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Team Working

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  International Journal of Management Reviews (2008) doi: 10.1111/j.1468-2370.2007.00227.x International Journal of Management ReviewsVolume 10Issue 2pp. 127–148 127 © 2007 The AuthorsJournal compilation © 2008 Blackwell Publishing Ltd, 9600 Garsington Road, Oxford OX4 2DQ, UK and 350 Main Street, Malden,MA 02148, USA BlackwellPublishingLtd Oxford,UK IJMR InternationalJournalofManagementReviews1460-8545©BlackwellPublishingLtd2007XXX ORIGINALARTICLES xxx2007Teamworkingandorganizationalperformance Teamworking and organizational performance: A review of survey-based research Anne Delarue, 1  Geert Van Hootegem, Stephen Procter and Mark Burridge This paper presents a review of recent survey-based research looking at the contributionof teamwork to organizational performance. In particular, it focuses on empirical studiesin which both teamwork and performance are directly measured in a quantitative way.The paper begins by identifying four interrelated dimensions of teamwork effectiveness:attitudinal, behavioural, operational and financial. The first two represent transmissionmechanisms by which organizational performance can be improved. The latter two providedirect measures of organizational outcomes. The review shows that teamworking has apositive impact on all four dimensions of performance. It also reveals that, when teamworkis combined with structural change, performance can be further enhanced. The paperconcludes by highlighting some important research gaps that future studies could address. Introduction Teamwork has emerged in recent years as oneof the most important ways in which work isbeing reorganized (Osterman 1994; Waterson et al . 1997). This idea of delegating responsi-bilities to work groups has been diffused under a range of different labels. Human resourcemanagement (HRM), modern sociotechnicaltheory, business process re-engineering andlean production all embrace the core principlesof teamworking (Benders and Van Hootegem1999; De Sitter et al.  1997; Kleinschmidt andPekruhl 1994; Kuipers and Van Amelsvoort1990) and suggest an important link withorganizational performance (Hammer andChampy 1993; Katzenbach and Smith 1993;Womack et al.  1991).Various arguments have been advanced toexplain the effectiveness of team-based work.For example, both sociotechnical theory(e.g. De Sitter 1994; Pasmore 1988) and workdesign theory (Hackman and Oldham 1976)have focused on the design of the group’s taskto explain positive results; self-leadership theoryhas identified the supervisory behaviours thathelp self-managing teams achieve success (Manzand Sims 1987); and theories of participative  Teamworking and organizational performance 128 © 2007 The AuthorsJournal compilation © 2008 Blackwell Publishing Ltd management argue that certain aspects of the organizational context contribute to theeffectiveness of teams (e.g. Lawler 1992;Glew et al . 1995).However, theoretical arguments about theeffectiveness of teams are not enough. Thenext logical step in the cycle of scientificenquiry is the testing of these theories inpractice. Various methodological approachescan be taken to assess the benefits associatedwith teams. Field experiments or intensivecase studies allow the careful monitoring of the effects of workplace changes on outcomes,both qualitatively and quantitatively as wellas over considerable periods of time. Suchresearch provides insight and suggests hypo-theses, but it is difficult to generalize onthe basis of its findings (Ichniowski et al.  1996,303). In contrast, survey-based research, if appropriately conducted, does allow gener-alization to the population at large. Two re-views of the teamworking literature carriedout approximately ten years ago showed thatsome survey-based research was already inexistence (Cohen and Bailey 1997; Guzzo andDickson 1996), but they also indicated thatvery little of this empirical work consideredissues of overall organizational performance.Indeed, some authors have argued that theevidence regarding the impact of teamworkat the level of the workplace is often basedupon anecdotes or descriptive case analyses(Appelbaum et al.  2000, 13; Cohen and Ledford1994, 13–15). However, over the last decade,studies have begun to emerge that attempt toevaluate group performance at different levelsof the organization and to assess the wider benefits of teamwork.The purpose of this paper is to carry out acritical examination of this literature examiningthe links between teamworking and perform-ance. Within this, we are particularly interestedin identifying studies that look at teamworkas a managerial strategy for the organizationof work. The review focuses on studies whereboth teamwork and performance have beendirectly captured in a quantitative way. Initially,we identify the various channels throughwhich teamworking can affect performanceand the effectiveness outcomes that are likelyto result. This theoretical exercise leads tothe development of a framework designedto categorize empirical work on effectivenessresearch and informs a subsequent literaturesearch. The conceptual framework is also usedto provide insight into the themes on whicha considerable body of work agrees. Further,it enables us to identify the specific problemsfaced by teamwork–performance research andto produce recommendations on how suchresearch might be conducted in the future.The rest of the paper is organized as follows.First, we discuss the definitions of both team-work and performance that will be consideredin this review. Next, we formulate specifichypotheses relating to team effectiveness anddevelop a framework based upon these, whichshows how teams can affect organizationaloutcomes. We then explain the methodologythat has been adopted in this review andprovide background information on the papersidentified. This is followed by a comparisonof the results of the individual studies anda detailed discussion of these based uponhypotheses and framework. The final sectionconcludes the paper with a call for quantitative,survey-based research on the teamworking– performance link to be complemented by morequalitative, case study approaches. Teamwork and Performance: A Tentative Demarcation of Two Key Notions Teamworking Over the years, a number of attempts have beenmade to define teamwork (Hackman 1987;Katzenbach and Smith 1993; Robbins andFinley 1995) and classify teams (Cohen andBailey 1997; Dunphy and Bryant 1996). How-ever, there remains no generally accepteddefinition. At different times and in differentsettings, various terms such as ‘teams’, ‘groups’and ‘work units’ have been used to describe thisform of work organization (Benders and Van  June2008 © 2007 The Authors 129 Journal compilation © 2008 Blackwell Publishing Ltd Hootegem 1999). These terms have frequentlybeen used in conjunction with adjectivessuch as ‘autonomous’, ‘semi-autonomous’, ‘self-directed’, ‘high-performing’ and ‘self-managed’(Mueller et al . 2000). This all suggests thatworking with a specific definition of teamworkwould be very restrictive and could excludestudies important for this review. We thereforechoose not to adopt a strict definition of ‘teamwork’ but to work with a ‘phenomeno-logical bottom-line’ (Schumann et al . 1994).When authors use the words ‘team’ or ‘group’to indicate variables in their research, weconsider this as sufficient for their work tobe considered for inclusion in our review.Whether a particular reality should be con-sidered as ‘teamwork’ is therefore left to theindividual researcher in the field, and it isimportant to bear this in mind in the course of this paper (see Van Hootegem 2000, 378). Performance It is also difficult to formulate an unambiguousand definitive description of ‘performance’,since this ultimately depends upon theobjectives of the particular organization. Never-theless, a wide range of performance indicatorshave been investigated in organizations, and,for the purposes of this review, we look at theseunder the headings of operational outcomesand financial outcomes. The former wouldinclude productivity (e.g. the number of hoursto assemble a car), the quality of the productor service, innovation and customer satisfaction;the latter, value-added per employee and returnon capital employed. To complicate matters,many of these indicators can be recorded atdifferent levels within an organization. Pro-ductivity, for example, can be measured atdepartment, workplace or company level.In addition, when one begins to consider the team-based literature, another set of ‘performance’ outcomes come to the fore (Cohenand Bailey 1997; Guzzo and Dickson 1996).A number of these studies are designed to showthe outcomes for individual team members or the team itself. While some of these measures – job satisfaction, for example, or absenteeism – may not seem directly relevant to the presentstudy, subsequent discussion will show thatthere are important links with organizationalperformance. We therefore include such studieswithin our remit and categorize these mea-sures under the headings of ‘attitudinal’ and‘behavioural’ outcomes. A Conceptual Framework of Team Effectiveness A number of theoretical arguments have beendeveloped to explain why teamworking mightlead to improved organizational performance.Some theories focus on the effort and motiva-tion of individual workers and claim thatthey work harder. Strategic HRM theory,for example, suggests that an appropriatelydesigned HR system, which typically includesteamwork, will have a positive effect on anemployee’s job satisfaction, commitment andmotivation, leading to behavioural changesthat result in improved organizational per-formance (Becker et al . 1997; Dyer and Reeves1995). Similarly, self-leadership theory focuseson participatory decision-making, individualdiscretion and teamwork as important moti-vating factors, and suggests these will lead tomore committed employees who strive for greater efficiency and effectiveness (Manzand Sims 1980; Sims and Manz 1996). Workdesign theory, however, tends to emphasizeintra-group processes such as job design,task variety and interdependence (Hackmanand Oldham 1980; Wall and Martin 1987),while sociotechnical theory highlights changesin the structure of an organization and itsprocesses as the main mechanism by whichperformance is enhanced (Mueller et al . 2000;Van Hootegem 2000).It is apparent from this that the teamwork– performance link is related to the more generaldiscussions surrounding HRM and perform-ance, empowerment, self-leadership and soon. However, teamwork research should notbe considered only within these contexts sincea specific teamworking literature has emerged  Teamworking and organizational performance 130 © 2007 The AuthorsJournal compilation © 2008 Blackwell Publishing Ltd over the course of time (Campion et al . 1993;Benders and Van Hootegem 1999; Gladstein1994; Salas et al . 2000).Ichniowski et al.  (1996, 300–301) providea summary of the reasons why innovativeworkplaces may be more effective. We use their framework to address the issue of teamwork,and this forms the basis for the discussionwhich follows and our subsequent classificationof the means by which teamworking could beeffective.ã Working harder  : Enhancing employee dis-cretion is often held to have a positive effecton job satisfaction and motivation whichtogether result in employees voluntarilyworking harder. Beyond these effects at theindividual level, group dynamics can alsoplay a role: employees may feel stimulatedby working together towards a common goal.However, there might also be a downsideto working together in that team membersmay start watching each other very closely.Particularly if a system of collective teamreward is implemented, members mayexert strong pressure on each other in anattempt to achieve high levels of teamperformance. A situation where strict normsare imposed and controlled by peersmight even result in what has been calledgroup ‘terror’ or ‘tyranny’ (Barker 1993;Sinclair 1992). In this situation, peer pressurewithin teams could be counterproductivefor the organization. Employees mightexperience higher stress levels, with adetrimental effect on team performance.Teams could also enforce norms that restricteffort to a certain maximum, and this wouldagain have performance implications.This so-called ‘social loafing’ (Karau andWilliams 1993; Shepperd 1993) or ‘shirking’(Auster 1979) is frequently mentioned insocial psychology and organization eco-nomics as an explanation for teamworking’snegative effect on productivity.ã Working more smartly : Innovative workpractices such as teamwork may also leadworkers to work more efficiently. In traditionalworking systems, production problems canonly be solved by functional specialists,whereas self-managing teams are capableof solving problems as soon as they occur,thus reducing interruptions to the productionprocess (Salas et al.  2000, 348). In addition,workers often have information that higher management lacks, especially on how tomake their own job more efficient (Campion et al.  1993, 826). By encouraging people toexpress their views and to learn from solv-ing problems, the production process can beimproved significantly. Employees may alsoenjoy using their intellectual capacities,finding work more rewarding as a result.ã Organizational changes : It has also beensuggested that the redesign of an organiza-tion along team-based lines can involve therationalization of the production process.Related operations are grouped together,thus allowing more efficient process flowsand a reduction in product/informationhandling (Guzzo and Dickson 1996, 329).The implementation of teamwork simplifiesthe organizational structure and reduces theneed for co-ordination. Decentralizingdecision-making to self-directed teams canthus reduce the number of supervisors andmiddle managers (Ichniowski et al.  1996,301). Such a redesign can therefore leadto significant improvements in terms of efficiency (e.g. lower costs and throughputtimes).Figure 1 attempts to summarize these argu-ments. Four major dimensions of performanceare identified, ranging from individual out-comes to workplace measures of performance.These are: (a) attitudinal outcomes such as jobsatisfaction, commitment, trust and involvement;(b) behavioural outcomes, including turnover,absenteeism, extra role behaviour and ‘con-certive’ control (Barker 1993); (c) operationaloutcomes such as productivity, quality of theproduct or service, innovation and flexibility;and (d) financial outcomes such as added value,added value per employee and profitability. Thefigure also indicates the potential moderating
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