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Ai Group Recruitment Services - Building Tomorrow's Workforce


Team Based Work Systems

Why implement team-based work systems? 

High performance organisations believe in the power of teams for giving workers a voice and getting them to work with others in problem-solving and generating innovative ideas in order to improve the quality of products and services. Models of work organisation based on 'team production' are central tenets of high performance work organisations. 

In Australia, the adoption of teams and teamwork (Martin and Healy 2009) is seen as a key employee engagement practice; not only in manufacturing, but also in service industries. 

How to implement team-based work systems 

Team-based work systems cannot be implemented simply though process re-engineering or team training. A team-based approach requires support throughout the whole organisation. Firstly, Senior Management must actively and visibly support the move to team-based work systems and show they can be counted on to provide necessary resources. Then managers and supervisors who have daily contact with frontline employees must be committed to this move to team-based work systems and be prepared to see some of the responsibilities they once held taken on by teams. Finally frontline employees must clearly understand the business strategy and reason for the move to team-based work systems as its success revolves around maximizing the contribution of all employees by empowering them with information and authority. 

Success factors for implementing team-based work systems include: 

  • Regular communication of business objectives and information
  • Involvement of key stakeholders (including frontline employees and unions if applicable)
  • Support at all levels of the organisation
  • Organisational structure focused on process rather traditional functions or departments
  • Clearly defined roles for team members and managers (this can be addressed through the Team Charter)

The value of a team charter 

A team charter is a document that defines the purpose of a team, expected outcomes and how the team will work together for results. It is a set of agreements created to ensure everyone is on the same page from the outset. Most importantly it provides role clarity by delineating areas of responsibilities and accountability for each team member and the manager, which is critical to the success of a team-based approach. 

An effective team charter should include the following: 

Purpose and Key Responsibilities: the reason for the team's existence and what members hold themselves accountable for as a team. Purpose statements are often more powerful when stated from the viewpoint of the customer. 

Vision: a results-oriented picture of the team that describes what members commit to achieve together sometime in the future. 

Values: beliefs or principles that define what is important to team members and serve to guide the team's actions and decisions. 

Goals: specific, measurable results that are aligned with the team's purpose and vision. 

Roles and Responsibilities: description of who is on the team and their functional responsibilities. 

Rules of Engagement: ground rules that clarify how team members will interact, collaborate, support each other and give each other feedback. 

An Example of Team based work systems: Types of Teams

The self-regulating team 

Most performance management systems focus on individual achievement. However, where the compensation system is effective at rewarding and encouraging high-involvement teamwork, it can be used effectively to manage performance across a whole department, office or site. In this case the team 'self-regulates' to tackle the underperformers. Individuals who are not pulling their weight or contributing to the group in an equitable manner will usually be put on notice by team members that their performance level is unacceptable. This level of peer pressure prevents slacking as employees are often motivated by the fear of letting down their team members. 

The cross functional team 

A cross-functional team is a group of people with different functional expertise working toward a common goal. For example, it could bring together people from finance, sales and marketing, operations and production to address a complex challenge affecting the business, which calls for the input and expertise of numerous departments. Such teams could function as 'pop up teams' as they are formed outside traditional lines of hierarchy or organizational structure, in order to work on particular projects or to solve a specific issue. 

For example, the Flinders Medical Centre in South Australia set up a project team for the 'Redesigning Care' program, who subsequently developed the process of "streaming' to reduce overcrowding and delays in Emergency Departments. Here, patients are grouped according to whether they are likely to be sent home or to be admitted and seen in separate areas, with patients only able to jump the queue if it is a life or limb-threatening issue. This process decreased the wait time for patients and the number of patients in Emergency on any one day. 

The rationale for setting up a cross-functional team is encapsulated in the words of its General Manager: "Redesigning Care can't be done by one person or even a handful of people. It requires a team effort across all areas of the hospital. It's about a new way of thinking, a new way of doing things, a new service culture - with the patient's needs at the core of each decision made'. 

The advantage of the cross-functional team is to break down traditional silos so that each member can offer an alternative perspective to the problem and potential solution. By including multi-disciplinary team members and employees at different levels of hierarchy, the team can engage in creative or out of the box thinking in order to better the organization or solve a complex problem. 

The self-managed team 

A self-managing team is an empowered team of highly competent, self-directed workers who have been delegated all responsibilities and authority. They replace the traditional workgroup headed by a supervisor and the team members assume duties otherwise performed by a first-line supervisor. This means the team and not the supervisor is ultimately and collectively accountable for the work done, effectively flattening the organisational structure.
Need more team members so that you can build your team based work system? The team at Ai Group Recruitment Services are ready to take your call today!