyota motor, states that the “Toyota way is the way to number 1”. One of the principles of the Toyota way is to ‘add value to the organisation by developing your people’ and people can be developed by molding them into exceptional individuals and teams to work within the corporate philosophy.

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Nippard B. creator a Facebook group (teamwork ladder) on teamwork states that “more than 80% of fortune 500 companies subscribe to teamwork. Teamwork brings success no matter how you define victory.”

Groups and Teams facilitate the organisation to achieve a competitive advantage because groups increase responsiveness to the organisations customers, employee motivation, increase creativity and they have also been capable of helping the members of organisation to enhance task performance and experience more satisfaction with their work.

Team Responsiveness to Customers:

It has been a priority for organisations to be elastic and readily responsible for the continuously changing needs, behavior and desires of customers. Being reactive to customers often requires different levels of the hierarchy departments to combine their skills and knowledge. For example, at the lower hierarchy the employees such as sales representatives of a car company, they are the people who are closest to the customers and are aware of the customer needs. But their job in the organisation is to just make sales of the cars and they cannot instill the desired changes into the car, which is in the field of the research and development department. For making the change a higher level of hierarchy is required such as research and development experts and other members who can come together and create a group or a cross- functional team who with its diverse skills and capability will enhance the responsiveness to customer needs.

It is important for managers to understand the need and set up the appropriate cross-functional team who will carefully determine what type of expertise and capabilities are required to be responsive to the customers.

This information is very vital for forming teams. A cross-functional team is the best solution that’s aligned to any business needs can help you improve your efficiency and respond to customers more quickly.
The needs of a customer are focused forming such cross functional teams and a satisfied customer is always an asset for any organisation.

Employee Motivation:

Kreitner R. (1995) has defined motivation as ‘the psychological process that gives behavior purpose and direction. ‘Groups and teams are formed to increase the productivity and efficiency of an organisation. To do so Managers have learnt that increasing employee motivation and satisfying team members is the best way to achieve an organisations strategic objectives. It is also about the motivation of members of the group to stick with each other and oppose leaving it.

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Being motivating to the team members and giving them the experience of working with other creative members in the organisation is very inspiring and leads the team members to be more creative in their work and helps them to be more productive and increases their work effort.

All the ideas generated are directly contributed in the final result and in the success of the organisational goals, and hence the members of the team feel personally responsible for the outcomes or results of their work. This satisfies the statement by Dwight D. Eisenhower that”Motivation is the art of getting people to do what you want them to do because they want to do it.”

Enhanced Performance and Synergy:

‘Synergy is the effect that the combined return “whole” is greater than the sum of the individual parts’. (Sebastian Knoll, Cross-Business Synergies, page 14).

The phenomenon of Synergy within a Group or Team has become one of the most vital parts for an organisation. People who work in groups are able to produce more efficiently and they confer greater quality of output than that produced by an individual and their productivity combined. Joint problem solving, variety in idea’s and knowledge, different views towards an issue and accomplishing difficult tasks are some of the factors added by synergy in groups.

To make utilize of synergy in groups managers need to make sure that, the group they put together comprise a variety of skills and talents which are diverse and corresponding but still relevant to the task, and being certain that these skills are coordinated efficiently. Managers should make sure that the groups achieve goals for the organisation in their own way and enough independence is provided to solve problems.


Organisations constantly strive to develop new products, services, new technologies and deliver them to the market. Innovation provides organisations with competitive advantage. An individual working alone might possess an innovative idea, but it takes a team with skills and expertise to execute it. For this reason, Managers create teams with different individuals, with diverse skills, knowledge, and a variety of talents so they can turn an individual’s innovative idea to a successful one.

Managers give maximum freedom to their teams to perform their tasks without interfering much and full responsibility is given to execute the innovation. Required guidance, training, and resources are provided by the Managers but the rest is in the hands of the team. It’s therefore important to have skillful team mates and everyone should be specialized in their own work, to be more creative and quick which all lies as additional advantage to the team and organisation.

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Team Conflicts

Teams do not work in isolation and are often highly dependent on other groups or teams within the organisation to complete their goals. Conflicts can arise due to several reasons but it’s often due to lack of agreement on the goals of different groups. Sometimes it also arises due to direct competition.

The consequences of conflict can take two forms, positive and negative.
Positive also known asconstructive conflicthelps teams work towards goals through healthy debate on the decision in question. Conflicts helps the team reduce conformity and unhealthy agreement, solve problems better and overcome obstacles to group progress. It also helps teams achieve goals outside the box through continuous feedback from both internal and external sources.

Negative which is also known asdestructive conflicton the other hand can result in lack of cooperation within teams and this may prove disastrous to the final goal if not managed well at its early stages. There are following conflicts in groups which are causes of destructive conflicts.

  • Relationship Conflict
  • Task Conflicts
  • Value Conflict

It is therefore very important for managers to take control of all the problems right from their roots. Teams that face problems such as conflicts, risky shifts, groupthink and social loafing are a treat to the organisation and should be resolved at the earliest.


Team oriented approach is the order of the day when it comes to successful organisations who have empowered their employees, motivated them and involved them in such a way that the existence of the organisation wouldn’t have been possible without the existence of teams of such highly motivated individuals. Teamwork has bought the employee and the organisation closer than ever. Problem solving, creativity, innovation and shared vision are as synonymous to teamwork as teamwork is to success. Although team building is a complex process and there are many challenges that hinder a team’s success.

The effectiveness of teams is dependent upon a number of psychological factors that can inhibit or improve performance.

  • Subtle processes such as social loafing, hierarchical effects, and personality differences can dramatically inhibit team performance.
  • Within organisational settings, teams are usually put together and allowed to function without attempts being made to ensure effective functioning.
  • The most important elements of team management are specifying individual and team goals and the design of the team task.
  • At the same time there must be regular clear and accurate feedback to the team on its performance over time in order to promote effectiveness.
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