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The mood was grim at Motorola in winter 2003, especially in the cell phone division: The company that for years had run ringtones around the competition had been bumped from the top spot in worldwide sales.This vignette is based on the following sources: Adam Lashinsky, “RAZR’s Edge,” Fortune, CNNMoney.com, June 1, 2006, http://money.cnn.com/magazines/fortune/fortune_archive/2006/06/12/8379239/index.htm (accessed August 22, 2008); Scott D. Anthony, “Motorola’s Bet on the RAZR’s Edge,” HBS Working Knowledge, September 12, 2005, http://hbswk.hbs.edu/archive/4992.html (accessed August 24, 2008); “The Leading Edge Is Razr-Thin,” BusinessWeek, December 5, 2005, http://www.businessweek.com/magazine/content/05_49/b3962087.htm (accessed September 3, 2008); Arik Hessedahl, “Motorola vs. Nokia,” Forbes.com, January 19, 2004, at http://www.forbes.com/2004/01/19/cx_ah_0119mondaymatchup.html (accessed August 23, 2008); “Talk Like a Supermodel: Sexy Fashion Phones,” CNET.co.au, April 2008, http://www.cnet.com.au/mobilephones/phones/0,239025953,240058430,00.htm?feed=pt_nokia (accessed August 23, 2008); Vlad Balan, “10 Coolest Concept Phones Out There,” Cameraphones Plaza, April 17, 2007, http://www.cameraphonesplaza.com/10-coolest-concept-phones-out-there (accessed August 23, 2008); Mike Elgan, “All-Screen Clamshell Concept Phone: A Glimpse of the Future,” Computerworld Blogs, August 1, 2008, http://blogs.computerworld.com/all_screen_clamshell_concept_phone_a_glimpse_of_the_future (accessed August 23, 2008); “Motorola Gains on 10 Mn in RAZR Sales,” The Financial Express, January 19, 2006, http://www.financialexpress.com/old/latest_full_story.php?content_id=115012 (accessed August 24, 2008). Sporting a popular line of “candy bar” phones (the ones without the flip-top lids), the Finnish company Nokia had grabbed the lead in global market share, and Motorola found itself stuck in the number-three slot (Samsung had slipped into second place). Why had sales at Motorola been put on hold? Among other things, consumers were less than enthusiastic about the uninspired style of Motorola phones, and make no mistake about it—for a lot of people, style is just as important in picking a cell phone as its features list. As a reviewer for one industry publication puts it, “With some phones, we just want to see the look on people’s faces when we slide it out of our pockets to take a call.”
Figure 8.1 Motorola RAZR
Thin is in, according to Motorola.
© 2010 Jupiterimages Corporation
And yet, there was a glimmer of hope at Motorola. Despite its recent lapse in cell phone fashion sense, Motorola (like just about every other maker of wireless hardware) still maintained a concept-phone unit—a group responsible for designing futuristic new product features such as speech-recognition capability, liquid batteries, flexible touchscreens, and touch-sensitive body covers. Now, in every concept-phone unit, developers are engaged in an ongoing struggle to balance the two often-opposing demands of cell phone design: how to build the smallest possible phone with the largest possible screen. The previous year, designers in the Motorola concept-phone unit had unveiled the rough model of an ultratrim phone—at 10 millimeters, about half the width of the average flip-top or “clamshell” design. It was on this concept that Motorola decided to stake the revival of its reputation as a cell phone maker who knew how to package functionality with a wow factor.
The next step in developing a concept phone, of course, is actually building it. And this is where teamwork comes in. For one thing, you need a little diversity in your expertise. An electronic engineer, for example, knows how to apply energy to transmit information through a system but not how to apply physics to the design and manufacture of the system; that’s the specialty of a mechanical engineer. And engineers aren’t designers—the specialists who know how to enhance the marketability of a product by adding aesthetic value.
In addition, when you set out to build any kind of innovative high-tech product, you need to become a master of trade-offs—in Motorola’s case, the compromises resulting from the demands of state-of-the-art functionality on the one hand and fashionable design on the other. Negotiating trade-offs is a team sport: it takes at least two people, for example, to resolve such disputes as whether you can put the antenna of a cell phone inside its mouthpiece or whether you should put the caller-ID display inside or outside the flip-top.
The responsibility for assembling and managing the Motorola “thin-clam” team fell to veteran electronic engineer Roger Jellicoe. His mission: create the world’s thinnest phone, do it in one year, and try to keep it a secret. Before the project was completed, the team had grown to more than twenty members, and with increased creative input and enthusiasm came increased confidence and clout. Jellicoe, for instance, had been warned by company specialists in such matters that no phone wider than 49 millimeters could be held comfortably in the human hand. When the team had finally arrived at a satisfactory design that couldn’t work at less than 53 millimeters, they ignored the “49 millimeters warning,” built a model, handed it around, and came to a consensus: As one team member put it, “People could hold it in their hands and say, ‘Yeah, it doesn’t feel like a brick.’” Four millimeters, they decided, was an acceptable trade-off, and the new phone went to market at 53 millimeters.
Team members liked to call this process the “dance.” Sometimes it flowed smoothly and sometimes people stepped on one another’s toes, but for the most part, the team moved in lock step toward its goal. After a series of trade-offs about what to call the final product (suggestions ranged from Razor Clam to V3), Motorola’s new RAZR was introduced in July 2004. Recall that the product was originally conceived as a high-tech toy—something to restore the luster to Motorola’s tarnished image. It wasn’t supposed to set sales records, and sales in the fourth quarter of 2004, though promising, were in fact fairly modest. Back in September, however, a new executive named Ron Garriques had taken over Motorola’s cell phone division, and one of his first decisions was to raise the bar for RAZR. Disregarding a 2005 budget that called for sales of two million units, Garriques pushed expected sales for the RAZR up to twenty million. The RAZR topped that target, shipped ten million in the first quarter of 2006, and hit the fifty-million mark at midyear. Talking on a RAZR, declared hip-hop luminary Sean “P. Diddy” Combs, “is like driving a Mercedes versus a regular ol’ ride.”
As for Jellicoe and his team, they were invited to attend an event hosted by top executives. As they walked into the room, they received a standing ovation—along with a cartload of stock options—and outside observers applauded them for revitalizing “the stodgy, engineering-driven, Midwestern company that was Motorola.” One of the reasons for the RAZR’s success, admits Jellicoe, “was that it took the world by surprise. Very few Motorola products do that.” After the introduction of the RAZR, perceptions of the company’s flair for fashion and innovation underwent a critical change: “Now,” reports Jellicoe, “whenever we say we have this secret program we’re working on, nobody wants to be left out….It’s kicked down some doors…and gets us noticed. It really is a tremendous brand builder. As for credibility in the marketplace, it’s been a very big win.”
A teamGroup of people with complementary skills who work together to achieve a specific goal. (or a work team) is a group of people with complementary skills who work together to achieve a specific goal.This section is based in part on Leigh L. Thompson, Making the Team: A Guide for Managers (Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education, 2008), 4. In the case of Motorola’s RAZR team, the specific goal was to develop (and ultimately bring to market) an ultrathin cell phone that would help restore the company’s reputation as a designer of stylistically appealing, high-function phones. The team achieved its goal by integrating specialized but complementary skills in engineering and design and by making the most of its authority to make its own decisions and manage its own operations.
“A group,” suggests Bonnie Edelstein, a consultant in organizational development, “is a bunch of people in an elevator. A team is also a bunch of people in an elevator, but the elevator is broken.” This distinction may be a little oversimplified, but as our tale of teamwork at Motorola reminds us, a team is clearly something more than a mere group of individuals. In particular, members of a group—or, more accurately, a working group—go about their jobs independently and meet primarily to share information. A group of department-store managers, for example, might meet monthly to discuss their progress in cutting plant costs, but each manager is focused on the goals of his or her department because each is held accountable for meeting only those goals. Teams, by contrast, are responsible for achieving specific common goals, and they’re generally empowered to make the decisions needed to complete their authorized tasks.
To keep matters in perspective, let’s identify five key characteristics of work teams:Adapted from Leigh L. Thompson, Making the Team: A Guide for Managers (Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education, 2008), 4–5. See C. P. Alderfer, “Group and Intergroup Relations,” in Improving Life at Work, ed. J. R. Hackman and J. L. Suttle (Palisades, CA: Goodyear, 1977), 277–96.
Why do major organizations now rely more and more on teams to improve operations? Executives at Xerox have reported that team-based operations are 30 percent more productive than conventional operations. General Mills says that factories organized around team activities are 40 percent more productive than traditionally organized factories. According to in-house studies at Shenandoah Life Insurance, teams have cut case-handling time from twenty-seven to two days and virtually eliminated service complaints. FedEx says that teams reduced service errors (lost packages, incorrect bills) by 13 percent in the first year.Kimball Fisher, Leading Self-Directed Work Teams: A Guide to Developing New Team Leadership Skills, rev. ed. (New York: McGraw-Hill Professional, 1999). See Jerald Greenberg and Robert A. Baron, Behavior in Organizations, 9th ed. (Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education, 2008), 315–16.
Today it seems obvious that teams can address a variety of challenges in the world of corporate activity. Before we go any further, however, we should remind ourselves that data like those we’ve just cited aren’t necessarily definitive. For one thing, they may not be objective—companies are more likely to report successes than failures. As a matter of fact, teams don’t always work. Indeed, according to one study, team-based projects fail 50 to 70 percent of the time.Jerald Greenberg and Robert A. Baron, Behavior in Organizations, 9th ed. (Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education, 2008), 316; Leigh L. Thompson, Making the Team: A Guide for Managers (Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education, 2008), 5.
Research shows that companies build and support teams because of their effect on overall workplace performance, both organizational and individual. If we examine the impact of team-based operations according to a wide range of relevant criteria—including product quality, worker satisfaction, and quality of work life, among others—we find that overall organizational performance improves. Table 8.1 "Effect of Teams on Workplace Performance" lists several areas in which we can analyze workplace performance and indicates the percentage of companies that have reported improvements in each area.
Table 8.1 Effect of Teams on Workplace Performance
|Area of Performance||Percent of Firms Reporting Improvement|
|Product and service quality||70|
|Quality of work life||63|
Source: Adapted from Edward E. Lawler, S. A. Mohman, and G. E. Ledford, Creating High Performance Organizations: Practices and Results of Employee Involvement and Total Quality in Fortune 1000 Companies (San Francisco: Wiley, 1992). Reprinted with permission of John Wiley & Sons Inc.
Teams, then, can improve company and individual performance in a number of areas. Not all teams, however, are formed to achieve the same goals or charged with the same responsibilities. Nor are they organized in the same way. Some, for instance, are more autonomous than others—less accountable to those higher up in the organization. Some depend on a team leader who’s responsible for defining the team’s goals and making sure that its activities are performed effectively. Others are more or less self-governing: though a leader lays out overall goals and strategies, the team itself chooses and manages the methods by which it pursues its goals and implements its strategies.See Leigh L. Thompson, Making the Team: A Guide for Managers (Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education, 2008), 8–13. Teams also vary according to their membership. Let’s look at several categories of teams.
As its name implies, in the manager-led teamTeam on which a manager defines goals and methods and is solely responsible for interactions with higher-level management. the manager is the team leader and is in charge of setting team goals, assigning tasks, and monitoring the team’s performance. The individual team members have relatively little autonomy. For example, the key employees of a professional football team (a manager-led team) are highly trained (and highly paid) athletes, but their activities on the field are tightly controlled by a head coach. As team manager, the coach is responsible both for developing the strategies by which the team pursues its goal of winning games and for the final outcome of each game (not to mention the season). He’s also solely responsible for interacting with managers above him in the organization. The players are responsible only for executing plays.Leigh L. Thompson, Making the Team: A Guide for Managers (Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education, 2008), 9.
Self-managing teamsTeam on which employees control the activities needed to meet overall goals. (also known as self-directed or self-regulating teams) have considerable autonomy. They are usually small and often absorb activities that were once performed by traditional supervisors. A manager or team leader may determine overall goals, but the members of the self-managing team control the activities needed to achieve the goals, such as planning and scheduling work, sharing tasks, meeting quality standards, and handling day-to-day operations.
Self-managing teams are the organizational hallmark of Whole Foods Market, the largest natural-foods grocer in the United States. Each store is run by ten teams (produce, prepared foods, and so forth), and virtually every store employee is a member of a team. Each team has a designated leader and its own performance targets. (Team leaders also belong to a store team, and store-team leaders belong to a regional team.) To do its job, every team has access to the kind of information—including sales and even salary figures—that most companies reserve for the eyes of traditional managers.Charles Fishman, “Whole Foods Is All Teams,” Fast Company.com, December 18, 2007, http://www.fastcompany.com/node/26671/print (accessed August 26, 2007).
Needless to say, not every self-managed team enjoys the same degree of autonomy. Companies vary widely in choosing which tasks teams are allowed to manage and which ones are best left to upper-level management only. As you can see in Figure 8.2 "What Teams Do (and Don’t) Manage", for example, self-managing teams are often allowed to schedule assignments, but they are rarely allowed to fire coworkers.
Figure 8.2 What Teams Do (and Don’t) Manage
Many companies use cross-functional teamsTeam designed to take advantage of the special expertise of members drawn from different functional areas of the organization.—teams that, as the name suggests, cut across an organization’s functional areas (operations, marketing, finance, and so on). A cross-functional team is designed to take advantage of the special expertise of members drawn from different functional areas of the company. When the Internal Revenue Service, for example, wanted to study the effects on employees of a major change in information systems, it created a cross-functional team composed of people from a wide range of departments. The final study reflected expertise in such areas as job analysis, training, change management, industrial psychology, and even ergonomics.Human Technology Inc., “Organizational Learning Strategies: Cross-Functional Teams,” Getting Results through Learning, http://www.humtech.com/opm/grtl/ols/ols3.cfm (accessed August 26, 2008).
Cross-functional teams figure prominently in the product-development process at Nike, where they take advantage of expertise from both inside and outside the company. Typically, team members include not only product designers, marketing specialists, and accountants, but also sports-research experts, coaches, athletes, and even consumers. Likewise, Motorola’s RAZR team was a cross-functional team: Responsibility for developing the new product wasn’t passed along from the design team to the engineering team, but rather was entrusted to a special team composed of both designers and engineers.
We can also classify the RAZR team as a product-development or project team (a topic we’ll discuss in more detail in Chapter 10 "Product Design and Development"). Committees and task forces, both of which are dedicated to specific issues or tasks, are often cross-functional teams. Problem-solving teams, which are created to study such issues as improving quality or reducing waste, may be either intradepartmental or cross-functional.See Stephen P. Robbins and Timothy A. Judge, Organizational Behavior, 13th ed. (Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education, 2009), 340–42.
“Teamwork,” said someone (we’re not sure who), “doesn’t tolerate the inconvenience of distance.” Indeed, technology now makes it possible for teams to function not only across such organizational boundaries as functional areas, departments, and divisions, but across time and space, as well. Working in virtual teamsTeams whose geographically dispersed members interact electronically in the process of pursuing a common goal., geographically dispersed members interact electronically in the process of pursuing a common goal. Such technologies as videoconferencing, instant messaging, and electronic meetings, which allow people to interact simultaneously and in real time, offer a number of advantages in conducting the business of a virtual team.See Jennifer M. George and Gareth R. Jones, Understanding and Managing Organizational Behavior, 5th ed. (Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education, 2008), 381–82. Among other things, members can participate from any location or at any time of day, and teams can “meet” for as long as it takes to achieve a goal or solve a problem—a few days, a few weeks, or a few months.
Nor does team size seem to be an obstacle when it comes to calling virtual-team meetings: In building the F-35 Strike Fighter, U.S. defense contractor Lockheed Martin staked the $225 billion project on a virtual product-team of unprecedented global dimension, drawing on designers and engineers from the ranks of eight international partners ranging from Canada and the United Kingdom to Norway and Turkey.“Lockheed Martin Chooses Mathcad as a Standard Design Package for F-35 Joint Strike Fighter Project,” Adept Science, September 23, 2003, http://www.adeptscience.co.uk/pressroom/article/96 (accessed August 26, 2008).
Work teams have five key characteristics:
Work teams may be of several types:
You’re a marketing researcher for a multinational food-products corporation, and for the past two years, you’ve been able to work at home. The international division of the company has asked you to join a virtual team assigned to assess the prospects for a new sandwich planned for the Indian market.
List a few of the challenges that you’re likely to encounter as a member of the virtual team. Explain the steps you’d take to deal with each of the challenges that you’ve listed.
Now that we know a little bit about how teams work, we need to ask ourselves why they work. Not surprisingly, this is a fairly complex issue. In this section, we’ll answer these closely related questions: Why are teams often effective? Why are they sometimes ineffective?
First, let’s begin by identifying several factors that, in practice, tend to contribute to effective teamwork. Generally speaking, teams are effective when the following factors are met:This section is based on David A. Whetten and Kim S. Cameron, Developing Management Skills, 7th ed. (Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education, 2007), 497.
Most of these explanations probably make pretty clear intuitive sense. Unfortunately, because such issues are rarely as clear-cut as they may seem at first glance, we need to examine the issue of group effectiveness from another perspective—one that considers the effects of factors that aren’t quite so straightforward.
The idea of group cohesivenessPrinciple that groups are most effective when members like being members. refers to the attractiveness of a team to its members. If a group is high in cohesiveness, membership is quite satisfying to its members; if it’s low in cohesiveness, members are unhappy with it and may even try to leave it. The principle of group cohesiveness, in other words, is based on the simple idea that groups are most effective when their members like being members of the group.This section is based mostly on Jennifer M. George and Gareth R. Jones, Understanding and Managing Organizational Behavior, 5th ed. (Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education, 2008), 371–77. See Leon Festinger, “Informal Social Communication, Psychological Review 57 (1950): 271–82.
Numerous factors may contribute to team cohesiveness, but in this section, we’ll focus on five of the most important:
A cohesive team with goals that are aligned with the goals of the organization is most likely to succeed.
© 2010 Jupiterimages Corporation
There’s such a thing as too much cohesiveness. When, for instance, members are highly motivated to collaborate in performing the team’s activities, the team is more likely to be effective in achieving its goals. Clearly, when those goals are aligned with the goals of the larger organization, the organization, too, will be happy. If, however, its members get too wrapped up in more immediate team goals, the whole team may lose sight of the larger organizational goals toward which it’s supposed to be working.
Likewise, it’s easier for leaders to direct members toward team goals when members are all on the same page—when there’s a basic willingness to conform to the team’s rules and guidelines. When there’s too much conformity, however, the group can become ineffective: It may resist change and fresh ideas and, what’s worse, may end up adopting its own dysfunctional tendencies as its way of doing things. Such tendencies may also encourage a phenomenon known as groupthinkTendency to conform to group pressure in making decisions while failing to think critically or to consider outside influences.—the tendency to conform to group pressure in making decisions, while failing to think critically or to consider outside influences.
Groupthink is often cited as a factor in the explosion of the space shuttle Challenger in January 1986: Engineers from a supplier of components for the rocket booster warned that the launch might be risky because of the weather but were persuaded to reverse their recommendation by NASA officials who wanted the launch to proceed as scheduled.See Em Griffin, “Groupthink of Irving Janis,” 1997, http://www.atfirstlook.com/archive/groupthink.cfm (accessed August 29, 2008).
Teams don’t always work. To learn why, let’s take a quick look at four common obstacles to success in introducing teams into an organization:This section is based on Jerald Greenberg and Robert A. Baron, Behavior in Organizations, 9th ed. (Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education, 2008), 317–18.
Finally, remember that teams are composed of people, and whatever the roles they happen to be playing at a given time, people are subject to psychological ups and downs. As members of workplace teams, they need motivation, and as we observed in Chapter 7 "Recruiting, Motivating, and Keeping Quality Employees", when motivation is down, so are effectiveness and productivity. As you can see in Figure 8.4 "Sources of Frustration", the difficulty of maintaining a high level of motivation is the chief cause of frustration among members of teams. As such, it’s also a chief cause of ineffective teamwork, and that’s one reason why more employers now look for the ability to develop and sustain motivation when they’re hiring new managers.See Leigh L. Thompson, Making the Team: A Guide for Managers (Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education, 2008), 18–19.
Figure 8.4 Sources of Frustration
Generally speaking, teams are effective when the following are true:
Common obstacles to team success include the following:
At some point in the coming week, while you’re working on an assignment for any one of your classes, ask at least one other member of the class to help you with it or to collaborate with you in studying for it. After you’ve completed your assignment, make a list of the advantages and disadvantages of working on the assignment with another person.
“I’ll work extra hard and do it myself, but please don’t make me have to work in a group.”
Like it or not, you’ll probably be given some teamwork assignments while you’re in college. More than two-thirds of all students report having participated in the work of an organized team, and if you’re in business school, you will almost certainly find yourself engaged in team-based activities.David A. Whetten and Kim S. Cameron, Developing Management Skills, 7th ed. (Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education, 2007), 498–99. See Richard S. Wellins, William C. Byham, and Jeanne M. Wilson, Empowered Teams (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1991).
Why do we put so much emphasis on something that, reportedly, makes many students feel anxious and academically drained? Here’s one college student’s practical-minded answer to this question:
“In the real world, you have to work with people. You don’t always know the people you work with, and you don’t always get along with them. Your boss won’t particularly care, and if you can’t get the job done, your job may end up on the line. Life is all about group work, whether we like it or not. And school, in many ways, prepares us for life, including working with others.”Hannah Nichols, “Teamwork in School, Work and Life,” iamnext.com, 2003, http://www.iamnext.com/academics/groupwork.html (accessed September 1, 2008).
She’s right. In placing so much emphasis on teamwork skills and experience, college business departments are doing the responsible thing—preparing students for the business world that awaits them. A survey of Fortune 1000 companies reveals that 79 percent already rely on self-managing teams and 91 percent on various forms of employee work groups. Another survey found that the skill that most employers value in new employees is the ability to work in teams.David A. Whetten and Kim S. Cameron, Developing Management Skills, 7th ed. (Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education, 2007), 498–99. See Edward E. Lawler, Treat People Right (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2003). If you’re already trying to work your way up an organizational ladder, consider the advice of former Chrysler Chairman Lee Iacocca: “A major reason that capable people fail to advance is that they don’t work well with their colleagues.”Quoted by Terry L. Paulson, “Building Bridges vs. Burning Them: The Subtle Art of Influence,” 1990, at http://books.google.com/books?id=iXkq-IFFJpcC&pg=PA55&lpg=PA55&dq=%22capable+people+fail+to+advance%22&source=web&ots=a2l2cJ2_AF&sig=4Xk7EuOq2htSf2XqBWSFQxJwVqE&hl=en&sa=X&oi=book_result&resnum=1&ct=result (accessed September 2, 2008). The importance of the ability to work in teams was confirmed in a survey of leadership practices of more than sixty of the world’s top organizations.“What Makes Great Leaders: Rethinking the Route to Effective Leadership,” Findings from the Fortune Magazine/Hay Group 1999 Executive Survey of Leadership Effectiveness, http://ei.haygroup.com/downloads/pdf/Leadership%20White%20Paper.pdf (accessed August 9, 2008). When top executives in these organizations were asked, “What causes high-potential leadership candidates to derail? (stop moving up in the organization),” 60 percent of the organizations cited “inability to work in teams.” Interestingly, only 9 percent attributed the failure of these executives to advance to “lack of technical ability.” While technical skills will be essential in your getting hired into an organization, your team skills will play a significant role in your ability to advance.
To be team-ready or not to be team-ready—that is the question. Or, to put it in plainer terms, the question is not whether you’ll find yourself working as part of a team. You will. The question is whether you’ll know how to participate successfully in team-based activities.
What if your instructor in this course decides to divide the class into several three-, four-, or five-member teams and assigns each team to develop a new product plus a business plan to get it into production and out on the market? What teamwork skills could you bring to the table? What teamwork skills do you need to work on? What qualities do you possess that might make you a good team leader?
Sometimes we hear about a sports team made up of mostly average players who win a championship because of coaching genius, flawless teamwork, and superhuman determination.This section is based on Stephen P. Robbins and Timothy A. Judge, Organizational Behavior, 13th ed. (Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education, 2009), 346–47. But not terribly often. In fact, we usually hear about such teams simply because they’re newsworthy—exceptions to the rule. Typically a team performs well because its members possess some level of talent. This doesn’t mean, however, that we should reduce team performance to the mere sum of its individual contributions: Members’ talents aren’t very useful if they’re not managed in a collective effort to achieve a common goal.
In the final analysis, of course, a team can succeed only if its members provide the skills that need managing. In particular, every team requires some mixture of three sets of skills (notice, by the way, that these skill sets overlap considerably with the managerial skill sets that we discussed in Chapter 6 "Managing for Business Success"):
The key to success is ultimately the right mix of these skills. Remember, too, that no team needs to possess all these skills—never mind the right balance of them—from day one. In many cases, a team gains certain skills only when members volunteer for certain tasks and perfect their skills in the process of performing them. For the same reason, effective teamwork develops over time as team members learn how to handle various team-based tasks. In a sense, teamwork is always work in progress.
Like your teamwork skills, expect your role on a team to develop over time. Also remember that, both as a student and as a member of the workforce, you’ll be a member of a team more often than a leader (a subject that we’ll take up in the next section). Team members, however, can have as much impact on a team’s success as its leaders. The key is the quality of the contributions they make in performing nonleadership roles.This section is based on David A. Whetten and Kim S. Cameron, Developing Management Skills, 7th ed. (Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education, 2007), 516–20.
What, exactly, are those roles? At this point, you’ve probably concluded that every team faces two basic challenges:
Whether you affect the team’s work positively or negatively depends on the extent to which you help it or hinder it in meeting these two challenges.David A. Whetten and Kim S. Cameron, Developing Management Skills, 7th ed. (Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education, 2007), 516–17. We can thus divide teamwork roles into two categories, depending on which of these two challenges each role addresses. These two categories (task-facilitating roles and relationship-building roles) are summarized in Table 8.2 "Roles That Team Members Play".
Table 8.2 Roles That Team Members Play
|Task-facilitating Roles||Example||Relationship-building Roles||Example|
|Direction giving||“Jot down a few ideas and we’ll see what everyone has come up with.”||Supporting||“Now, that’s what I mean by a practical application.”|
|Information seeking||“Does anyone know if this is the latest data we have?”||Harmonizing||“Actually, I think you’re both saying pretty much the same thing.”|
|Information giving||“Here are latest numbers from.…”||Tension relieving||“Before we go on to the next section, how many people would like a pillow?”|
|Elaborating||“I think a good example of what you’re talking about is.…”||Confronting||“How does that suggestion relate to the topic that we’re discussing?”|
|Urging||“Let’s try to finish this proposal before we adjourn.”||Energizing||“It’s been a long time since I’ve had this many laughs at a meeting in this department.”|
|Monitoring||“If you’ll take care of the first section, I’ll make sure that we have the second by next week.”||Developing||“If you need some help pulling the data together, let me know.”|
|Process analyzing||“What happened to the energy level in this room?”||Consensus building||“Do we agree on the first four points even if number five needs a little more work?”|
|Reality testing||“Can we make this work and stay within budget?”||Empathizing||“It’s not you. The numbers are confusing.”|
|Enforcing||“We’re getting off track. Let’s try to stay on topic.”|
|Summarizing||“Before we jump ahead, here’s what we’ve decided so far.”|
Source: Adapted from David A. Whetten and Kim S. Cameron, Developing Management Skills, 7th ed. (Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education, 2007), 517, 519.
Task-facilitating rolesMember role that helps a team accomplish its goals. address challenge number one—accomplishing the team goals. As you can see from Table 8.2 "Roles That Team Members Play", such roles include not only providing information when someone else needs it but also asking for it when you need it. In addition, it includes monitoring (checking on progress) and enforcing (making sure that team decisions are carried out). Task facilitators are especially valuable when assignments aren’t clear or when progress is too slow. Moreover, every team needs people who recognize when a little task facilitation is called for.
When you challenge unmotivated behavior or help other team members understand their roles, you’re performing a relationship-building roleMember role that helps a team maintain or improve group cohesiveness. and addressing challenge number two—maintaining or improving group cohesiveness. This type of role includes just about every activity that improves team “chemistry,” from confronting to empathizing.
Bear in mind three points about this model of team-membership roles: (1) Teams are most effective when there’s a good balance between task facilitation and relationship building; (2) it’s hard for any given member to perform both types of roles, as some people are better at focusing on tasks and others on relationships; and (3) overplaying any facet of any role can easily become counterproductive. For example, elaborating on something may not be the best strategy when the team needs to make a quick decision; and consensus building may cause the team to overlook an important difference of opinion.
Finally, review Table 8.3 "How to Block Teamwork", which summarizes a few characteristics of another kind of team-membership role. So-called blocking rolesBehavior that inhibits either team performance or that of individual members. consist of behavior that inhibits either team performance or that of individual members. Every member of the team should know how to recognize blocking behavior. If teams don’t confront dysfunctional members, they can destroy morale, hamper consensus building, create conflict, and hinder progress.
Table 8.3 How to Block Teamwork
|Dominate||Talk as much as possible; interrupt and interject|
|Overanalyze||Split hairs and belabor every detail|
|Stall||Frustrate efforts to come to conclusions: decline to agree, sidetrack the discussion, rehash old ideas|
|Remain passive||Stay on the fringe; keep interaction to a minimum; wait for others to take on work|
|Overgeneralize||Blow things out of proportion; float unfounded conclusions|
|Find fault||Criticize and withhold credit whenever possible|
|Make premature decisions||Rush to conclusions before goals are set, information is shared, or problems are clarified|
|Present opinions as facts||Refuse to seek factual support for ideas that you personally favor|
|Reject||Object to ideas offered by people who tend to disagree with you|
|Pull rank||Use status or title to push through ideas, rather than seek consensus on their value|
|Resist||Throw up roadblocks to progress; look on the negative side|
|Deflect||Refuse to stay on topic; focus on minor points rather than main points|
Source: Adapted from David A. Whetten and Kim S. Cameron, Developing Management Skills, 7th ed. (Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education, 2007), 519–20.
As we highlighted earlier, throughout your academic career you’ll likely participate in a number of team projects. Not only will you make lasting friends by being a member of a team, but in addition you’ll produce a better product. To get insider advice on how to survive team projects in college (and perhaps really enjoy yourself in the process), let’s look at some suggestions offered by two students who have gone through this experience.Hannah Nichols, “Teamwork in School, Work and Life,” iamnext.com 2003,http://www.iamnext.com/academics/groupwork.html (accessed August 10, 2008); and Kristin Feenstra, “Study Skills: Team Work Skills for Group Projects,” iamnext.com, 2002, http://www.iamnext.com/academics/grouproject.html (accessed August 20, 2008).
“Some people are born leaders, some achieve leadership, and some have leadership thrust upon them.” Or so Shakespeare might have said if he were managing a twenty-first-century work team instead of a sixteenth-century theater troupe. At some point in a successful career, whether in business, school, or any other form of organizational work, you may be asked (or assigned) to lead a team. The more successful you are, the more likely you are to receive such an invitation. So, what will you have to do as a leader? What skills will you need?
Like so many of the questions that we ask in this book, these questions don’t have any simple answers. As for the first question—What does a leader have to do?—we can provide one broad answer: A leader must help members develop the attitudes and behavior that contribute to team success: interdependence, collective responsibility, shared commitment, and so forth.
Team leaders must be able to influence their team members. And notice that we say influence: except in unusual circumstances, giving commands and controlling everything directly doesn’t work very well.This section is based on David A. Whetten and Kim S. Cameron, Developing Management Skills, 7th ed. (Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education, 2007), 510–13. As one team of researchers puts it, team leaders are more effective when they work with members rather than on them.David A. Whetten and Kim S. Cameron, Developing Management Skills, 7th ed. (Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education, 2007), 511. Hand in hand with the ability to influence is the ability to gain and keep the trust of team members. People aren’t likely to be influenced by a leader whom they perceive as dishonest or selfishly motivated.
Team leaders are most effective when they can not only influence members but also gain their trust.
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Assuming you were asked to lead a team, there are certain leadership skills and behaviors that would help you influence your team members and build trust. Let’s look at seven of these:
Every team requires some mixture of three skill sets:
The following are eight ways to add value to and survive team projects in college:
The following are seven types of skills and behaviors that help team leaders influence their members and gain their trust:
One student, a veteran of team-based assignments, has some good advice to offer students who are following in her footsteps. Don’t start, she advises, until you’ve drawn up a team charter. This charter (or contract) should include the following: the goals of the group; information on meeting times and places; ways to ensure that each member’s ideas are considered and respected; methods for resolving conflicts; a “kick-out” clause—a statement of what will happen if a team member skips meetings or fails to do his or her share of the work.Kristen Feenstra, “Study Skills: Teamwork Skills for Group Projects,” iamnext.com, 2002, http://www.iamnext.com/academics/grouproject.html (accessed September 1, 2008).
Now assume that you’ve just been assigned to a team in one of your classes. Prepare a first-draft charter in which you spell out rules of conduct for the team and its members.
As the chief designer assigned to the “thin-clam” team at Motorola, Chris Arnholt was responsible for some of the phone’s distinctive physical features, including its sleek aluminum finish and backlit keyboard. In fact, it was he who pushed the company’s engineers and marketers to buck an industry trend toward phones that were getting fatter because of many add-ons such as cameras and stereo speakers. For Arnholt had a vision. He called it “rich minimalism,” and his goal was to help the Motorola cell phone team realize a product that embodied that profile.
But what exactly did Arnholt mean by rich minimalism? “Sometimes,” he admits, “my ideas are tough to communicate,” but as a veteran in his field, he also understands that “design is really about communication.”See Adam Lashinsky, “RAZR’s Edge,” Fortune, CNNMoney.com, June 1, 2006, http://money.cnn.com/magazines/fortune/fortune_archive/2006/06/12/8379239/index.htm (accessed August 22, 2008); Scott D. Anthony, “Motorola’s Bet on the RAZR’s Edge,” HBS Working Knowledge, September 12, 2005, http://hbswk.hbs.edu/archive/4992.html (accessed August 24, 2008). His chief (and ongoing) task, then, was communicating to the cell phone team what he meant by rich minimalism. Ultimately, of course, he had to show them what rich minimalism looked like when it appeared in tangible form in a fashionable new cell phone. In the process, he also had to be sure that the cell phone included certain key benefits that prospective consumers would want. As always, the physical design of the finished product had to be right for its intended market.
We’ll have much more to say about the process of developing new products in Chapter 10 "Product Design and Development". Here, however, let’s simply highlight two points about the way successful companies approach the challenges of new-product design and development (which you will likely recognize from reading the first part of this chapter):
The common denominator in both facets of the process is effective communication. The designer, for example, must communicate not only his vision of the product but also certain specifications for turning it into something concrete. Chris Arnholt sculpted models out of cornstarch and then took them home at night to refashion them according to suggestions made by the product team. Then he’d put his newest ideas on paper and hand the drawings over to another member of his design team, who’d turn them into 3D computer graphics from which other specialists would build plastic models. Without effective communication at every step in this process, it isn’t likely that a group of people with different skills would produce plastic models bearing a practical resemblance to Arnholt’s original drawings. On top of everything else, Arnholt’s responsibility as chief designer required him to communicate his ideas not only about the product’s visual and physical features but also about the production processes and manufacturing requirements for building it.See Industrial Designers Society of America (IDSA), “About ID,” IDSA, http://www.idsa.org/absolutenm/templates/?a=89&z=23 (accessed September 4, 2008).
Thus Arnholt’s job—which is to say, his responsibility on the cell phone team—meant that he had to do a lot more than merely design the product. Strictly speaking, the designer’s function is to understand a product from the consumer’s point of view; develop this understanding into a set of ideas and specifications that will satisfy not only consumer needs but producer requirements; and make recommendations through drawings, models, and verbal communications.IDSA, Industrial Designers Society of America (IDSA), “About ID,” IDSA, http://www.idsa.org/absolutenm/templates/?a=89&z=23 (accessed September 4, 2008). Even our condensed version of the RAZR story, however, indicates that Arnholt’s job was far broader. Why? Because new-product design is an integrative process: contributions must come from all functions within an organization, including operations (which includes research and development, engineering and manufacturing), marketing, management, finance, and accounting.See Glen L. Urban and John R. Hauser, Design and Marketing of New Products, 2nd ed. (Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall, 1993), 173.
Our version of the RAZR story has emphasized operations (which includes research and development, engineering, and manufacturing) and touched on the role of marketing (which collects data about consumer needs). Remember, though, that members from several areas of management were recruited for the team. Because the project required considerable investment of Motorola’s capital, finance was certainly involved, and the decision to increase production in late 2004 was based on numbers crunched by the accounting department. At every step, Arnholt’s drawings, specs, and recommendations reflected his collaboration with people from all these functional areas.
The explosion of text messaging has changed the way people use their cell phones and created new design needs for manufacturers like Motorola.
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As we’ll see in the next section, what all this interactivity amounts to is communication.See Glen L. Urban and John R. Hauser, Design and Marketing of New Products, 2nd ed. (Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall, 1993), 653. As for what Arnholt meant by rich minimalism, you’ll need to take a look at the picture of the RAZR in Figure 8.1 "Motorola RAZR". Among other things, it means a blue electroluminescent panel and a 22 kHz polyphonic speaker.
Let’s start with a basic (and quite practical) definition of communicationProcess of transferring information from a sender to a receiver. as the process of transferring information from a sender to a receiver. When you call up a classmate to inform him that your Introduction to Financial Accounting class has been canceled, you’re sending information and your classmate is receiving it. When you go to your professor’s Web site to find out the assignment for the next class, your professor is sending information and you’re receiving it. When your boss e-mails you the data you need to complete a sales report and tells you to e-mail the report back to her by 4 o’clock, your boss is sending information and, once again, you’re receiving it; later in the day, the situation will be reversed.
Obviously, you participate in dozens of “informational transfers” every day. (In fact, they take up about 70 percent of your waking hours—80 percent if you have some sort of managerial position.Stephen P. Robbins and Timothy A. Judge, Organizational Behavior, 13th ed. (Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education, 2009), 368; David A. Whetten and Kim S. Cameron, Developing Management Skills, 7th ed. (Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education, 2007), 243.) In any case, it wouldn’t make much sense for us to pursue the topic much further without assuming that you’ve gained some experience and mastered some skills in the task of communicating. At the same time, though, we’ll also venture to guess that you’re much more comfortable having casual conversations with friends than writing class assignments or giving speeches in front of classmates. That’s why we’re going to resort to the same plain terms that we used when we discussed the likelihood of your needing teamwork skills in an organizational setting: The question is not whether you’ll need communication skills (both written and verbal). You will. The question is whether you’ll develop the skills to communicate effectively in a variety of organizational situations.
Once again, the numbers back us up. In a recent survey by the Association of Colleges and Employers, the ability to communicate well topped the list of skills that business recruiters want in potential hires.National Association of Colleges and Employers, “2006 Job Outlook,” NACEWeb, 2007, http://www.naceweb.org (accessed August 12, 2008). A College Board survey of 120 major U.S. companies concludes that writing is a “threshold skill” for both employment and promotion. “In most cases,” volunteered one human resources director, “writing ability could be your ticket in—or your ticket out.” Applicants and employees who can’t write and communicate clearly, says the final report, “will not be hired and are unlikely to last long enough to be considered for promotion.”College Board, “Writing: A Ticket to Work…or a Ticket Out: A Survey of Business Leaders,” Report of the National Commission on Writing, September 2004, http://www.writingcommission.org/prod_downloads/writingcom/writing-ticket-to-work.pdf (accessed August 10, 2008).
They’re important to you because they’re important to prospective employers. And why do employers consider communication skills so important? Because they’re good for business. Research shows that businesses benefit in several ways when they’re able to foster effective communication among employees:John V. Thill and Courtland L. Bovée, Excellence in Business Communication, 8th ed. (Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education, 2008), 4. See Nicholas Carr, “Lessons in Corporate Blogging,” Business Week, July 18, 2006, 9.
Figure 8.7 "Required Skills" reveals some further findings of the College Board survey that we mentioned above—namely, the percentage of companies that identified certain communication skills as being “frequently” or “almost always” necessary in their workplaces. As you can see, ability in using e-mail is a nearly universal requirement (and in many cases this includes the ability to adapt messages to different receivers or compose persuasive messages when necessary). The ability to make presentations (with visuals) also ranks highly.
Figure 8.7 Required Skills
Effective communication is needed in several facets of the new-product design and development process:
Businesses benefit in several ways when they’re able to foster effective communication among employees:
Pick a company you’re interested in working for when you graduate from college. For this company, identify:
For each of these positions, describe the skills needed to get the job and those needed to be successful in the position.
Clearly, the task of preparing and submitting a finished sales report doesn’t require the same kinds of communication skills as talking on the phone with a classmate. No matter what your “workstation” happens to be—whether your workplace office or your kitchen table—you’re performing the task of preparing that sales report in an organizational setting. You’re still a sender transferring information to a receiver, but the organizational context of the task requires you to consider different factors for success in communicating effectively (including barriers to success). A report, for example, must be targeted for someone in a specific position and must contain the information necessary to make a specific set of decisions.See Michael Netzley and Craig Snow, Guide to Report Writing (Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall, 2002), 3–21.
Here’s another way of thinking about communication in an organizational setting. Let’s assume that you and the classmate you called on the phone are on roughly equal footing—you’re both juniors, your grades in the class are about the same, and so forth. Your phone conversation, therefore, is “lateral”: You belong to the same group (your accounting class), and your group activities take place on the same level.
Communication may also flow laterally in organizational settings (as it does between you and your classmate), but more often it flows up or down. Take a look at Figure 8.8 "Formal Communication Flows". If it looks familiar, that’s because we’ve borrowed it from Chapter 6 "Managing for Business Success", where it appeared as the organization chart for the fictional company Notes-4-You. As you can see, we’ve added a few lines to show the three directions in which communications can flow in a typical organization:This section is based on Jerald Greenberg and Robert A. Baron, Behavior in Organizations, 9th ed. (Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education, 2008), 351–53.
Your boss’s request for a sales report is an instance of downward communication, and when you’ve finished and submitted it, you will have completed a task of upward communication.
Figure 8.8 Formal Communication Flows
Naturally, each of these different directional flows has its functions and advantages. Downward communication, for example, is appropriate for giving instructions or directions—telling people what to do. (As a goal of communication, by the way, giving orders isn’t as one-sided as it may seem. One of the things that employees—the receivers—most want to know is: What, exactly, does my job entail?Jerald Greenberg and Robert A. Baron, Behavior in Organizations, 9th ed. (Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education, 2008), 350–51.) Like a sales report, upward communication usually provides managers with information that they need for making decisions, but it’s also the vehicle for new ideas, suggestions, and complaints. Horizontal communication supports efforts to coordinate tasks and otherwise help people work together.
And, of course, each type of flow has its disadvantages. As information seeps downward, for instance, it tends to lose some of its original clarity and often becomes distorted or downright wrong. (This is especially true when it’s delivered orally.) In addition, unlike Donald Trump, most people who are responsible for using downward communication don’t like delivering bad news (such as “You’re fired” or, more commonly, “Your job is being phased out”); as a result, bad news—including bad news that happens to be important news—is often ignored or disguised. The same thing may happen when bad news—say, a negative status report—must be sent upward.
Finally, while horizontal flows are valuable for promoting cooperation, they can also be used to engage in conflict—for instance, between two departments competing for the same organizational resources. The problem is especially bad when such horizontal communications breach official upward or downward lines of communication, thus bypassing managers who might be able to resolve the conflict.
Figure 8.9 "Channels of Communication" summarizes two additional sets of characteristics of organizational communication—internal and external channels and formal and informal channels.This section is based on John V. Thill and Courtland L. Bovée, Excellence in Business Communication, 8th ed. (Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education, 2008), 4–6. Internal communicationChannel by which communication is shared by people at all levels within a company. is shared by people at all levels within a company. External communicationChannel through which communication occurs between parties inside a company and parties outside it. occurs between parties inside a company and parties outside the company, such as suppliers, customers, and investors. Both internal and external forms of communication include everything from formal e-mail and official reports to face-to-face conversations and casual phone calls. External communication also takes such forms as customer and supplier Web sites, news releases, and advertising.
Figure 8.9 Channels of Communication
Note that Figure 8.9 "Channels of Communication" takes the form of a grid, thus creating four dimensions in which communication can take place. Informal communication, for example, can take place either among people within the company (internally) or between insiders and outsiders (externally). By and large, though you can use the same set of tools (memos, reports, phone calls) to communicate in any of these four situations, some tools (team blogs, news releases, supplier Web sites) are useful only in one or two.
An organization’s formal communication networkNetwork consisting of all communications that flow along an organization’s official lines of authority. consists of all communications that flow along its official lines of authority. Look again at Figure 8.8 "Formal Communication Flows". Because it incorporates the organization chart for Notes-4-You, it shows the company’s lines of authority—what, in Chapter 6 "Managing for Business Success", we called its reporting relationships. Here we can see that the reporting relationships in question consist of upward communication from subordinates to superiors. In reporting to the operations manager, for example, the note-takers’ supervisor communicates upward. Conversely, when the note-takers’ manager needs to give direction to note takers, she will use downward communication. If the note-takers’ manager and the copiers’ manager must get together to prepare a joint report for the operations manager, they’ll engage in lateral communication. In short, an organization’s formal communication network is basically the same thing as its network of reporting relationships and lines of authority.See Jerald Greenberg and Robert A. Baron, Behavior in Organizations, 9th ed. (Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education, 2008), 349–50.
Every company also has an informal communication network (or grapevine)Network that carries information whenever two or more employees get together and start talking about the company and their jobs., which goes to work whenever two or more employees get together and start talking about the company and their jobs. Informal communication can take place just about anywhere (in one person’s cubicle, in the cafeteria, on the golf course) and by just about any means (phone, e-mail, instant messaging, face-to-face conversation).
Though it’s sometimes called the grapevine, an informal network is an extremely important communication channel. Why? For the simple reason that it’s typically widespread and can rarely be prevented, even if it’s not officially sanctioned by the company—indeed, even when the company tries to discourage or bypass it. Unofficial information crosses virtually every boundary drawn by a firm’s organization chart, reaching out and touching everyone in the organization, and what’s more, it travels a lot faster than official information.
The downside of “unofficial” information should be obvious. Because much of it is communicated orally, it’s likely to get distorted and often degenerates into outright misinformation. Say, for example, that a rumor about layoffs gets started in your workplace. As more than one manager will verify, such rumors can do more damage than the reality. Morale may plummet and productivity won’t be far behind. Valuable employees may abandon ship (needlessly, if the rumors are false).See Steven A. Watson, “Sharing Info and Defusing Rumors Helps Keep Staff Motivated During Layoffs,” TechRepublic, June 17, 2003, http://articles.techrepublic.com.com/5100-10878_11-5035116.html (accessed September 6, 2008).
And imagine what can happen if informal information gets outside the organization. In the 1970s, Chicago-area McDonald’s outlets found themselves fighting rumors about worms in their hamburgers. Over the years, Coca-Cola has had to fight rumors about terrorists joining its organization, subversive messages concealed in its label, and hyperacidity (false rumors that Coke causes osteoporosis and makes a good pesticide and an equally good spermicide).Allan J. Kimmel, Rumors and Rumor Control (Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum, 2004), http://books.google.com/books?id=a0FZz3Jq8lIC&pg=PA64&lpg=PA64&dq=rumors+about+Coke&source=web&ots=wtBktafiKZ&sig=HbsDm2Byd0ZPkZH2YUWITwWTDac&hl=en&sa=X&oi=book_result&resnum=6&ct=result (accessed September 6, 2008). See also Jerald Greenberg and Robert A. Baron, Behavior in Organizations, 9th ed. (Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education, 2008), 359.
On the upside, savvy managers can tap into the informal network, either to find out what sort of information is influencing employee activities or to circulate more meaningful information, including new ideas as well as corrective information. In any case, managers have to deal with the grapevine, and one manager has compiled a list of suggestions for doing so effectively:Charles R. McConnell, “Controlling the Grapevine,” Small Business Toolbox, June 18, 2008, http://www.nfib.com/object/IO_37650?_templateId=315 (accessed September 6, 2008).
Perhaps most importantly, when alert managers notice that the grapevine is particularly active, they tend to reach a sensible twofold conclusion:
Let’s go back to our example of a workplace overwhelmed by layoff rumors. In a practical sense, what can a manager—say, the leader of a long-term product-development team—do to provide better communication? One manager suggests at least three specific responses:Steven A. Watson, “Sharing Info and Defusing Rumors Helps Keep Staff Motivated During Layoffs,” TechRepublic, June 17, 2003, http://articles.techrepublic.com.com/5100-10878_11-5035116.html (accessed September 6, 2008).
Because actions of this sort send a message, they can legitimately be characterized as a form of formal communication. They also reflect good leadership: Even though the information in this case relates only indirectly to immediate team tasks, you’re sharing information with people who need it, and you’re demonstrating integrity (you’re being honest, and you’re following through on a commitment to the team).
By barriers we mean anything that prevents people from communicating as effectively as possible. Noise, for example, can be a barrier to communication; if you and other team members are mumbling among yourselves while your team leader is trying to explain task assignments, you’re putting up a barrier to group communication. As a matter of fact, you’re putting up two barriers: In addition to creating noise, you’re failing to listen. About 80 percent of top executives say that learning to listen is the most important skill in getting things done in the workplace,John V. Thill and Courtland L. Bovée, Excellence in Business Communication, 8th ed. (Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education, 2008), 53. See Judi Brownell, Listening, 2nd ed. (Boston: Allyn & Bacon, 2002), 9–10. and as President Calvin Coolidge once remarked, “No man ever listened himself out of a job.” Business people who don’t listen risk offending others or misinterpreting what they’re saying.
Though developed to improve communication, in some cases cell phones can create a barrier.
© 2010 Jupiterimages Corporation
As for creating unnecessary verbal noise and failing to listen, we can probably chalk them up to poor communication habits (or maybe the same habit, for as legendary management expert Peter Drucker argues, “Listening is not a skill; it is a discipline. All you have to do is keep your mouth shut”). In the rest of this section, we’ll overlook personal barriers to communication and concentrate instead on two types of barriers that are encountered by groups of people, sometimes large and sometimes small, working toward organizational goals.
Cultural barriersBarriers that result from differences among people of different cultures., which are sometimes called cultural filters, are the barriers that result from differences among people of different cultures.See Melinda G. Kramer, Business Communication in Context: Principles and Practice (Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall, 2001), 87. As we point out in Chapter 7 "Recruiting, Motivating, and Keeping Quality Employees", experts and managers agree that cultural diversity in the workplace can and should be a significant asset: It broadens the perspectives from which groups approach problems, gives them fresh ideas, and sparks their creativity; it also gives organizations an advantage in connecting with diverse customer bases. None of these advantages, though, magically appears simply because workplace diversity increases. To the contrary: As diversity increases, so does the possibility that a group will be composed of people who have different attitudes and different ways of expressing them.
If it hasn’t happened already, for example, one of these days you’ll find yourself having a work-related conversation with a member of the opposite sex. If the conversation doesn’t go as smoothly as you’d expected, there’s a good reason: Men and women in the workplace don’t communicate the same way. According to American linguist Deborah Tannen, men tend to assert their status, to exert confidence, and to regard asking questions as a sign of weakness. Women, in contrast, tend to foster positive interrelationships, to restrain expressions of confidence, and to ask questions with no trouble.See Jerald Greenberg and Robert A. Baron, Behavior in Organizations, 9th ed. (Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education, 2008), 360–61. See Deborah Tannen, Talking 9 to 5: Women and Men at Work (New York: Avon, 1995).
It really doesn’t matter which “style” (if either) is better suited to making a conversation more productive. Two points, however, are clear:
Let’s return for a moment to Figure 8.8 "Formal Communication Flows". Recall that when we introduced the organizational structure of Notes-4-You in Chapter 6 "Managing for Business Success", we characterized it as a functional organization—one that groups together people who have comparable skills and perform similar tasks. Note, however, that in setting up this form of organization for our hypothetical company, we found it necessary to insert two layers of management (four functional managers and two job supervisors) between our owner/president and our lowest-level employees. In this respect, our structure shares certain characteristics with another form of organization—divisional, which groups people into units that are more or less self-contained and that are largely accountable for their own performance.
What does all this have to do with barriers to communication? Simply this: The more “divisionalized” an organization becomes, the more likely it will be to encounter communication barriers. Not surprisingly, communication gets more complicated, for the same reason that an organization comes to rely on more levels of management.See Jennifer M. George and Gareth R. Jones, Understanding and Managing Organizational Behavior, 5th ed. (Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education, 2008), 544. Notes-4-You, for instance, needs two supervisors because its note takers don’t do the same work as its copiers. In addition, because their groups don’t perform the same work, the two supervisors don’t call on the same resources from the company’s four functional managers. (Likewise, Notes-4-You also has four functional-area managers because none of them does the same work as any of the others.)
Officially, then, the operations of the two work groups remain distinct or specialized. At the same time, each group must contribute to the company-wide effort to achieve common goals. Moreover, certain organizational projects, like Motorola’s cell phone project, may require the two groups to work together more closely than usual. When that happens, employees from each of the two groups may find themselves working together on the same team, but even so, one crucial fact remains: Information that one group possesses and the other doesn’t must still be exchanged among team members. It may not be quite as apparent as the cultural diversity among men and women in many workplace situations, but there is in fact a functional diversity at Notes-4-You among note takers and copiers.See Anne S. Tsui and Barbara A. Gutek, Demographic Differences in Organizations (Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 1999), 91–95, http://books.google.com/books?hl=en&id=Rr8jYPKF0hoC&dq=Tsui%2BGutek&printsec=frontcover &source=web&ots=svMB027a6s&sig=pQForzFKUkbWr1HbNBBLE42EoL0&sa= X&oi=book_result&resnum=1&ct=result (accessed September 9, 2008).
Figure 8.11 "Functional Barriers to Communication" illustrates the location of barriers that may be present when a team-based project must deal with a certain degree of functional diversity. As you can see, we’ve modeled our process on the process of the Motorola ultratrim phone project.See Roberta S. Russell and Bernard W. Taylor, Operations Management, 5th ed. (Hoboken, NJ: Wiley, 2005), 85. We don’t need to describe the entire process in detail, but we will focus on two aspects of it that we’ve highlighted in the drawing:
If, for example, marketing specs called for the new Motorola phone to change colors with the user’s mood, someone in engineering might have to explain the difficulties in designing the software. If design specs called for quadraphonic sound, production might have to explain the difficulties in procuring sufficiently lightweight speaker components.
Figure 8.11 Functional Barriers to Communication
Each technical problem—each problem that arises because of differences in team members’ knowledge and expertise—becomes a problem in communication. In addition, communicating as a member of a team obviously requires much more than explaining the limitations of someone else’s professional expertise. Once they’ve surfaced, technical and other problems have to be resolved—a process that will inevitably require even more communication. As we’ve seen in this part of the chapter, improving communication is a top priority for most organizations (for one thing, developing a team-based environment is otherwise impossible), and the ongoing task of improving communication is pretty much the same thing as the ongoing task of overcoming barriers to it.
In a typical organizational setting, communication flows may take three directions:
Write three messages (you decide which communication channel to use).
As mentioned previously, the College Board identified these communication skills as “frequently” or “almost always” necessary in the workplace:College Board, “Writing: A Ticket to Work…or a Ticket Out: A Survey of Business Leaders,” Report of the National Commission on Writing, September 2004, http://www.writingcommission.org/prod_downloads/writingcom/writing-ticket-to-work.pdf (accessed August 10, 2008). e-mail, presentation with visuals, technical reports, formal reports, memos, and presentations without visuals. The skill ranked highest in importance was the use of e-mails, including the ability to adapt messages to different receivers or compose persuasive messages when necessary. The ability to make presentations (with visuals) ranked second in importance. Report writing came next. Given the complexity of report writing, we will not cover this topic here. Instead, we will look at the remaining three forms of communication: e-mail, presentations with visuals, and memos.
Here are some tips for writing effective e-mail messages:
For some, the thought of making a presentation is traumatic. If you’re one of those people, the best way to get over your fear is to get up and make a presentation. With time, it will get easier, and you might even start enjoying it. As you progress through college, you will have a number of opportunities to make presentations. This is good news—it gives you practice, lets you make your mistakes in a protected environment (before you hit the business world), and allows you to get fairly good at it. Your opportunities to talk in front of a group will multiply once you enter the business world. Throughout your business career, you’ll likely be called on to present reports, address groups at all levels in the organization, represent your company at various events, run committee meetings, lead teams, or make a sales pitch.Paul W. Barada, “Confront Your Fears and Communicate,” Monster.com,http://career-advice.monster.com/business-communication/Confront-Your-Fears-and-Communicate/home.aspx (accessed August 11, 2008). In preparing and delivering your presentation, you can follow a four-step process (plan, prepare, practice, and present) designed by Dale Carnegie, a global training company named after its famed founder.“Presentation Tips from Dale Carnegie Training,” Dale Carnegie, http://www.erinhoops.ca/LobbyingHandbook/Presentation_Tips.htm (accessed August 13, 2008).
Plan your presentation based on your purpose and the knowledge level and interest of your audience. Use words and concepts your audience can understand, and stay focused. If your audience is knowledgeable about your topic, you can skim over the generalities and delve into the details. On the other hand, if the topic is new to them, you need to move through it slowly. As you plan your presentation, ask yourself these questions: What am I trying to accomplish? Am I trying to educate, inform, motivate, or persuade my audience? What does my audience know about the topic? What do I want them to know? How can I best convey this information to them?
Once you have planned your presentation, you’re ready to prepare. It might be easier to write your presentation if you divide it into three sections: opening, body, close. Your opening should grab your audience’s attention. You can do this by asking a question, telling a relevant story, or even announcing a surprising piece of information. About 5 to 10 percent of your time can be spent on the opening. The body covers the bulk of the material and consumes about 80 to 85 percent of your time. Cover your key points, stay focused, but do not overload your audience. It has been found that an audience can absorb only about four to six points. Your close, which uses about 5 to 10 percent of your time, should leave the audience with a positive impression of you and your presentation. You have lots of choices for your close: You can either summarize your message, or relate your closing remarks to your opening remarks, or do both.
This section should really be called “Practice, Practice, Practice” (and maybe another Practice for emphasis). The saying “practice makes perfect” is definitely true with presentations, especially for beginners. You might want to start off practicing your presentation by yourself, perhaps in front of a mirror. You could even videotape yourself and play it back (that should be fun). As you get the hang of it, ask a friend or a group of friends to listen to and critique your talk. When you rehearse, check your time to see whether it’s what you want. Avoid memorizing your talk, but know it well.
Preparation is key to a successful presentation.
© 2010 Jupiterimages Corporation
Now you’re ready for the big day—it’s time to present. Dress for the part—if it’s a professional talk, dress like a professional. Go early to the location where you’ll present, check out the room, and be sure any equipment you’ll need is there and works. Try to connect with your audience as soon as you start your presentation. Take your time delivering your opening. Act as natural as you can, and try to relax. Slow your speech down, as you’ll likely have a tendency to speed up if you get nervous. Pause before and after your main point for emphasis. If you put brief notes on index cards, avoid reading from the cards. Glance down at them when needed, but then look up at your audience as you speak. Involve your audience in your presentation by asking them questions. Not only will they feel included, but it will help you relax. When you’re close to finishing, let your audience know this (but don’t announce it too early in the talk or your audience might start packing up prematurely). Remember to leave some time for questions and answers.
It’s very common to use visual aids (generally PowerPoint slides) in business presentations. The use of visual aids helps your audience remember your main points and keeps you focused. If you do use PowerPoint slides, follow some simple (but important) rules:“Making PowerPoint Slides—Avoiding the Pitfalls of Bad Slides,” http://www.iasted.org/conferences/formatting/Presentations-Tips.ppt (accessed August 13, 2008).
And most important: The PowerPoint slides are background, but you are the show. Avoid turning around and reading the slides. The audience wants to see you talk; they are not interested in seeing the back of your head.
Memos are effective at conveying fairly detailed information. To help you understand how to write a memo, read the following sample memorandum.
As college students, you’ll be expected to analyze real-world situations, research issues, form opinions, and provide support for the conclusions that you reach. In addition to engaging in classroom discussions of business issues, you’ll be asked to complete a number of written assignments. For these assignments, we’ll give you a business situation and ask you to analyze the issues, form conclusions, and provide support for your opinions.
In each assignment, you’ll use the memo format, which is the typical form of written communication used in business. Writing in memo format means providing a complete but concise response to the issues at hand. Good memo writing demands time and effort. Because the business world expects you to possess this skill, we want to give you an opportunity to learn it now.
Here are a few helpful hints to get you started on the right track:
Now that you’ve read our memo, we expect you to follow the simple guidelines presented in it. This form of communication is widely practiced in business, so take advantage of this opportunity to practice your memo-writing skills.
Sometimes it’s not what you say or how you say it that matters, but what your body language communicates about you and how you feel. When a good friend who’s in a bad mood walks into a room, you don’t need to hear a word from her to know she’s having an awful day. You can read her expression. In doing this, you’re picking up on her nonverbal communication“Nonword” messages communicated through facial expressions, posture, gestures, and tone of voice.—“nonword” messages communicated through facial expressions, posture, gestures, and tone of voice. People give off nonverbal cues all the time. So what effect do these cues have in the business setting? Quite a bit—these cues are often better at telling you what’s on a person’s mind than what the person actually says. If an employee is meeting with his supervisor and frowns when she makes a statement, the supervisor will conclude that he disapproved of the statement (regardless of what he claims). If two employees are discussing a work-related problem and one starts to fidget, the other will pick this up as disinterest.
Given the possible negative effect that nonverbal cues can have in business situations, how can you improve your body language? The best approach is to become aware of any nonverbal cues you give out, and then work to eliminate them. For example, if you have a habit of frowning when you disapprove of something, recognize this and stop doing it. If the tone of your voice changes when you are angry, try to maintain your voice at a lower pitch.
Here are ten tips for writing an e-mail:
In preparing your presentation, it helps to divide it into three sections: opening, body and close.
When you present, dress professionally, connect with your audience, try to relax and pause before and after your main points for emphasis.
Memos are effective at conveying fairly detailed information. Here are some tips:
Factors Contributing to Nike’s Success
This writing assignment solicits your opinion on factors contributing to Nike’s success. To complete it, you should go to http://www.nikebiz.com/company_overview/timeline to learn about Nike’s history by reviewing the company’s time line.
Use the memo format described in the chapter for this assignment. Your memo should not exceed two pages. It should be single spaced (with an extra space between paragraphs and bulleted items).
You’re one of the fortunate college students selected to participate in Nike’s summer internship program. The program is quite competitive, and you still can’t believe that you were chosen. You arrived in Beaverton, Oregon, yesterday morning and have been busy ever since. Last night, you attended a dinner for new interns where you were welcomed to Nike by CEO Mark Parker.
You were lucky to be sitting next to a personable, well-informed Nike veteran named Simon Pestridge. Pestridge joined Nike about twelve years ago. He was telling you about a past assignment he had as director of marketing for Australia. (You were impressed with his status at Nike, not just because he doesn’t look much older than you, but also because you’ve always wanted to travel to Australia.) The dinner conversation turned to a discussion of the reasons for Nike’s success. Others at the table were giving their opinions on the subject when Pestridge turned to you and said, “As a new intern, give us an outsider’s point of view. Why do you think Nike’s been so successful?” You were about to venture an opinion when Pestridge was called away for a phone call. As he got up, however, he quickly said, “Send me a memo telling me what factors you think have contributed to Nike’s success. Keep it simple. Three factors are plenty.” Though you were relieved to have a little time to think about your answer, you were also a bit nervous about the prospect of writing your first official memo.
As everyone else headed for the Bo Jackson gym, you went back to your room to think about Pestridge’s question and to figure out how to go about writing your memo. You want to be sure to start by telling him that you enjoyed talking with him. You also need to remind him that you’re responding to his question about three factors in Nike’s success, and must be sure to explain why you believe they’re important. You’ll end by saying that you hope the information is helpful and that he can contact you if he has any further questions.
So far, so good, but you’re still faced with the toughest part of your task—identifying the three factors that you deem important to Nike’s success. Fortunately, even at Nike there’s always tomorrow to get something done, so you decide to sleep on it and write your memo in the morning.
You and three other students have been working on a group project all semester in your Introduction to Business class. One of the members of the team did very little work; he failed to attend almost all the meetings, took no responsibility for any of the tasks, didn’t attend the practice session before your presentation, and in general was a real goof-off. But he happens to be friends with two of the team members. You and your other team members have been asked to complete the attached team member evaluation. You want to give the student what he deserves—almost no credit. But your other two team members don’t agree. They argue that it is “unsocial and mean” to tell the truth about this student’s lack of contribution. Instead, they want to report that everyone shared the work equally. The evaluation will be used in determining grades for each team member. Those who contributed more will get a higher grade than those who did not. Prepare an argument that you can advance to the other team members on the ethics of covering for this student. Assuming that your two teammates won’t change their minds, what would you do?
Attachment to Ethics Angle Problem
Introduction to Business
Team Member Evaluation
(To be given to your faculty member during the last week of class)
You have a total of $100,000. You can use this to reward your team members (including yourself) for their contributions to the team project.
Fill in each team member’s name below (including your own), and show beside each name how much of the $100,000 you would give that member for his or her contributions to the preparation and presentation of the team project. Do not share your recommendations with your team members.
Your recommendations will be confidential.
|Team Members (including yourself)||Amount to be given for efforts on team project|
|TOTAL (MUST EQUAL $100,000)||$_________________________|
YOUR NAME ______________________________________________________
Team Skills and Talents
Team projects involve a number of tasks that are handled by individual team members. These tasks should be assigned to team members based on their particular skills and talents. The next time you work on a team project, you should use the following table to help your team organize its tasks and hold its members responsible for their completion.
Here is how you should use this document:
|Tasks to Be Completed||Initials of Team Member(s) Who Will Complete Task||Date to Be Completed||Date Completed||Initials of Team Member(s) Who Completed Task (Add a Note Below the Table Explaining Any Problems with Completion or Quality of Work)|
A Multicultural Virtual Team
You work for Nike, a global company. You just learned that you were assigned to a virtual team whose mission is to assess the feasibility of Nike’s making an inexpensive shoe that can be sold in Brazil. The team consists of twelve members. Three of the members work in the United States (two in Beaverton, Oregon, and one in New York City). Two work in England, two in China, two in India, and three in Brazil. All are Nike employees and all were born in the country in which they work. All speak English, though some speak it better than others. What challenges do you anticipate the team will face because of its multicultural makeup?. How could these challenges be overcome?