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Types of Teams

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Teams can do a variety of things.  They can make products, provide services, negotiate deals, co-ordinate projects, offer advice and make decisions.  The four most common teams found in organizations are: problem solving teams, self-managed work-teams, cross-functional teams and virtual teams.

Problem Solving Teams

Problem-solving teams are groups of 5-10 people from the same department, who meet for a few hours each week to share ideas or make suggestions on how to improve a process.  Rarely, are these teams given the authority to unilaterally implement any of their suggested actions.  Problem-solving teams are usually temporary.  They are often given a problem to solve.  Once they recommend a solution to the problem, they may break up.  One of the more popular kinds of problem-solving teams is quality circles (QC’s), which began in the 1980’s and have become very popular in organizations throughout the world.  A quality circle is a small group (8-10 people) that meets regularly.  Its purpose is to discuss problems with the quality of a product, examine causes of the problem and recommend solutions.

Self-Managing Teams

Self-managed work teams are small (10-15 people) long-term (or permanent) groups that have the freedom to manage themselves on a daily basis.  This may involve various decisions such as: scheduling work, assigning tasks, training in job skills, evaluating performance, selecting and firing team members and controlling the quality of work. These things are made easier by multi-skilling (developing member’s abilities to do more than one job).  Self-managing teams are probably not right for all companies, situation and people.  They will have to fit into the culture of the organisation and also require a change in the way managers view their role.

General Motors are one of the large organisations that replaced their assembly lines with self-managed work teams.  Workers are free to participate in decisions that were previously reserved solely for management.  Teams set their own schedules, select new members, negotiate with suppliers, call customers and disciplines members who create problems.

Cross-Functional Teams


A cross-functional team is a group of people with different functional expertise working toward a common goal.  It may include people from finance, marketing, operations and human resources departments.  Typically, it includes employees from all levels of an organisation.  Members may also come from outside an organisation (in particular from suppliers, key customers or consultants).  In cross-functional teams, the leader’s role is more of a coach rather than a traditional manager.  The team leader does not manage all of the team’s activities; rather he promotes performance and makes sure that the team efforts are in line with the goals of the firm.

These teams have developed amidst our new business era of rapidly changing markets and technology.  With this rapidly changing and highly competitive world of business, companies are forced to produce in a timely and error free manner.  This resulted in rigid functional structuring being replaced with cross departmental collaboration.  Hierarchical firms are being flattened with many middle management positions becoming obsolete.  A powerful few are being replaced with self-empowerment of all workers.

Virtual Teams

The previous types of teams do their work face-to-face.  Virtual teams use computer technology to tie together physically dispersed members in order to achieve a common goal.  They allow people to collaborate using online communication links such as wide-area networks, video conferencing or e mail.

Virtual teams can do all the things that other teams do:  share information, make decisions and complete tasks.  It allows for people in different parts of the world to come together and work on a project.  It also creates alliances and mergers between organisations.  It extends the market to different geographical locations. 

Not surprisingly, virtual team members report less satisfaction with the group interaction process than do face to face teams.  Virtual teams often suffer from less social rapport and less direct interaction between team members. 

Companies like Verifone use virtual teams to allow them to use 3000 employees, who are located around the globe, to work together on design projects, marketing plans and making sales representations.