22 Apr 2022


Organizational Teams and Work Groups

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Academic level: High School

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Organizational teams are considered work groups based on the innate role they play in the workplace. Work teams or work groups are composed of two or more members who co-exist within organizations, performing relevant organizational tasks, have common goals and objectives, interact on a social (sometimes personal) basis, and exhibit interdependency in work organization (Eisenhardt 2013). There are four key factors in the management and organization of teams: workflow interdependence, creation of teams and constraints, multilevel influences and time dynamics (Eisenhardt 2013).

Teams differ on various capacities based on the complexity of the teams. Complex teams exhibit characteristics such as dynamism with structural explicitly motivated workflows, common objectives that depend on specific contributions by each team member (roles change over time), specialization of roles based on specific skills and knowledge, process-based coordination structured to focus on interaction and task differentiation, and coordinated individual performances (Higgins, Weiner & Young 2012). Simple teams exhibit characteristics such as: internal orientation with static structures, common goals with little individual categorizations, fixed and undifferentiated roles, and process-emphasis centered on social interaction and conflict, and individual performance is low (Higgins et al. 2012).

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Organizations may comprise of one team or several teas depending on the number of employees, work differentiation and company culture. Organizational groups and teams may be formed for specific tasks such as completing a project; or may form naturally from social interaction within the same department. Regardless of formation, teams are necessary in organizations because they can become flexible, accomplish changes faster and are capable of task distribution. In any organization, four major types of teams develop: problem solving teams, self-managed teams, cross functional teams, and virtual teams.

Problem solving teams are considered the traditional types of teams because they serve the primary functions of teams. The teams comprise of few members (5-12), or their multiples, and the main objective of these teams is to combat special challenges within the organization. The teams focus on improving quality, efficiency and product differentiation, and are thus suitable in organizations that conduct research and development on a regular basis (Springer 2016). The flow of ideas within the team is pooled towards a center with stages initiating from problem identification, problem selection, problem review, solutions recommended, solutions reviewed, to the final decision making (Springer 2016). The major weakness of these teams is the lack of implementation capacity, and since decisions are pooled, there is a lack of responsibility on individual members.

Self-managed teams are sometimes referred by scholars as Self-Directed Work Teams (SDWT). The teams are often comprised of 10-15 people, or their multiples. Self-managed teams are suitable in roles such as assigning work roles and tasks, conducting inspection and controlling processes within organizations (Cheng et al. 2012). This type of team structure is characterized by a lack of clearly defined member roles. Most of the teams have a defined leader but lack other group roles. The teams may be closed off to include members chosen or suggested by the members themselves. In this type of team, ideas are not pooled into a central position. Ideas are expressed to the team and members are able to discuss merits and demerits of each idea before it can be noted (Cheng et al. 2012). Therefore, final ideas are group efforts after thorough modification. Self-managed teams may sometimes lack specificity if the leader is weak. However, the teams exhibit exemplary performance and decisions are carefully determined (Cheng et al. 2012). The main disadvantage is the process of decision making is slow.

Cross-functional teams are among the modern types of teams. The unique aspect about this team is that they are comprised of team members drawn from different unrelated areas but within a similar hierarchical level (Ehrhardt 2014). The aim of these teams is to accomplish specific tasks or maintain a certain decision making process (Majchrzak, More & Faraj 2012). Cross-functional teams within organizations help different departments share ideas on structuring goals and objectives seamlessly to conform to overall company objectives (Ehrhardt 2014). In most companies, these teams comprise managers of different departments who meet to draw up annual plans; or special teams in charge of employee misconduct, product speciation or crisis management. Team dynamics are complex and the initial team forming processes such as forming and norming are difficult because of the diversity and lack of social interaction between the team members. Decision making processes in the teams resemble self-managed teams.

Virtual teams are technology-propagated teams that have unlimited spatial-temporal capacities, and members communicate through applications such as emails, video conferencing and e-chatrooms (Levasseur 2012). The teams have a robust and established file sharing system and communication strategy that is verified and known by each member (Wageman, Gardner & Mortensen 2012). These teams are necessary for organizations with a global reach so that the team can make decisions based on diversity of regions (Zofi 2012). The teams generally present few conflicts and the norming and forming process is relatively faster.

CEOs need to recognize the need for the different types of teams in the organization and the specific roles each team can play. Teams require common goals and objectives which can be identified by the CEO. The CEO can then pick members and place them in different teams so that they can accomplish specific teams. Ideally, the CEO should change policies to allow members of teams to meet on a regular basis to discuss various organizational issues (Springer 2016). The CEO may even facilitate the meetings and provide an enabling environment for the perpetuation of these teams in the company. Companies need to entrench teams within organizational capacities and recognize them as legitimate decision-making entities to allow them to grow in complexity and capacity.


Cheng, C., Chua, R., Morris, M., & Lee, L. (2012). Finding the right mix: How the composition of self-managing multicultural teams' cultural value orientation influences performance over time. Journal of Organizational Behavior, 33 (3), 389-411.

Ehrhardt, K., Miller, J. S., Freeman, S. J. & Hom, P. W. (2014). Examining project commitment in cross-functional teams: Antecedents and relationship with team performance. Journal of Business and Psychology, 29 (3): 443-461.

Eisenhardt, K. M. (2013). Top management teams and the performance of entrepreneurial firms. Small business Economics, 40 (4): 805-816.

Higgins, M., Weiner, J., & Young, L. (2012). Implementation teams: A new lever for organizational change. Journal of Organizational Behavior, 33 (3), 366-388.

Levassuer, R. E. (2012). People skills: Leading virtual teams – A change management perspective. Interfaces, 42 (2): 213-216.

Majchrzak, A., More, P. H. & Faraj, S. (2012). Transcending knowledge differences in cross-functional teams. Organization Science, 23 (4): 951-970.

Springer, M. (2016). Building Teams—Understanding Ourselves and Others through MBTI. In Project and Program Management: A Competency-Based Approach, Third Edition (pp. 203-210). Purdue University Press.

Wageman, R., Gardner, H. & Mortensen, M. (2012). Editorial: The changing ecology of teams: New directions for team research. Journal of Organizational Behavior, 33 (3): 301-315.

Zofi, Y. (2012). The Three Stages of Virtual Team Development. In A Manager's Guide to Virtual Teams (pp. 15-28).

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