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What Teams Need

Management's Responsibility 

Self Directed Work Teams (SDWT) bring many benefits. Throwing a group of people together and anointing them as a team will not, however, produce good results. Effective work teams need.Cross Functional Team

  • Team-Oriented Work Structures

  • Coaching and Training

  • Task Training

  • Rewards

  • Time

  • Team-Based Culture & Environment

Work Team Structures

Work structure consists of the process and layout. Process includes the operational steps, their sequence, and the required equipment or technology. Layout is the physical arrangement. 

Restructuring for Teams

At a manufacturer of custom commercial windows, preparation of an order for production required many activities and more time than the actual production. The activities included sales, engineering, checking, data entry, scheduling, and purchasing. Separate groups at separate physical locations performed these tasks. Every order went through every group. The employees had no common goal and nobody understood the entire process.

A re-organization established three work teams and a new layout co-located team members. Average order processing time went from about 11 weeks to less than one week. In addition errors were reduced.

Team Process Training

Team process refers to the activities and relationships within the team. It involves communication, conflict resolution, time management and other activities. Team process also refers to the gradual establishments of behavioral norms, team objectives and bonding.

Task Training

Teams are especially important for workcells. The work team may not have enough people to assign one skill set to each person. Workloads are often unbalanced. If trouble develops on a particular operation, the team needs to quickly shift members and relieve the problem. For these and other reasons, teams perform better with cross training.


Reward systems should be geared to the team rather than individuals. If bonuses and incentives are part of the reward system, they should be given for the team's performance and not individual performance. Intrinsic rewards such as recognition, or feelings of accomplishment have more power than monetary rewards. 


Work teams require time to develop and mature. Members master new social and technical skills. The team learns to resolve conflict. Members forge relationships. While some results develop sooner, it usually takes 18-24 months for a team to reach fully potential.

A Team Culture

Managers and specialists who operate outside the work teams must also understand them. Teams can be destroyed by inappropriate personnel policies, pay systems, supervision, or a few destructive comments from managers and staff.


Self Directed Work Teams are a powerful means to increase productivity, quality, and customer response. They make work more intersting, challenging and satisfying. While these improvements are often-order-of magnitude rather  than a few percentage points, they require changes in both management and individual thinking--a paradigm shift. They also require time, effort, and tolerance.

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