Effective Work Team Characteristics
What is a Work Team?
What work team characteristics do the different types of process, project, and focus work teams possess in a high-performance workplace? Multiple work team characteristics help define these three common types of teams. This page summarizes the most common characteristics one might find.
All organizations have at least one work process, as their mission is to provide a product or service. In turn, at least one PROCESS work team works to provide that good or service. Plus, many organizations use FOCUS work teams (committees and other cross-functional groups) and PROJECT work teams to manage and improve performance.
What is a PROCESS Work Team?
In some cases, leaders refer to PROCESS work teams as natural work groups. Hourly staff spend essentially all of their work time with their natural work group, or PROCESS work team. High performance companies allocate a higher percentage of hourly staff time to ‘away from work’ activities for focus and project team support. Often, salaried staff are members of all three types of work teams.
Learn more about PROJECT and FOCUS team characteristics and challenges.
PROCESS work teams include the people that work together each day to execute one or more processes in a manner that meets customer needs. However, not all work teams perform the same types of value stream and/or process support tasks. In smaller businesses, most staff contribute to daily process management and improvement efforts on a consistent basis.
DISCOVER MORE: How Great are Your Work Systems?
What Type of PROCESS Work Teams Do You Have?
Each year, IndustryWeek magazine issues a Best Plants Statistical Profile. Work team use is one of the key attributes of their annual ‘Best Plant’ award recipients. Also, the publication provides three operational definitions for work teams.
Natural work team: A team of employees, often hourly personnel, who share a common workspace and have responsibility for a particular process or process segment. Their direction to work is similar from an outcome perspective.
Empowered natural work teams: These work teams share a common workspace and/or responsibility for a particular process or process segment. Typically, such teams have clearly defined goals and objectives that relate to day-to-day production activities. Empowered activities might include quality assurance and meeting production schedules. Plus, work teams may have authority to plan and implement process improvements. Unlike self-directed teams, empowered work teams typically do not assume traditional “supervisory” roles and provide direction to work.
Self-directed natural work teams: These autonomous teams consist of employees who perform activities previously reserved for supervision. These work teams share a common workspace and/or responsibility for a particular process or process segment. Typically, such teams have authority for day-to-day production activities and many supervisory responsibilities.
Such responsibilities might include job assignment, production scheduling, and equipment maintenance. Other activities might include materials acquisition, training, quality assurance, performance review, and customer service. These groups are synonymous with “self-managed” work teams. All self-directed work teams are empowered.
Work Team Design Drives Operational Excellence
How leaders define work team responsibilities affects the effective span of control ratio (people per supervisor). Span of control is a key operational parameter that leaders must optimize. All too often, the job design requires a leader to devote too much time to personnel problem resolution instead of process improvement. In turn, leaders unintentionally constrain the rate of organizational improvement.
If excessive turnover rates also exist, we only magnify this ‘lack of time for improvement’ problem. How much time do you design into the jobs of EACH staff member? Collectively, how much time each day do you set aside for change support, personnel development, and workforce engagement?
EXPLORE MORE: Does Your Work Team Structure Drive Operational Excellence?