More and more organisations are embracing a team approach in their quest to meet the demands of a turbulent marketplace. The dynamics of teams and teamwork are fascinating. Most managers in today’s collaborative and consultative environments need to develop teams and team leadership to achieve good results through others. Strong teams assist managers and they make organisations stronger, but the converse is also true – weak teams severely weaken organisations. Although there are many perspectives regarding teamwork, the general enthusiasm for teams and what they can accomplish remains strong. Work teams in South Africa are becoming a lucrative business. Already in the 1990s, no fewer than 82% of companies with more than 100 employees reported using team structures (Gordon, 2002). During the same period, as many as 68% of the Fortune 1000 companies used self-managed teams (Lawler, Mohrman&Ledford, 1995). There were two main reasons for undertaking this study: satisfying my own natural inquisitiveness regarding teams, and investigating teamwork and the expectations of employees of teamwork in 21st century South African organisations. I set out to explore, describe and understand the challenges teams have to face, as well as individuals’ expectations of working in teams. A qualitative approach, with due reference to the multiple levels of organisational behaviour (individual, groups and organisational level), was applied in this quest to understand team expectations and challenges in context. A total of 20 in-depth, semi-structured interviews and four focus group interviews were conducted amongst 38 voluntary participants. The transcripts were then thoroughly analysed and compared to identify shared themes and to explore differences and similarities in terms of team experiences and expectations. Four themes and numerous sub-themes evolved from the research. Theme 1 deals with the individual level expectations of teamwork, and represents the individuals’ need to be part of the organisation and to enjoy this experience. Theme 2 indicates the specific team level expectations of team work. Teams expressed a need for clear roles and to be rewarded if they reached those goals, as well as for team skills. Theme 3 deals with the expectations that leaders and organisations have when they implement teamwork. It turns out that organisations often implement teams and expect them to solve business problems without offering the relevant support to those teams. Theme 4 addresses the greatest challenges teams face in 21st century South African organisations. Virtual teaming and a loss of identity are identified as a few of these challenges. The themes as well as sub-themes are discussed in detail in Chapter 4. Based on the study findings, several recommendations are made based on the shared experiences and unique feedback of these 38 individuals from all organisational levels. I further identify various “team paradoxes”, as I call them, and indicate the relevance of these paradoxes in understanding teams. Some of the findings question existing premises regarding teamwork, establishing a foundation for possible future research. The truth is that there is still much to be done in terms of optimising team effectiveness and a better organisational understanding of the complexities of individuals working together in teams.
Thesis (PhD (Organizational Behaviour))--University of Pretoria, 2008.