Industrial-Organizational Psychology Learning Module Work Teams Lesson Objectives Know what constitutes a work team, and be familiar with different types of work teams


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Industrial-Organizational Psychology Learning Module Work Teams


Lesson Objectives

  • Know what constitutes a work team, and be familiar with different types of work teams.

  • Know why the use of work teams in organizations is on the rise.

  • Understand the most common reasons for work team failure.

  • Understand how I/O psychologists are helping to make work teams more effective.



Psychologists & Groups

  • There is a long history of psychologists studying groups.

  • For example, topics studied include:

    • Intimacy among group members.
    • Group composition.
    • Group compatibility.
    • Group motives & goals.
    • Group process & productivity.


Psychologists & Groups (Hidden slide with additional speaker notes)

  • There is a long history of psychologists studying groups.

  • For example, topics studied include:

    • Intimacy among group members.
    • Group composition.
    • Group compatibility.
    • Group motives & goals.
    • Group process & productivity.


What is a Work Team?

  • Many different definitions, but most have three elements:

  • 1) An interdependent, intact social system.

  • 2) One or more tasks to perform.

  • 3) Operating within an organizational context.



Examples of Work Teams

  • Work teams are pervasive in industry, across all organizational levels.

    • Quality control circles.
    • Task forces.
    • Safety committees.
    • Sales teams.
    • R&D groups.


Work Team or Not?

  • Which of the following are work teams?

    • Students living on the same dorm floor.
    • Students taking the same psychology class.
    • Students working on a team research paper.
    • Students on a committee charged with making recommendations to curb binge drinking.


Why are Work Teams on the Rise?

  • During the past decade, the use of teams in organizations has increased dramatically.

    • In today’s hyper-competitive environment, “old” organizational structures can be too slow, too unresponsive and too expensive to be competitive.
    • Work teams can yield quality, productivity and cost improvements.
    • Workers can benefit from increased autonomy and empowerment.


Are Work Teams Always the Answer?

  • The short answer - no!

  • Many organizations are jumping on the “teams bandwagon.”

  • Organizations should ask themselves:

    • Do people need to work together to get the task done effectively?
    • Is expertise limited to a few people?


What is a Successful Work Team?

  • A three-dimensional conception of work team effectiveness:

  • 1) Quality/Quantity/Timeliness

  • 2) The ability to work together again.

  • 3) Personal growth & well-being.

  • The relative weights that should be applied to these dimensions will vary according to the team’s circumstances.



Why Do Work Teams Fail?

  • Anecdotal evidence indicates that teams “work” only about half the time. Why?

    • Inappropriate use of teams.
    • Lack of support from organizational leaders.
    • Lack of good information.
    • Lack of team member skills.
  • Work team effectiveness study.

  • A work team’s success can be impacted as much by what is happening “outside” the team as it is by what is happening “inside.”



How do I/O psychologists help organizations to use work teams?

  • Personnel Selection

  • Training

  • Performance Appraisal

  • Compensation

  • Organizational Development



The Future of Teams: Less Physical, More Virtual

  • In the wired, knowledge-based economy, we’ll see less “neighborhood teams” and more “virtual teams.”

  • Virtual teams can provide the organization with the same benefits (as well as some unique ones) as neighborhood teams, but the challenges that they face are magnified.



Team Decision-Making Exercise

  • The importance of team decision-making.

  • Four team decision-making techniques:

    • Majority Vote
    • Multivoting
    • Unanimous Vote
    • Consensus
  • Where should we go for Spring Break?



Team Decision-Making Exercise (Hidden slide with additional speaker’s notes)

  • The importance of team decision-making.

  • Four team decision-making techniques:

    • Majority Vote
    • Multivoting
    • Unanimous Vote
    • Consensus
  • Where should we go for Spring Break?



Team Decision-Making Exercise - Debrief

  • Which decision-making method did you use, and why?

  • What were some of the benefits of the method that you chose?

  • What challenges did your team encounter, and how did you overcome them?

  • How effective was the decision that you reached? (and how did your team define effectiveness?)



Instructor Resources

  • The following books, book chapters and articles were used in preparation of the Work Teams module - you may find them useful for your own preparation.

  • 1) Fisher, K. (1994) Diagnostic issues for work teams. In A. Howard (Ed.), Diagnosis for organizational change: Methods and models. (pp. 239-264). New York: Guilford Press.

  • 2) Mohrman, S.A, Cohen, S.G. & Mohrman, Jr., A.M. (1995) Designing team-based organizations: New forms for knowledge work. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

  • 3) Hackman, J.R. (Ed.) (1990) Groups that work (and those that don’t): Creating effective conditions for teamwork. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

  • 4) Shaw, M.E. & Costanzo, P.R. (1982) Theories of Social Psychology (2nd ed.). New York: McGraw-Hill. (Note: Chapter 13 on theories of group processes is especially helpful)

  • 5) Campion, M.A., Medsker, G.J. & Higgs, A.C. (1993). Relations between work group characteristics and effectiveness: Implications for designing effective work groups. Personnel Psychology, 46, 823-850.




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