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Team leaders
oN urmi

Teamwork as a form of co-operation

Teamwork may have two kinds of objectives: co-ordinating and innovating.
They may, at first sight, look incongruent, but, in fact, they can be combined
even during the same session. Researchers into creative work have
concluded that it is, to a great extent, an ability to combine opposite things
and processes – both divergent and convergent thinking are needed in

Far too often the rigidity and formality of the line organization, its power
and reporting relationships accentuate the vertical interaction in the
organization at the cost of horizontal communication. Teamwork is one
measure to open the horizontal communication, and to add to the elasticity
of the whole organization. In a functional organization the functions are
interdependent, and they need continuous co-ordination. Objectives and
performance reviews give a basis for co-ordination. When this has been
done, teamwork may be most helpful to make the objectives shared.

Teamwork – an Trainers of creativity have found teamwork to be a splendid instrument of

instrument of innovation innovation. Innovation can be exercised in all teamwork. The presence of a
team increases the level of arousal and excites new ways of thinking. Novel
ideas are oftentimes strange combinations of two or more old ones. Then
different persons with different backgrounds can find something new,
something that is more than any one of them knew without and before the
teamwork. This is synergy or the “1+1=3” effect.

Teamwork is not the panacea for problems in co-operation. Poor application

of teamwork corrodes individual responsibility and decision rights. It is
possible to waste time and and get on people’s nerves by teamwork that
leads to nothing. Teamwork has been used for the purpose of burying things
instead of getting them decided. Teamwork has been used as a camouflage
of autocratic management. Hidden agendas in the meetings may make it
impossible for the team to reach anything. Teamwork can slow down
decision making, if decisions are not allowed to be taken by individuals or if
people do not have the courage to make them without the express acceptance
of a formal team meeting. But teamwork can also be utilized as a superb
instrument for innovation and co-ordination. This is to say that teamwork
can be applied properly or improperly. Teamwork does not prevent managers
or organizations from failing. In order to add some value, teamwork has to
be managed properly, it needs to be built on a responsibility-based
organization, simple rules of conduct and skill in teamwork.

The first social psychological laboratory experiments in the late nineteenth
century dealt with the effectiveness of teamwork. The question then was,
which is more effective, a group or an individual? The results were, and
have been ever since, contradictory. On some occasions the group improves,
on others it impairs individual performance. There is no law of nature to
determine the effectiveness of teamwork. It is up to the team leadership to
make the team perform by getting the resources of the team out in the open,
build them up for a synergistic outcome and even to reinforce the team
resources by way of team learning.

In present day companies and in modern management teamwork is a

necessity. A functional organization requires teamwork for the co-ordination
of departments, as none of them alone can be responsible for the
performance of the whole unit. Networking in a modern way to organize
where teamwork can be used successfully. Teamwork facilitates
management and leadership, and properly conducted improves
communication and saves the time of all concerned, as many issues can be
dealt with while everyone concerned participates in the meeting. Teamwork
has motivational meaning, too. In organization development and in-house
training teamwork has established itself as a major educational resource.

Structured teamwork Teamwork in companies is structured. The teams have a leader and
other roles, objectives, accountability, schedules, deadlines and other
characteristics of task forces. Teams are organized as management teams,
functional teams, project teams, committees, quality teams, production
teams, etc. There is no point in asking whether teamwork is productive
or not. It has come to stay. The point is how to lead it in a productive way.
This is the subject of what follows.

The basic model

For the purpose of illustration, let us assume that a team has a problem to
solve and the team consists of three members: person A, who has got 50 per
cent of the resources (expertise) needed to solve the problem; person B, who
has 30 per cent; and person C, who has 20 per cent (see Figure 1). Let us
assume further that the resources of the members are not overlapping and
that they are additive. Then the team as whole has 100 per cent of the
resources needed for the solution of its problem. In this instance, all
individual solutions remain inferior to the solution, where the group
manages to combine its resources. The case is ideal for teamwork, but it
requires team leadership skill to get the members’ resources out in the open

50 per cent 100 Per cent 30 per cent

C 20 per cent

Figure 1. A hypothetical team


and to get them combined in a joint solution. The task is simple in
mathematical terms. Anyone familiar with teamwork knows that it not as
simple as that in organizational terms.

The example is a simplified one, but it is, by no means, alien to everyday

teamwork. For instance, in budgeting, the expertise of marketing on demand,
production on resources and capacity and finance on cost and feasibility
considerations need to be combined. The three belong to different persons
in the organization. They are complementary, though, admittedly, they are
usually somewhat overlapping and not as simply additive as in the
hypothetical example. There may be social, managerial, organizational and
political factors in play that do not appear in the example reduced to the
basics. The reduction, yet, strikes the essence, and serves the present purpose
very well. The example is used to illustrate the difference between four team
leadership styles. The styles are dictatorial, compromising, integrative and
synergistic teamwork.

Team leadership styles

In this team leadership style one person dictates the outcome of the team
and the rest have no contribution to it whatsoever. It could also be called
an autocratic leadership style. The outcome in the hypothetical example is
50 per cent at best or when A is the dictator. At worst the outcome is 20 per
cent, when C is the dictator. In this leadership style the team can undermine
the outcome from what it would have been, had the best or even the second
best individual solution been accepted.

In fact, no teamwork has taken place. One person has just echoed his views
in the group, or his team leadership skills have not sufficed to bring the
others’ resources out into the open. Unfortunately, this kind of a situation is
not a product of imagination only. Of course, it can be an efficient way of
informing, in case no contribution from the team is expected.

Four leadership styles In a compromise a dispute is arbitrated, an “average” solution for or a
solution that approaches the middle of the team members’ views is sought.
In the example, the average is about 33 per cent. Again, it undermines the
best individual solution. By way of bargaining the second best choice has
been reached.

Compromises are fairly common, even though the outcome remains below
the best possible. Sometimes the resources, expertise or convictions are
not additive, measurable, or they are different in quality or built on values
about which no objective, “right”, optimal or maximal solution exists.
Compromising may also be attempted when a consensus, arbitration or
holding the group together is more important than the group’s performance.
This kind of an occasion occurs especially in political and value related

Integrative teamwork
In this kind of team leadership the resources of the team are gathered
together into an integrated outcome of the team. It sounds so very basic and
simple. In fact, it is not simple at all – it requires active leadership, active
listening, acceptance of different views, ability to present one’s view and to


change it on the basis of communication with others, ability to objectify
issues irrespective of who holds them, dilution of status and prestige, time
and patience to get all the resources out into the open and get them
integrated into a fair outcome. The list is not conclusive, but it suffices to
show the difficulties encountered in integrative teamwork.

As difficult as this style is, it has much more potential to it than the
dictatorial and compromise styles can ever have. It is a learning exercise for
the team members: the resources of the team members are now greater than
without and before the teamwork, as they have all gained in learning from
one another. It makes the 100 per cent solution possible. The team has added
value. In this style the different views do not divide people; rather they pose
a problem that the team members share. Integrating is time-consuming,
but the time spent in this style has a better return than in dictating and
compromising. It is possible to learn integrative teamwork. This learning
diminishes time needed for the integrative outcome.

Integration is not, however, always only positive in its consequences. There is

evidence to show that in well-integrated teams the members may share not
only their resources, but even their their blind spots. Janis[2] coined the
concept “groupthink” to point out the inability of a cohesive group to see and
accept critique and optional views. Groupthink has been shown to be a factor
in major catastrophes and fiascoes such as the disastrous failure of the space
shuttle Challenger, when it was destroyed soon after it was launched[3].

Synergistic teamwork
In synergistic teamwork the team creates something new and more than the
addition of the individual resources would be. The outcome is something
that no team member possessed before and without the teamwork. This was
borne in the process of teamwork, when the combination of the members’
resources exceeded the input. In creative work views are combined in a
unique way, and this is precisely what synergistic teamwork is about.
It could, equally, be called innovative teamwork.

Synergistic teamwork is In synergistic teamwork the outcome exceeds the 100 per cent of the input to
the most productive the teamwork. It is the most productive style. At the same time, it is the most
rewarding to the team members. It is of paramount importance in
knowledge-intensive business (see Nurmi et al.,[4]). It is not an easy style to
apply. Sweeney and Allen[5] studied teams of excellent performance. They
observed that these kind of teams did not come into existence as a result of
intentional management, but they seemed to grow spontaneously from a
fertile breeding ground. The breeding ground can be fertilized by
management but apart from that, management has little to say in igniting
the process nor getting it to sparkle once it has started. These innovative,
synergistic groups were characterized by a high level of enthusiasm,
motivation and commitment, experimenting, an inside jargon that the
outsiders found difficult to understand, the fusion of work and leisure,
pride in the team and indifference to rules. It also appeared that these kind of
groups did not maintain their level of energy for long, but in due course they
tended to dissolve as spontaneously as they appeared.

Relatively stable high-performing teams have been observed at least in

artistic team performance. Murnighan and Conlon[6] concluded that


Style (%)

Dictatorial 20-50
Compromise 33.3
Integrative teamwork 100
Synergistic teamwork 100

Table I. The team leadership styles summarized

successful string quartets have learned to live among conflicts and paradoxes
and even to absorb them as a part of their artistic performance.

The article introduces a hypothetical case of teamwork. In it person A has 50
per cent, person B has 30 per cent and person C has 20 per cent of the
expertise required for solving the problem of the team. By means of a
thought experiment four modes of teamwork are compared:

(1) By way of a person’s dictate the team can achieve a 20-50 per cent
solution, which is at best equal to the expertise of the best qualified
member of the team.

(2) By way of compromising an average solution of 33 per cent is achieved,

which is below the expertise of the best qualified member of the team.

(3) By way of integrative teamwork a 100 per cent solution can be achieved
by pooling the members’ expertise.

(4) By way of synergistic teamwork a solution exceeding 100 per cent can
be achieved as the team creates a new solution, which no member of the
team possessed before the session of the team (see Table I).

1. Ford, D.G. and Harris, J.J. III. “The elusive definition of creativity”, Journal of
Creative Behavior, Vol. 26 No. 3, 1992, pp. 186-98.
2. Janis, I.L., Victims of Groupthink, Houghton, Boston, 1972.
3. Moorhead, G, Ference, R. and Neck, C.P., “Group decision fiascoes continue:
space shuttler challenger and a revised groupthink framework”, Human
Relations, 1991, Vol. 44 No. 6, pp. 539-50.
4. Nurmi, R., Kontkanen, L., Lehtimäki, J. and Viitanen, P., “Knowledge
organizations: a typological and a structural note”, The Finnish Journal of
Business Economics, Vol. 1, 1992, pp. 13-20.
5. Sweeney, AJ. and Allen, D.M., “Teams which excell”, Research Management,
Vol. 1, 1984, pp. 19-22.
6. Murnighan, J.K. and Conlon, D.E., “The dynamics of intense work groups.
A study of British string quartets”, Administration Science Quarterly, Vol. 36,
1991, pp. 165-86.
Raimo Nurmi

Raimo Nurmi is a Professor at the Turku School of Economics, Turku, Finland.