Self-Directed Work Teams

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Self-Directed Work Teams (SDWT) is used by a large number of organisations in today's society. Manufacturers have started using this concept of SDWT, which has seen to be a big growth (Richard, William, and Wilson 1991, 44). Since this team process was first studied in 1951 in an American workplace, it has assisted this process to be used in a number of businesses and industries in which most of these companies are listed in the Fortune 500 companies (Petty 2008, 2). Managers who require their company's policy to be up to date will be relying on members in an SDWT to assist with company policy and further developments for specific areas (Richard, William, and Wilson 1991, 52). Managers will want to know how this team process will benefit them and the organisation they are working in. According to Caramanica, Ferris, and Little, “an SDWT offer various benefits” (Caramanica, Ferris and Little 2001, 77). Therefore managers must have a good understanding of an SDWT to understand the process and the positive impact it has in the organisation. This essay shows the definition of an SDWT, effectiveness of SDWT, critical thoughts, and a judgement of the critical review.

SDWTs can be defined in many ways. According to Irani, an SDWT “is a diverse group of people with different attitudes, skills and personalities, to work together towards common business goals” (Irani, Choudrie and Love 2002, 596). Similar, Mullen states that, “an SDWT is a group of individuals collectively responsible for accomplishing a set of tasks and learning from their joint activities” (Mullen 1992, 43). It means a group people who share workloads, train each other, and accomplish targets within an organisation without having a supervisor watching over them. Members of the SDWT listen to their team members and voice their opinions freely without having to be criticized (Attaran and Nguyen 2000, 25). The team evaluates and design work processes and are responsible certain processes within an organisation (Attaran and Nguyen 2000, 25). Members allocate tasks to team members to complete. Simply they complete tasks without having any involvement of a high positioned employee such as a supervisor (Versteeg 2007, 1).

The purpose of creating an SDWT is to improve efficiency and effectiveness of a team's task. SDWT Teams have been found to very effective by researchers. It leads to a reduced number of hierarchies and more responsibility given to each individual team member (McShane and Travaglione 2007, 297). SDWTs have been developed over time and are seen as a superior strategy to assist employees to progress in productivity and efficiency. Employees work together on a daily basis and create positive connections between members. They are committed to targets which is prominent to employees compared to the organisation (Foote and Lang 2008, 936). An SDWT can help progress efficiency an individuals understanding of their work which related to their fellow members and sharing control and seeking the best means of a task (Mullen 1992, 44). Research conducted Mullen showed that an Automobile plant created by General Motors have 150 SDWTs in their production lines (Mullen 1992, 44). Teams were in bond with each other team meetings prior then follow their agreements onto the production line.

In traditional organisations, employees are given tasks and usually end up with same job forever. However in an SDWT, individuals “embrace the concepts of multi skilling and Job rotation” (Richard, William, and Wilson 1991, 47). The effectiveness of SDWT benefits the organisation in a number of ways. Better performance, share responsibility, higher commitment and performance, improvements to make effective performance and quality (Caramanica, Ferris and Little 2001, 77). Research conducted by Irani, Sharp, and Kagioglou stated that traditional work section teams in Velden Engineering (UK) were not self-directed and this lead the groups to outbid each other. This was seen as been ineffective and so they decided to put into practice the use of SDWT through educational sessions. Classes were held to obtain employees involvement in a SDWT (Irani, Sharp, and Kagioglou 1997, 202). Results showed that these classes organised by management were effective for the organisation. Communication, team awareness, and preparation were seen to be an improvement. This shows how effective SDWT in the organisations is and the vast amount of improvement it brings in.

As mentioned before research on Velden Engineering (UK) implementation of SDWTs had a large effect on the organisation. It was conducted in 1995 and was proven to show that SDWT was useful to use in the organisation (Irani, Sharp, and Kagioglou 1997, 202). The research is not dependable for middle managers in Australia because of the time the research was conducted. At that time, the article mentions that individuals were use to the traditional work team and having been introduced to a new team process that may have caused their commitment to work to improve. The research conducted did not introduce a wide range of ethnic or different age grouped individuals. As the research claims it was effective and does not mention who the participants were. It may be that Velden Engineering may have had a particular group of race.

Research conducted in the early 1995 in an Asset Team which was part of Chevrons Western Production (Attaran and Nguyen 2000, 27). Individuals had previously operated in a traditional hierarchal system. They did not have enough employee involvement or enough teamwork. This lead those to develop an SDWT and treating the asset team as a whole team. Each team had a balance of skills, leadership and expertise. The teams “relied on each other and not on their supervisors” (Attaran and Nguyen 2000, 27). The research is dependable for middle managers in Australia due to the fact that vast ranges of employees were put into the teams with different background of knowledge and expertise. Attaran and Nguyen aim was for the teams to make use of the new knowledge and skills they had attained from other team members in regards to using new technology (Attaran and Nguyen 2000, 28). Individuals who were not put into teams were not able to develop knowledge and were lead to making decision without other individual opinions. It's a valid guide for managers to use to implement an SDWT into their organisation. The fact that employees were mixed into teams with each individual having each an expertise.

Simone Kauffeld conducted a research on 140 companies in which 241 employees were in a traditional work team and 278 in a SDWT (Kauffeld 2006, 6). Management decided which groups to include. There were more women in SDWT than a traditional team and additional unskilled individuals in SDWT than traditional. This resulted in showing that SDWT “were not introduced in companies with specially qualified employees” (Kauffeld 2006, 7). Teams were given group activities and a topic to discuss. Teams were videoed and observed by a trainer. However the management assessed the checklist for all 44 SDWT all together. Results showed that SDWT is more competent on seven out of 12 aspects of competence. That means that they were competent in completing the tasks and were capable of working better than traditional work teams. SDWT in the research showed that they were interested in organising tasks to achieve an answer.

Research was conducted on a paper mill manufacturing site which had two facilities. Researches determined the difference between worth ethic of machine operators. One facility used an SDWT and the other facility used a traditional work team. 169 out of 250 from Site A were put into a SDWT and 83 out of 146 were put into a traditional work team. 252 out of 396 (entire site) had completed the surveys (Petty et al 2008, 4). 79 % were male, 25% between the ages of 27 and 35, and 67% were between the ages of 36 and 55 (Petty et al. 2008, 52). Facilities had between 18 and 30 individuals in each team. Team using SDWT were found to be organized and each member acquired new skills from other colleagues. In Site B, they used a traditional structure. The site consisted of a “top-down authority” (Petty et al. 2008, 53) and were employees were each person was assigned to task related to their skill. Results showed that SDWT scored higher than traditional teams. They were dependable, cooperative and considerate at work. SDWT was seen to be the less cost producing in the organisation (Petty et al. 2008, 56)

After reading a range of journals related to SDWT, we can judge on how accurate the researches are. As again it was mentioned that Irani, Sharp, and Kagioglou research on Velden Engineering (UK) started in 1995 is not reliable to middle managers in Australia due to the fact that they had not mentioned a wide variety of different ethnic background nor did they mention the age groups in Velden Engineering. The age of journal is not big worry but due to the fact that they did not mention age or ethnicity does bring out some judgement. However it can be used as a guide to portray its effectiveness and improvement in an organisation.

Research on Chevrons asset team is found to be a reliable to middle managers in Australia. As mentioned before, each team had a wide range of knowledge and expertise. In which this resulted each individual to learn from these experts and improve their skill. This assists them to identify problems in the technical area of Chevron. Each team communicated to other teams and their previous habit of outbidding and competing was eliminated. At first there were frustrations between team members and new daily routine for individuals (Attaran and Nguyen 2000, 32). However this is problem was recognised by guidance team and effort was put in to resolve the issues.

Kauffelds research on 140 companies proved to be very effective in the activities each team had completed. A wide range of workers with different age groups, ethnicities were included in the research. An issue that may have triggered employees to perform better was that they were been videoed and observed by a professional trainer. Thus it could have caused the teams to work harder as they believed the recording would have been shown later to management. It is minor issue and shouldn't be seen as a big issue. However there are other issues that may have triggered the results to be high. The fact that their were more women in SDWT than traditional, SDWT was not introduced in companies with specially qualified employees (Kauffeld 2006, 7), more SDWT than traditional work teams companies involved either used SDWT or traditional in which some organisations may have had poor working conditions and others a good working conditions. Also management decided which groups to include. These issues pointed out still may have caused the results to drop but it should not be seen as big dilemma. This research is not effective and reliable for middle managers in Australia to use.

Research (Petty et al.2008) on the two facilities in the paper mill site is a good example of the differences of having a SDWT and a traditional work team. The results show that SDWT is reliable, less cost producing, and beneficial for the organisation. However the researcher may have considered using a different range of groups and taken individuals from different industries rather than the paper mill. It was mentioned that researchers were only given limited access to research subjects that were granted by company officials. The research can be used by middle managers in Australian who wish to implement SDWT within their organisation. Results may have differed if full access was given to researches and they had included individuals from other industries.

Overall we can see the effectiveness of SDWT and beneficial it is for organisation and middle managers in Australia. (Petty et al. 2008) research on the paper mill site was found to be the most reliable due to the fact that it compared SDWT and traditional teams in which it pointed out the benefits it gained. Their aim was to discover which team was successful for the organisation in which in was found that SDWT was highly beneficial. Managers who do decide to implement SDWT within their organisation will see an improvement for both their employee and business.

From reading a wide range of journals regarding to SDWT, we have indentified the benefits, the effectiveness, and researchers' view of SDWT. The aim was to indentify the effectiveness of SDWT. From referring to different journal articles, it's been possible to show how effective it is for Australian middle managers and its organisation. Critiquing journals and comparing has also assisted on how effective SDWT is.