Teamwork and Its Link to the Productivity Equation, Part 1

Norb Slowikowski

March 2005

If you want to strengthen your organization through continuous improvement, the team approach is the way to go. Teamwork is successful because people want and need to be a part of something larger than the individual. People also feel the need to be respected by others. Teamwork provides a personal connection to others and allows us to feel accepted as key members of a worthwhile project. Only through a total team process can we face the challenge of growth and accomplish extraordinary things with ordinary people.

In short, if your aim is to increase productivity, morale and profits, you must begin with teamwork. But before teamwork can become a reality in your company, you must have a clear understanding of what it is and how to develop a plan for implementing the teambuilding process.

Let’s start out by defining teamwork. Teamwork is an individual commitment to a group effort, which involves the blending of diverse talents to achieve predetermined goals or results.

Teamwork requires that individual team members possess certain attributes: talent, education, a positive attitude and motivation.

Teamwork also requires that supervisors practice a leadership style that includes involvement, collaboration, accessibility, positive reinforcement, support, identifying and removing barriers, listening and an ongoing feedback system. When these traits are practiced correctly by individuals and supervisors, they build the foundation for effective teamwork and productivity.

Each member of a team must hold up his end of the bargain. For supervisors, this means effective planning and coordination. Planning is defined by knowing where we are, where we want to go and how we are going to get there. Coordination includes the allocation of resources to achieve the desired results.

The field supervisor’s role in planning is to determine what must be done today or this week to meet the productivity requirements as established in the schedule. This requires thinking through and communicating such key elements as the scope of work:
  • Why the work is being performed.
  • Time frames and/or labor budget.
  • Working conditions.
  • Procedures and resources.
  • Action plan.

If supervisors fail to clarify and communicate these elements, a sense of confusion filters down to the lower levels of the organization about what is expected of them. Employees are unsure of the correct process, so they simply do their best based on what they know. This usually occurs because of a lack of connection from the top down. The supervisor is detached from the employees who have to do the work. The traditional management style of telling people what to do and how to do it is archaic. Without employee "buy-in” and involvement in the process, the results are lack of productivity and inefficiency. The need for change is clear, and the extent to which productivity improves has much to do with management’s willingness to abandon the traditional approach of managing from the top down.

Next month we will look into the employee’s responsibilities, the total team’s responsibilities, and how to further create team organization in your company.

About the Author
Norb Slowikowski is president of Slowikowski & Associates, Inc., Darien, Ill. See his ad on page 138.