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 Managing Contemporary Organizations / Why Teams Don’t Work

  A law was made a distant moon ago here,
July and August cannot be too hot.
And there’s a legal limit to the snow here in Camelot ...

 iI. Introduction

ndeCamelot.. An historic example of team effort gone awry. In that legendary story, a few key events transformed Camelot from a utopian kingdom into a wasteland. This isn’t just idle meandering. There are corporate Camelots, too, suggests Steven Rayner (6) -- those companies that started with such promise and fell victim to problems in their teamwork concepts. It is clear to see that team-based systems simply don’t work; better control equals better management. An emphasis on separating workers into specifically defined jobs, having centralized management control, and maintaining a structured chain of command contributes to a much better and more effective workplace situation (Rayner 15). There are, writes Steven Rayner in Team Traps, "literally hundreds of traps" that can "open a gateway to team disaster" (15). It makes more sense, therefore, to stick to the traditional structures in the workplace.term papers and term papers

 II. Problem With A Group Approach term papers on and also term papers in and term papers about

ebfefOne of the major problems presented in the team work approach is that people are not accustomed to "group problem-solving" (Harrington-Mackin 137). It is a practice that not only hasn’t been learned, but is a difficult one to institute. In school, children are taught to rely on their own resources; to develop their individual capabilities. Deborah Harrington-Mackin cites the example of a fourth grader, who wouldn’t be allowed to say, "Hey, Joe, you’re good at word problems and I’m good at multiplication tables, so let’s get together for this test" (137), yet the adult equivalent of this is seen in the workplace when teams are expected to come up with a group solution to a problem. This is an odd practice for most people, as well as the fact that trying to reach a consensus in a group of adults can frequently result in heated arguments, and no solution. Team decision-making can be frustrating. The team members have to take the time to listen to everyone’s opinions -- a time-consuming process where the inclination is frequently to jump on the first answer given rather than go through the lengthy and frequently tedious process of hearing from everyone (Harrington-Mackin 138). term papers
qwrgIt seems that teams are being formed for every imaginable reason -- quality improvement teams, project teams, management teams, task force teams -- companies are quick to assume that increased employee involvement leads to improved productivity (Rees 7). But the problems that occur in trying to increase employee involvement outweigh the benefits. Many organizations that began traditionally are not accustomed to involving non-managerial employees in the procedures of planning, decision-making, and goal setting. These organizations have leaders who pass out information and answer questions, usually without requiring further involvement from subordinates.term papers
vqrgOrganizations have been "structured historically to reinforce authoritarian management styles" (Mosvick-Nelson 109). There is no easy way to facilitate a team-oriented decision making policy. The authoritarian organizational structure is still the type of management style most used in business (Mosvick-Nelson 109), and for a good reason. Many leaders don’t know how to manage the participation of employees in these processes, even when a team is set up, and they frequently discourage participation (whether or not it’s done intentionally) by their actions -- they may allow for minimal time for participation, interrupt people, or simply ignore what they hear. This is a good case for leaving the decision-making to the top leadership (Rees 10).term papers

III. "What are we supposed to do?"
vevevMany problems with teams result because there is no clear understanding about what is supposed to be accomplished. Team members and team leaders typically have problems defining their own roles, making it difficult to work toward results rather than busying themselves with the activities of the team (Fisher-Rayner-Belgard 6). It’s far too easy to get caught up in day-to-day activities, in being a team, and forget the reason the team was formed in the first place. This lack of focus is a good reason to keep employees working on their own, in specific, well-defined jobs. Teams tend to become too inwardly-focused -- a sure sign they won’t survive. term papers
     Sometimes the manager of the team will discount not what his own team is trying to accomplish, but the efforts of others. A manager may insist that the success of other teams was nothing more than a "fluke" (Rayner 9), or they suggest any success was due to highly unique circumstances. This naturally leads to a lack of credibility, and suggests that employee involvement is irrelevant, yet it is an occurrence that’s all too common. term papers
rfrgThe relationship between team leader and team members is often adversarial. When the team is first formed, it relies on the manager to transfer decision-making and problem-solving authority to the team members. But eventually, the team members rebel against the authority figure, which often results in a confusion over responsibilities and the roles each member is to take. It’s not unusual for the team members to try to take on all managerial responsibilities and even question the value of the manager’s role -- the team is ostensibly working effectively; why does it need a manager? The tendency for team members to rebel or resist the influence of the designated team leader is a situation that seems to occur in every newly-formed team operation (Rayner 133). This paper was written by The Paper Store, Inc.erm papers

 IV. Working Together Isn’t So Easy

veqgIn his book, Style of Management and Leadership, Manfred Davidmann reminds us that business experts have to work together to achieve their goals, and discord in one area can inconvenience many people (1). It is essential, therefore, that people cooperate with each other -- but this doesn’t necessarily imply working on a team. Experience has shown that the larger the organization is the more difficult it is to achieve the necessary degree of cooperation. Larger organizations are usually much less effective using a ream approach, as people tend to work against each other rather than with each other (Davidmann 1). term papers
vqrvCooperation is essential to any team effort, and it’s not something that can be easily achieved. Frustration with management, or the workplace itself, causes internal conflict and struggle, which in turn means there is considerable lack of identification with the organization and its objectives. Davidmann relates the analogy of coming up against a brick wall. Team members may be trying to achieve something which is difficult, and it seems they don’t get anywhere because they "keep on knocking ... against this brick wall which stops us" (1). It may be the system or the organization; it may be the team leader or the way the team members relate to each other. In that kind of situation, one finds the "wall" is very solid, very high, extends almost indefinitely on either side and its foundations are deep and strong. In other words, the team can’t get through it; can’t find any way to get around the problem, and can’t seem to stop "knocking their heads against the wall" (Davidmann 1). This type of situation, one which occurs all too frequently, is also one which destroys teamwork. term papers
     Gerard M Blair says that there are certain frameworks within which teams attempt to work. It’s the inability to function within these ‘frames’ that is another disadvantage to teamwork. The "Forming stage" (1) is when the team first comes together. Everyone is considerate and civil, and allows for everyone to participate. Discussion is slow and guarded since no one wishes to be seen as foolish by saying something on which the other may not agree. And underneath all this, there may be conflict. Even though it is not verbalized, it’s always destructive. term papers
rvrgNext comes the "Storming stage" (Blair 1)-- people take up sides, and views and ideas are "entrenched" (1). The effectiveness of the team takes a nose dive, and the productiveness of the team is far less than the individuals could have achieved had they not been brought together. term papers
rgerThe "Norming stage" (Blair 1) is next, in which the team works out methods of compromise, although this often is a moot point. Teams are not always willing to move beyond the first two stages. Once again, human nature is a strong deterrent in the ability of teams to function effectively. There are simply too many people with too many different ideas, and it’s not to be assumed that they will be able to resolve their differences. term papers

 VI. Barriers for Management Teams

vergrManagement teams are not immune to problems. Not everyone feels that team-based management is the solution for ailing organizations. A team leader from American President Cos. says, "A team is like having a baby tiger given to you at Christmas. It does a wonderful job of keeping the mice away for about 12 months, and then it starts to eat your kids" (Labich 1). term papers
qergOne of the major reasons why management teams don’t work comes down to human nature. Harshman and Philips write of "motivational barriers" (148), where people in the organization fear loss of power, and "leadership barriers" (151), where a resistance to leadership leads the all the employees to believe that the team approach is unnecessary. Kenneth Labich suggests that team leaders "revert to form and claim the sandbox for themselves, refusing to share authority with the other kids" (1). Everyone else on the team tends to argue among themselves, bickering about such things as who gets credit for what the team produces. The team falls apart under the pressure and strain -- the tiger eats the kids. This is one of the major disadvantages to effective team work.term papers
rgfwLeadership barriers can stop the entire team process, which ultimately gives the entire workplace the message that the issues the team was trying to resolve were not to be taken seriously. Many top level managers are goal-driven, results-oriented, and have little patience with any long-term process that needs to be effected by a team. The combination of leaders’ impatience and their possibly different perspectives on the objectives of the organization and the team make it very difficult for a team to function effectively (Harshman-Philips 151).term papers
     It’s also difficult, suggests Harshman and Philips, for middle management to work in a team. They typically are caught between the top management who controls the organization, and the employees who actually get the work done. Their "power" in the day-to-day workings of an organization is somewhat shaky, and they don’t generally adapt well to any suggestion of rechanneling that power. This is a major disadvantage to setting up a team (152).term papers

 VII. Team Barriers 

     In addition, there are external barriers which are disadvantageous to the team, which may include:

rwrgIt would seem that there are too many negative aspects to functioning as a team. Teams tend to make excuses to avoid responsibility -- anything from "We don’t have the right equipment" to "It’s too late to start now" to "We have other problems we need to tackle first" (Deborah Harrington-Mackin 12). If a team doesn’t want to cooperate and work together, no amount of suggested solutions can force the members to come up with results. Harrington-Mackin relates that the best excuse she has heard for a team’s failure to perform was that the team was initially "too large to accomplish anything" (12). To accommodate this team in an attempt to help it work together effectively, it was divided into smaller subgroups, which then, predictably, declared they were too small to be of any use.  term papers

 VIII. Team Myopia
grjjSteven Rayner recognizes that some teams can become very near-sighted; that is, they can’t see past their own noses. There is a natural tendency for teams to become inclusive of their own members, and "somewhat paranoid" of the intentions of "outsiders" (Rayner 46). In their initial enthusiasm over making a difference for the organization, some team leaders tend to grab strength through defiance. They challenge anything that was formerly established protocol and this can have a seriously detrimental result. Rayner relates the following anecdote: term papers

fwefwefwefweefThe leader of a usually successful team became known as a ‘corporate outlaw’
fwfwrfrfrfrfrfrf(a troublemaker), because he didn’t follow accepted procedures. But this wasn’t
wkflhjwflkjrkjthe critical point that led to his failure as an effective team leader. He had a singular
ergerergerger lack of grace and acceptance of others. His overblown ego led him to give ultimatums
fwwrfrwrrrrfrfthat if a team member wasn’t ‘for’ him, he must be ‘against’ him. He believed he could
wrfwrfrfrfrfrfignore procedures and practices that had worked previously as long as he got the
frfrfrfrfrfrfrfrdesired results from his team. However, thefteam fell apart due to his arrogance --
efwfwefwefwhis successes were overshadowed by his lack of humility. Team members are not going to
fwfqwfwfffwfwork for effective solutions to problems if they receive no credit for doing so, or if they feel
wfwrfrfrfrfrfrthey are being dictated to as opposed to being part of the team they’ve formed.
frqfrfrqwfrwThis particular leader’s myopic vision of what constituted a good team never took that into
w    fwerfweconsideration (Rayner 49)."
term papers term papers

fwefwRayner also attacks existing methods as a means to gain motivation of his team members -- a ‘we can do it better than they did’ idea (Rayner 59). Even teams that have proven success records tend to fall apart when they have poor interaction with other groups.  term papers

 IX. Plain and Simple -- Poor Management term papers

wfrkTeams forming to accomplish a basic goal often fail due to being poorly managed. Gerard Blair’s facetious description of this process says that: term papers

frfrfqrfqrfrqfIn the beginning, God made an individual - and then he made a pair.
fwefwewefefThe pair formed a group, together they begat others and thus the group grew.
wfwfweffwffUnfortunately, working in a group led to friction, the group disintegrated in
rqegrgrrgrg conflict and Caian settled in the land of Nod - there has been trouble with groups ever since
wfwfwefwef (Blair-Groups 1). term papers

rfrfWhen people work in groups, there are usually two separate issues involved. The first issue is the task and the problems that are involved in getting the job done. Frequently this is the only issue which the group considers. The second issue is the process of the group work itself -- the procedures by which the group acts as a team. But the disadvantage here is that without proper attention to this process, the value of the group can be diminished or even destroyed. All too often, teams can’t manage to see group work as attractive, and there are too many problems inherent to group formation (Blair-Groups 1). term papers
fwrfWhat many teams fail to recognize is that a group of people working in the same room, or even on a common project, does not necessarily invoke the group process. If the group is managed by a leader who relates to them in a totally autocratic manner, there may be little opportunity for interaction. If the group can’t interact, the team eventually dissolves, or -- in some instances -- becomes a group of people all working separately instead of together.
ffrffThe group process should lead to a spirit of cooperation, coordination and commonly understood procedures -- that’s generally why a team was established in the first place. But this isn’t always the case. All too often there is one person, perhaps not even the leader, who wants to run the show. Blair asks us to consider the effect that a "self-opinionated, cantankerous loud-mouth" would have on performance efforts, as contrasted to working with a "friendly, open, helpful associate" (Groups 1). One person can destroy the team just as effectively as if the entire team was unable to function together. term papers
wrfrPoor management of teams also extends to the leaders not recognizing the team members as individuals. Being expected to conform to group standards and set aside individual needs or preferences is one of the main reason teams don’t work (Rees 42). Of course, some people are more comfortable being part of a group, but more independent workers tend to feel ill-at-ease when working in a team. Others may feel they don’t have much in common with their team members -- an essential factor to a team’s running smoothly -- whether it’s due to sex, religion, age or culture. If team members feel ‘left out’ at the beginning due to societal differences, there is little reason to expect the team will be able to function as a cohesive group (Rees 42). term papers

X. Too Many Qualifications; Too Little Time term papers

wfwfThe role of the team leader is a critical one, not only in his view of each team member as an individual, but also in his personal philosophy of what makes a team work -- as well as the qualifications for a good leader. Too often, the leader is unprepared for the multitude of expectations that is put on him as the leader of the group. Rees suggests that, in part, an effective leader needs to:term papers

fwefIt seems unlikely that there will be a team leader who will stand up to these, as well as several other, criteria, which of course implies that the team can’t function effectively. Managers simply face too many challenges as they become team leaders. More than ever they need to be able to count on the workers in a team, moving away from "the typical hierarchical conception of ‘us’ and ‘them’" (Sayles 9), and towards a more unified effort. But this is easier said than done. The problem inherent in a manager’s relinquishing his ‘power’ (or what he perceives as relinquishing it) is just one more reason why teams don’t work. term papers

XI. Team Quality term papers

wfwefAs has been discussed, the fate of a team generally rests with the Team Leader. The Team Leader has the authority and the power to define the work team, but too often there is a lack of focus. The quality of the team is diluted and the solutions are ineffective. Gerard Blair suggests that by applying what he calls the "principles of Quality" (1), the Team Leader can gain for the team the same benefits which work beneficially for the corporation. His first suggestion for attaining this is to become "enthusiastic about one aspect at a time" (1). This is often a difficult concept, as the whole idea of working on a team is to toss out as many different ideas as possible. One problem is that by focusing on any one particular issue may cause the team members to lose enthusiasm.  term papers

fwekAnother trap to poor team work is that the team may focus upon the wrong type of problem. Team leaders need to make it clear any problem which they tackle should be:  term papers

* related to their own work or environment, and term papers
* something which they can change.  term papers

vwvwUnfortunately, problem solving in teams can turn into "gripe sessions about wages and holidays" (Blair-Quality 1).

fwffFor some team leaders, the ability to enable failure is not a comfortable or familiar concept. If the team is unable to try out ideas without rebuke for errors, then the scope of their solutions will be severely limited. Too often, the failures aren’t recognized as they should be -- as an opportunity to gain knowledge. The quality of the team necessarily suffers because of this, and eventually, one can expect that the team itself will lack the enthusiasm or drive necessary to continue as an effective group (Blair-Quality 1). term papers

XII. The Face is Familiar term papers

fwefwAnother of the disadvantages to team work is that the teams themselves begin to ‘fade’ as they spend the necessary time together. The same people saying the same things in an extended team situation, day-after-day, becomes tedious and stale. Of course, the obvious solution to this would be to bring in new people, either as new team members or as liaisons to other teams. The problem with this is that teams often resist letting ‘outside’ new members on their team. If the team has functioned as a group for any appreciable length of time, they often feel they know each other’s quirks and have no desire to alter the dynamics of the group, even when it is apparent what they have isn’t working (Harrington-Macklin 74). term papers
ddedIf not new members, then another solution to the ‘same old, same old’ situation is often to attempt job-sharing -- the team members may be encouraged to switch jobs and responsibilities. This, too, is rarely easy to bring about. Team members are generally very resistant to job sharing because each member becomes territorial about the task to which he was first assigned (Harrington-Macklin 76). term papers

 XIII. Team Meetings term papers

eeefProductive team work is almost always the result of successful team meeting (Kinlaw v). Unfortunately, team leaders as well as members don’t receive adequate instruction on how to carry this out, or demonstrate the strategies for organizational development that are necessary. Team meetings, rather than being a productive and efficient means to solve an organization’s problems, can deteriorate due to lack of proper facilitation. Teams that have a tendency to repeatedly set aside difficult decisions find their options are increasingly limited. Without the adequate instruction on how to effect solutions, the teams will eventually either dissolve, or worse -- make decisions by "default rather than informed choice" (Rayner 167). term papers
efefDisruptive team members are another pitfall in team meetings. The reluctance of team members to provide honest and direct feedback to an objectionable member only leads to frustration and poor performance, yet many team members are uncomfortable with the inevitable confrontation (Rayner 169). term papers
wfffTeam managers have the responsibility to guide the team, but often they perceive this as a need to abdicate their authority in favor of letting the team members become more "self-directed" (Rayner 167). Many teams simply can’t handle this type of responsibility.  term papersterm papers

Conclusion / Why Not Teams?

fefefIt seems clear that working in teams is not always the most effective way to ensure quality solutions for organizations. The problems and pitfalls that are inherent to any team process don’t, in my opinion, outweigh the limited advantages of having people work in a group. There are too many variables that can cause the team to fail -- personalities, misunderstandings, ineffective leaders -- and it seems to make more sense, as well as the fact that the organization can simply run more smoothly, if the standard and traditional procedures of having everyone assigned to a given job, working on his own, is the method used. People still can feel part of the organization by their own contributions, but they don’t have the problems involved with several different people working on one team.  term papers

WORKS CITED term papers

Blair, Gerard M. Groups That Work.  term papers

dqedeqhttp://www.ee.ed.ac.uk/~gerard/Management/art0.html (1997). term papers

 term papers

Blair, Gerard M. "How to Build Quality into your Team" IEE Engineering Management Journal.
fwfwfffhttp://spindle-ee- net2.ee.ed.ac.uk/~gerard/Management/ (1996). term papers

 term papers
Blair, Gerard M. Laying the Foundations for Effective Teamwork. term papers

fefefe http://www.ee.ed.ac.uk/~gerard/Teaching/art0.html (1996).

  

Davidmann, Manfred .Style of Management and Leadership. term papers

ewfwefhttp://www.demon.co.uk/solbaram/articles/clm2.html (1982).

  

Fisher, Kimball-Rayner, Steven-Belgard, William. Tips for Teams. term papers
fwfwffrf(New York, NY: McGraw-Hill, Inc.,1995).

 

Harshman, Carl L.-Philips, Steven L. Teaming Up. term papers
dqdqdd(San Diego, CA: Pfeiffer & Co., 1994).

  

Kinlaw, Dennis. Team-Managed Facilitation. term papers
vrrfrfrrf(San Diego, CA: Pfeiffer & Co.,1993).

  

Harrington-Mackin, Deborah. Keeping the Team Going. term papers

frfrfrffrff(New York, NY: Amacom, 1996).

  

Mosvick, Roger-Nelson, Robert B. We’ve Got to Start Meeting Like This. term papers
wefefef(Glenview, IL: Scott Foresman, 1987). 

 

Rayner, Steven R. Team Traps. (New York, NY: John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 1996).term papers

  

Rees, Fran How to Lead Work Teams. (San Diego, CA: Pfeiffer & Co., 1991). term papers

 

Sayles, L.R. "Leadership for the Nineties." Issues and Observations. term papers
wewec(1990): Spring, pp. 8-11.


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