Teams Can Work Wonders
In the context of our present subject, it is essential that the designer, engineer,
accountant, together with the sales and distribution personnel, all work "in tandem"
as a team, or a series of teams. This is the way it is in Japan, and it seems that
there is now an increasing emergence of teamwork organizations in US business circles.
Chance looks at psychological testing in team member recruitment, training methods,
team building, and problem solving exercises. He stresses the paramount importance
of the company creating an environment conducive to teamwork by eliminating structural
inequalities and introducing group incentives. This is, it seems, an attempt to copy
the Japanese approach, seeking to develop teams. But nothing is said about the development
of a consensus, even although this is fundamental to the Japanese approach.
When we come to consider teams, history teaches us that groups of around five are
much more effective than larger groupings.
This seems to be the optimum size for communications, the development of mutual trust,
and the ability to coordinate and to share common objectives. Small groups are much
more likely to remain cohesive, whereas larger groups invariably break up into smaller
sub-groups, who then tend to get involved in internal disputes, with the consequent
loss of effort and drive.
As we have said, the Japanese are supreme in their use of teamwork: a good example
is to be found in the takeover of Dunlop Tyres in the UK by Sumitomo Rubber. The Japanese
company set about transforming the company's operations. There was a commitment to
long-term investment, quality and consensus. The working environment was made much
more cheerful, with better communications, and the team concept was developed. This
was assisted by the removal of all status and related privilege. The workforce was
reduced by 30 per cent, production increased by 40 per cent, and it is said that the
employees were offered a job for life. All this is, of course, standard Japanese practice.
14. Chance, P.,
Great experiments in team chemistry, Across the Board, USA, May 1989, p. 18ff
15. Harvey-Jones, J., Making it Happen - Reflections on Leadership,
16. Radford, G.D., How Sumitomo transformed Dunlop Tyres,
Long Range Planning (UK), June 1989, p. 28ff. (6 pp).