Empowerment through Cross-Functional Teams

The next level in the TLS Continuum Empowerment Model pyramid is that of the role of cross-functional teams. If you look at the business world the subject of business teams is a major area of concern. How do we construct them? Who should be part of them? What do we do with the result of the work of the team? Google the term “business teams,” and it results in 1,210,000,000 items. If we change the search criteria to ask for “business team books,” the result is 223,000,000 titles. If we turn to the websites of Amazon and Barnes & Noble and ask them to search for business teams, we get 30,000 and ЗбО titles, respectively.

Obviously, the concept of workplace teams is a point of critical discussion. The real question becomes how they operate within our workplaces.

In this chapter I will look at the creation of teams historically and then compare the classic concept of teams and empowered teams.

One of the meeting programs that I present is titled “Who Am I? The Role of Human Capital Assets in the Global Workplace” in which we present the fact that teams, either formally or informally, have been around since the 1700s, the first teams being the family farm and the way in which the family worked as a team to complete necessary tasks.

In 1909, with the publication of his Principles of Scientific Management, Frederick Winslow Taylor first introduced the idea that workers and managers need to cooperate with each other. From this idea Taylor began a series of Time and Motion studies to discover how to more effectively run the workplace.

These studies resulted in Taylor’s Four Principles of Scientific Management.1 In his first principle Taylor advocated that organizations should replace working by “rule of thumb,” and instead use the scientific method to study work and determine how most efficiently to perform specific tasks. In other words, Taylor suggested that we actually have a process to complete a task. The second principle suggested a different way of assigning tasks. Rather than simply assigning workers to any job, we should assign workers based on capability and motivation. One of the tenets of my “The Road to HR Excellence through Six Sigma” course is that team members should be selected based on their skills and attitudes. From this point Taylor, in his third principle, suggested that the performance of workers should be monitored and that they should be provided with instructions and supervision to ensure that they are using the most efficient ways of working. This principle reinforces the Toyota premise of the manager as a coach. The final principle advocated that the work between managers and workers be allocated so that the workers were allowed to perform their tasks efficiently. I will discuss this last principle more in depth in the next chapter. The drawback to these principles is that are based on the idea that there is only one way to do something and that does not allow for innovation or expanded views of the problem.

Hawthorne Studies

Sixty-one years later, with the Principles of Scientific Management embedded into the global business workplace, a team of Harvard business professors (Elton May, F.J. Roethlisberger and William J. Dickinson) were contracted by Western Electric to conduct a series of studies at their Hawthorne plant in Cicero, Illinois. The initial scope of the studies was concentrated on the physical and environmental issues surrounding the plant and its effect on the human capital assets.

Shortly after beginning the Hawthorne studies, the Harvard business professors discovered that in addition to the physical and environmental issues, there was a social issue to the workings of the Cicero plant.

Mayo et al. looked at the social dynamics of the groups within the plant. Like Frederick Taylor they discovered that the relationships between supervisors and workers govern the success of the team. They further expressed the view that the workplace is a social system made up of many parts. These social dynamics have a direct correlation to the total productivity of the organization.

However, we had heard this concept before from Abraham Maslow who, in his Hierarchy of Needs, suggested that the third level of the pyramid was the need for belongingness and love. To carry this forward, it is that need for belongingness which empowers organizational teams.

Our organizations are confronted with a choice. They can continue in their time-tested mode or create a new paradigm for team construction.

The rest of this chapter will show the difference between the two types of teams. It is worth mentioning at this juncture that Robert Mathis in his seminal work Human Resource Management suggests that in every organization there exists three types of teams—special purpose teams, self-directed teams and virtual teams.2 Our concentration in this book is primarily centered on the self-directed teams, although the same principles can be applied to all of them.

< Prev   CONTENTS   Source   Next >