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What is teamwork?

Key Points: -

  • In a general sense people talk of teamwork when they want to emphasise the virtues of co-operation and the need to make use of the various strengths of employees
  • This booklet concentrates on teamworking which involves organising employees into teams based on a distinct product, part of a process, or service - often cutting across existing functional divides

Teams have been around for as long as anyone can remember and there can be few organisations that have not used the term in one sense or another. It is common to hear of management teams, production teams, service teams or even whole organisations being referred to as teams. Employers stress the importance of employees working as a team and advertise for staff with the ability to work in such a way. In a general sense people talk of teamwork when they want to emphasise the virtues of co-operation and the need to make use of the various strengths of employees.

This booklet concentrates on a more specific use of the term teamworking involving a reorganisation of the way work is carried out. This includes organising employees into teams based on a distinct product, part of a process, or service - often cutting across existing functional divides. These teams are given a high degree of responsibility and expected to work with increased flexibility. Frequently the change to this type of teamworking is accompanied by wholesale changes to the management structure and the role of supervisors and managers.

Companies which have reorganised their workforce into teams in this way claim substantial improvements in morale, job satisfaction, productivity and quality. These claims have resulted in interest from other organisations keen to share in the possible benefits. At the same time there is confusion over what exactly is meant by teamworking and concern on the part of managers, employees and their representatives over the possible drawbacks of embarking on what may be a radical change in work organisation.

Most research into teamworking has been carried out in manufacturing and much of the advice in this booklet is placed in a manufacturing context. Teamworking, however, is capable of much wider application and the booklet will also be relevant to organisations in the service sector. Small firms, too, often naturally work in teams and will find the advice here can help to improve their effectiveness.

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