Management Loves Teams; You Should Too

By John Riley

On October 17, 1994, the Wall Street Journal ran an article talking about Frito Lay’s use of teams to resolve various plant problems. That story captures the reasons managements everywhere have become instigators of teams to deal with their most vexing issues. The thrust of the article:

 “Since pushing most of its Lubbock (TX) plant’s work, and accountability to teams in 1990, Frito Lay has reduced the number of managers from 38 to 13 while its hourly workforce has grown 20%. Despite less supervision this plant has seen its costs cut dramatically and quality jump. Teams are responsible for everything from potato processing to equipment  maintenance, cost control, and service performance.”

 Using teams to tackle problems and find solutions can be traced back to the late 1920’s when the concept grew out of a research study to determine what happened to workers under various conditions.

Researchers found workers built a sense of group identity, developed social support and cohesion brought about by worker interaction.

 Today, the degree of team sophistication has advanced significantly. And yet, some learned souls have expressed an occasional reaction to working on teams, “I could have done this project by myself in a third of the time.” It can be a valid critique when a team is not properly organized and led. Therein is the opportunity for managers and supervisors to step in and demonstrate their leadership skills.

 It’s very important the individual selected to be the team lead insist on training for that role if training is not offered at the time of his/her appointment. Receiving guidance on such things as conflict resolution, process and proper communications can make a big difference in the team lead’s performance.

 Another key consideration is the decision on whether the issue should be referred to a team. Complex and important issues and decisions lend themselves to team approaches. It is also true when the potential for conflict is great and there is no time pressure.

 Establishing sharply worded and concise objectives for the team is essential. It isn’t easy because various departments of the company will probably be represented on the team and each representative may have a different set of interests.

 Once meetings are underway, the Team lead’s most important responsibility it to generate and maintain good relations among members. People and problems need to be separated and options explored by the whole team. When conflict arises, persuasion is needed to restore harmony and direction.

 Leading a team successfully requires the kind of skills management is looking for in their future leaders, skills such as organization and planning, communication, problem solving and managing people.  That’s why the wise manager or supervisor who has an opportunity to lead a team should welcome the challenge and grasp it firmly.

Explore posts in the same categories: Jobs, Management, Operations

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