Self-Directed Work Teams

Teams come in different dimensions that include all shapes, sizes and dispositions. Management at the same time comes in different forms. In this case Denton focuses on horizontal management contrary to Fisher who focuses on self directed work team. Teams as a tool can be used at the lowest or highest level within the organization. In his studies Denton says that the most common type of team is the problem solving team and is sometimes known as department team. Denton (1991) says that it is usually an immediate work group dealing with its own job related issues such as quality, productivity or cost problems. He continues to note that one of the most important aspects of teams can and logically should be classified not only by their type but also in the context on which they are used or applied.Fisher (2000) on the other hand focuses on self directed work teams which seek to empower people and give them greater control over their own destiny. Team empowerment is considered as a continuum of employee involvement with lower empowerment techniques like selected employee input on projects on one end. Fisher (2000) thus says that teams create small self sustaining businesses that can be jointly managed by the organizational membership. In this context Fisher established that "team members make decision about who should perform which task rather than having individuals separated into jobs like operators, engineers and sales people" (p. 18). One advantage of this type of team makeup is that everyone may have the same title and therefore have a shared responsibility for the success of the team.In comparison the two authors have a different approach of team works and management. Denton (1991) puts emphasis on horizontal network teams while Fisher (2000) leans on the importance of self directed work teams. According to Denton (1991) teams can be used as an auxiliary or supplemental means of improving cross functional and interdepartmental communication and cooperation. In his view the importance of horizontal teams is that they are designed to help compensate for the inherent deficiencies and difficulties of pyramid organizations. Denton (1991) has indicated that" the horizontal network teams can improve the flow of information through knotted lines of communication and enhance the creative energy of traditional vertical organization" (p. 118).Unlike Denton, Fisher (2000) says that self directed work teams are a method of improving results and therefore not a substitution for them. The disadvantage of self directed work teams is that they can cause organizations to lose sight of their purpose by focusing on the care and feeding of the structures. For example a poor customer service may be caused by the fact everyone in the team was in a meeting during that time. On the other hand Denton (1991) says that network teams and horizontal focus particularly on problem identification and investigation and apart from that they can be used to change decision making authority. Also these type of teams participate with management in joint decision making. One good example of horizontal network teams is in the area of product development.

In his research Fisher (2000) mentioned that "self directedness of the teams can lead people down the wrong path" (p. 19). This is because some people believe that self directed work team means a change in the role of management and not the elimination of supervisors and managers. It therefore important to note that team operates within given boundaries stipulated by organization. The major similarity between these two types of teams is that both Fisher's and Denton theories of team management outperform traditional operations. In both theories the teams need someone to play the role of facilitator the person within the team who keeps the meeting on track. Denton (1991) says that he or she does this by keeping members focused on the problem, keeping them focused on time commitments, classifying ideas, remaining neutral and making sure all the members' ideas are properly discussed.In order to achieve high performance and increased customer satisfaction, effective team leaders should act like social architects who understands the interaction of organizational and behavioral variables (Khalil, Lefebvre, & Mason, 2001). They should also be able to foster a climate of active participation and minimal dysfunctional conflict. The management should focus mostly on building leadership styles that relies to a large degree on earned authority. This should involve the whole spectrum of management skills and is also considered as the shared responsibility between functional management and project leaders (Khalil, Lefebvre, & Mason, 2001). Besides ensuring customer satisfaction it helps to promote high performance work systems in an organization.Using teams in organizations reduces employee burnout and therefore this greatly increases employee effectiveness and helps the teacher to remain focused in the real needs of the students (Fisher, 2000). Considered to be an outdated team consolidation technique Fisher (2000) advocated for the emergence of high performance work systems. This is has been attributed to the fact that self directed work teams have been around for long and also because they delivered considerable results. At the same time Fisher (2000) indicates that impatience for results and unwillingness to make the necessary personal management changes have for long foiled many attempts to create sustainable self directed work teams. Another reason that led to the emergence of high performance work systems is the short falls related to organizational unwillingness to provide the required budget and time for training to help team leaders and team members to acquire new skills (Fisher, 2000).

Fisher's opinion on the importance of self directed work teams is that while leveraging human potential cannot ensure anything it provides many benefits and thus many organizations in the consumer products, aerospace and paper industries are actively using self directed work teams because they provide competitive advantage. Denton (1991) on the other hand advocates for the emergence of small work groups. Compared to his earlier model of horizontal network teams Denton says that small work groups provide greater autonomy and centralization to operations personnel.The two authors Fisher and Denton go ahead to introduce two other different concepts of organizational leadership and management. Fisher focuses on high performance work systems while Denton narrows his focus on the emergence of small work groups. Denton (1991) established that "small work groups have been identified as essentially an evolution of participative practices like quality circles" (p. 135). In addition Denton says that small work groups have allowed operational level personnel to be mostly autonomous in production planning, scheduling and dispatching, control of resources, inventory and material handling. The small work groups explained by Denton have advantage over Fisher's self directed work systems because above the above activities they help in quality planning and process control, methods improvement and determining problems and coordinating corrective action.Fisher (2000) says that "self directed work team's organizational practices are often in direct contradiction to the management philosophies and styles that have projected powerful supervisors into their current positions of control and responsibility at every level of the corporation." Although it is not always clear if front line employees will be able to change from the comfortable and pervasive work practices of the past. Denton (1991) in line with this says that "small work group's corporation calls one particular type of team development approach work design" (p. 138). He continues to say that teams representing particular work areas examine both internal and external factors affecting their jobs. These factors include safety, quality, productivity, customer service and employee satisfaction concerns (Denton, 1991).Denton (1991) established that in small work groups effectiveness emerges from the fact that employees in this work groups are given the autonomy to evaluate the current work situation, while employees are also given an overview of the business which includes learning about the available business processes within the organization. Compared to Fisher who says that in self directed work teams employees such as technicians are given the mandate to do presentations about major projects. Fisher (2000) continues to indicate that employees set goals and indicate the milestones and deliverables. These was achieved through the team leaders who have the duty to create strong mutual respect between the workers and the leader, assuring that the job gets done as well as providing leadership in getting problems solved.Organizational leaders should therefore strive to create a supportive environment where people can thrive, grow and live in peace with one other (Hickman, 2009). As the demand for new leadership grows in many organizations the command and control leaders at the top of the pyramid are being challenged to change. This is because of the emergence of teamwork in the new era of industrial management. In High performance work teams are expected to become leaders who are facilitators, stewards, coaches, designers and teachers. In this formation of organizational management team leaders easily realize that effective leaders understand that every person has leadership quality that can and be organized and used (Hickman, 2009).Small work groups cannot be overlooked as the new leadership paradigm, thus restructuring our conceptual framework of what the practice of leadership is and our understanding of what effective leaders do (Hickman, 2009). On the other hand Khalil, Lefebvre, & Mason (2001) noted that professionally stimulating work environment and accomplishments is effective team leadership and high project performance. In both Denton and Fisher's view of team leadership team leaders should avoid conditions which seem to affect motivation and commitment of individual team members, cross-functional communications and many components that support earned leadership authority (Khalil, Lefebvre, & Mason, 2001).In conclusion the analysis of both Denton and Fisher's differ on some aspects as far as organizational management is concerned but at some point they accomplish the same purpose. They are geared towards achieving organizational efficiency and ensuring customer satisfaction. In both settings it is integral for team leaders to build alliances with support organizations and upper management to assure organizational visibility, priority, resource availability and general support for the multifunctional activities.

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