Team based organizations are one of the major trends in today’s business environment. This article reviews how the effective implementation of teams within an organization can provide a powerful competitive advantage. In this article, Ron Armstrong, points out that the most valuable resource of any organization is its people, because of their ability to think, communicate, and use judgment. Thus, a person’s creativity, decision-making and problem solving abilities can be used by an organization to carry out the management functions of planning, organizing, leading and controlling.
The author, in this article, discusses the differences between the traditional organization and team-based organizations. Traditional organizations are characterized by letting only the people on top of the organization structure get involved in the management process. Because employees do not contribute to the decision-making process, managers are responsible for researching and evaluating information in order to make decisions that affect the organization’s future. Team-based organizations, on the other hand, delegate management activities to their employees and promote collective decision-making. This gives managers more time to spend on collecting and analyzing information before making key decisions.
This article also indicates that team-based organizations divide responsibilities among the upper and lower level teams. Upper level teams are accountable for managing activities that have a “dramatic and long range effect on the company”, whereas lower level teams are responsible for managing activities related to day-to-day activities. By empowering employees to make decisions and delegating them responsibilities, a sense of ownership in the organization is built and the loyalty towards the organization increases. The company as a whole benefits by involving everyone in the management process. In fact, more and better ideas are implemented; waste is eliminated; communication within the organization is improved; employee’s interests and commitment are increased; stress, turnover and absenteeism are reduced; and top management has more time for making decisions that affect the whole organization.
Among the topics covered during week one, was how competition and change had increased due to technology innovation, globalization, and deregulation. To be more efficient and to effectively react to competitive and technological changes, more and more companies are implementing new management methods such as mini-units, internet-based financial controls, and team-based organizations. Section one of the book gives a summary of how companies are applying these management methods. Although in this section team-based organizations are not covered in depth, the book does indicate that in this type of management “employees do not identify with separate departments, but instead interact with whomever they must to get the job done”.
One of the discussion questions for week one referred to how effective management impacts organizational success. By implementing a team-based organization system, a company not only improves its operating effectiveness and creates a competitive advantage, but also increases communication within the organization and establishes collective decision-making which in turn helps the organization achieve its goals and objectives. In fact, everyone in the organization concentrates on the company’s vision and mission and they contribute to accomplish the company’s goals.
Although some fire departments still use the traditional organization system, where management is done only by those on top of the pyramid structure; Fairfax County Fire Department has implemented the “team-base organization” system. This system gives firefighters, company officers, and upper management the opportunity to conduct management functions and develop collective decisions. Because people’s lives are at stake during emergency situations, all the decision-making and planning is done by company officers during emergency situations. Although tasks and authority are delegated during an emergency, responsibility is not. The company officer is still responsible for the end result.
The upper level teams of the fire department are responsible for planning and making decisions that have an effect on the whole department and affect the department’s future. Issues like strategic planning, staffing, and budgeting are handled by these teams. The lower level teams, on the other hand, are responsible for managing daily activities such us daily staffing, planning of inspections, equipment repair, station maintenance, and so on. Everyone, however, focuses on the fire department vision and mission; and contributes to achieve the department’s goals.
At the fire station level, responsibility and authority is also delegated by company officers. Delegation not only frees company officers from spending their time performing tasks that others can do, but it also gives firefighters an opportunity to expand their capabilities. The decisions they make are collective and directly related to the work they perform every day. For instance, since firefighters are the ones that use equipment and tools, they are involved in committees that make decisions regarding the acquisition of new equipment, replacement of old equipment, and the training of personnel on how to use new equipment. This involvement has shown to improve communication within the department and increased firefighters’ enthusiasm.
In summary, the team-base organization system can be applied to most any kind of organization. The key to the success of this system is that authority and responsibility are delegated and everybody is involved in the decision-making process. The end result is collective and improved decisions that help attaining the organization’s goals.