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Teams and Their Leaders

A Communication Network Perspective

J. David Johnson

This book provides the first truly comprehensive treatment of three topics that have traditionally been treated separately: teamwork, leadership, and communication. Teamwork has become central to the operation of the modern organization. People from diverse backgrounds culturally, professionally, and demographically must work together to develop the well-rounded decision making needed for organizations to survive in our modern economy. Leadership, and relatedly management, have more traditionally been the focus of organizational operations.

While it is easy to rule by dicta, it is much more difficult to establish a framework in which true teamwork is possible. Teamwork is a very fragile thing. The minute managers start becoming too directive a slippery slope is started in which one's followers, perhaps better cast as team members, constantly look to them for direction and approval rather than acting on their own best instincts. Communication plays a central role in resolving these tensions. Messaging is central to traditional management functions, while providing a communication network structure that enables action is a more subtle, but longer lasting function of leaders. All three processes, teaming, leading, and communicating, must act in concert for the many benefits of teamwork to be realized.

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9: Producing

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Too many meetings is a frequent complaint, but never having any meetings and particularly never having any contact with the leader follow closely behind, as does the problem of poorly organized meetings.

—Kolb (1996, p. 457, italics in orginal)

Harkening back to the classic stages that have been identified in the development of teams: producing is related to performing and follows forming, storming, and norming (Tuckman & Jensen, 1977). At this stage the team is now ready to focus on the task at hand, but unsatisfactory completion, premature transition, or regression to earlier stages can all result in deteriorations in performance. Teams often underperform, despite their significant human resources. They have problems with coordination and motivation that can undercut the benefits of collaboration (Hackman, 2009). Meetings often come to symbolize the negative reaction that organizational members have to teams which are often viewed as an obstacle to individual performance and a time sink.

Improvements in team effectiveness, since a substantial amount of organizational costs are associated with labor, and thereby linked to communication, offer much potential for improving productivity (C. W. Downs & Hain, 1982). Unfortunately most team performance is not outstanding (Wageman, Nunes, Burruss, & Hackman, 2008). Teams are inherently wasteful in the sense that ← 265 | 266 → many people are brought to the table to perform one task, if that task is a simple, routine one that could be accomplished by one person, then the organization has diverted resources that...

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