At this point, you may be asking yourself: Aren’t teams and groups the same thing? No. In this section, we clarify the difference between a work group and a work team.14
Most of you are probably familiar with teams especially if you’ve watched or participated in organized sports events. Work teams do differ from work groups and have their own unique traits (see Exhibit 9-5). Work groups interact primarily to share information and to make deci- sions to help each member do his or her job more efficiently and effectively. There’s no need or opportunity for work groups to engage in collective work that requires joint effort. On the other hand, work teams are groups whose members work intensely on a specific, common goal using their positive synergy, individual and mutual accountability, and complementary skills.
These descriptions should help clarify why so many organizations have restructured work processes around teams. Managers are looking for that positive synergy that will help the organization improve its performance.15 The extensive use of teams creates the potential for an organization to generate greater outputs with no increase in (or even fewer) inputs. For example, until the economic downturn hit, investment teams at Wachovia’s Asset Management Division (which is now a part of Wells Fargo & Company) were able to significantly improve investment performance. As a result, these teams helped the bank improve its Morningstar financial rating.16
Recognize, however, that such increases are simply “potential.” Nothing inherently magi- cal in the creation of work teams guarantees that this positive synergy and its accompanying pro- ductivity will occur. Accordingly, merely calling a group a team doesn’t automatically increase its performance.17 As we show later in this chapter, successful or high-performing work teams have certain common characteristics. If managers hope to gain increases in organizational per- formance, it will need to ensure that its teams possess those characteristics.
What Are the Different Types of Work Teams? Teams can do a variety of things. They can design products, provide services, negotiate deals, coordinate projects, offer advice, and make decisions.18 For instance, at Rockwell Automation’s facility in North Carolina, teams are used in work process optimization projects. At Arkansas-based Acxiom Corporation, a team of human resource professionals planned and implemented a cultural change. And every summer weekend at any NASCAR race, you can see work teams in action during drivers’ pit stops.19 The four most common types of work