No Easy Task
Effective teamwork is hard. Hackman observed one of the biggest misconceptions of teamwork — teams are often seen as safe places where people can be highly creative and productive, but research consistently show teams underperform their potential (2002). Structural features such as a well-designed team task, appropriate team composition, and a context that ensures the availability of information, resources, and rewards create the circumstance for effective teamwork (1987). Indeed, many team leaders place huge importance on structural features or task-driven factors, and interpersonal relations are often overlooked. The distinction of "task work" and "teamwork" should be noted to provoke practical application for better teamwork. Task Work vs. Team Work
Whereas "task work involves the performance of specific tasks that team members need to complete in order to achieve team goals, teamwork focuses more on the shared behaviors (i.e., what team members do), attitudes (i.e., what team members feel or believe), and cognitions (i.e., what team members think or know) that are necessary for teams to accomplish these tasks" (Salas, 2014). In Education
The emphasis of task work versus teamwork surface often with our first experience in teams — in education. As Kowslowski observed: It is not uncommon for educators from elementary school through college to include assignments organized around group projects in which students may display teamwork and leadership behaviors. However, attention is usually on the group's output (e.g., a report) with little or no attention placed on guiding the nature and effectiveness of the team process (i.e., instructional conditions) (2006). In the Workplace
This emphasis on task achievement can have a disturbing effect in the modern workplace. As Hackman observed, "In one management team we studied, the team, in a spirit of cooperation and goodwill, embarked on a course of action that was bound to fail — for reason that some member sensed but did not mention as the plans were being laid. One wonders if the crisis in the financial world today would be quite so catastrophic if more people had spoken out in their team meeting about what they knew to be wrongful practices" (2002). This is directly reflected in workplace statistics where 86% of employees and executives cite lack of collaboration or ineffective communication for workplace failures, and less than half of survey respondents said that their organizations discuss issues truthfully and effectively (Stein, 2012). Output, Process & Learning
Only a combination of task and teamwork conditions can lead to team effectiveness. Which we find in Hackman's (2005) definition:
- Output - The productive output of the team meets or exceeds the standards of quantity, quality, and timeliness of the team's clients.
- Process - The social processes the team uses in carrying out the work enhance members' capability of working together interdependently in the future.
- Learning - The group experience contributes positively to the learning and personal well-being of individual team members.