Teams are increasingly becoming popular methods of working in different organizations. Where many people think that a “work-team” is similar to a “work-group,” there is a big difference between the two, in terms of behaviors and composition. Mackin refers to the book of “Wisdom of Teams” for the definition of teams, which states that, “a team is a small group of people with complementary skills and abilities, who are committed to a common goal and approach for which, they hold each other accountable”. This definition implies that, each member of a team has skills and abilities, which complement those other members in the team. Team members conform to shared responsibilities and roles.
In essence, team members usually identify and strategize on the way in which the desired team goal(s) will be achieved on mutually. Once the goals have been identified, team members pool their efforts, abilities, and skills together, towards achievement of the given goals. Team members do not rely on a leader for guidance or directions. Every team member takes initiative to give guidance to other team members, by inputting his/her ideas/opinions. For instance, if one of the team is in conflict with another member of the team or the entire team, team members address the conflict by speaking with the conflicting member directly, rather than through a leader. Usually, a work team is made of seven to twelve members. A very large or a small team may be difficult to operate because; it is difficult for the members to meet in a small team when some members are absent, while, large groups require complex structures and more support.
On the other hand, “a group is a set of few people with complementary skills and abilities, who are committed to a leader’s goals, and are willing to be held accountable by the leader”. In a group setting, a leader decides the goals of the group, and the manner in which the goals are to be achieved. Unlike in a work-team, every individual is accountable for his or her actions in a work-group. Decisions are made, not through consensus, but through voting, or implied agreement. According to Mackin, a group is more appropriate when organizational support for a team is inadequate. Moreover, where time for undertaking a given project is constrained, and there is availability of an individual with ability to inspire and empower people to meet certain goals, then a group would be more appropriate than a team.
Work-teams can be very effective in achieving workplace diversity. Workplace diversity is a situation where individual differences in the work environment, are recognized and respected. A diverse workplace creates an environment where, every individual can maximize his/her potential by utilizing his/her differences to make unique contributions in an organization. According to Armstrong, when members of a team are working together, every member is given an opportunity to contribute his/her opinion about a particular issue. While individuals’ opinions, strengths, and skills vary differently, a combination of individuals’ differences result into creation of new knowledge, which can be used in achieving the desired team’s goal(s). In a team setting, problem solving, and innovational skills are greatly enhanced because team members can freely input their ideas, without first seeking approval from supervisors or leaders. This form of openness in creating new knowledge, and providing solutions to problems contributes to formation of workplace diversity. Moreover, an organization can take advantage of differences in cultures among team members, to create diversity in the workplace. Cultural diversity in a team enhances contribution of variety of thoughts and experiences, which contribute to organizational productivity.