Recently, there has been a trend towards the task-force or project-team approach. This means the executive must devote some thought to the makeup of a task force he may create, so it may function effectively. Small groups lack some elements that apply to larger ones. First, smaller units, of two or three members for example, cannot be “organized” in the same sense as a large group. And the question of leadership worsens.
Consider the problem as it sometimes appears in the two-person relationship, marriage, and you get the picture—an unclear division of authority, disagreement as to whose standards are to be accepted, and so on. When you form a group of two or three people you are not simply adding their skills together. Dause L. Bibby of Remington-Rand put the relationship this way: “With the team approach there is a factor created, a new capability that goes above and beyond the mathematical addition of personalities.” To line up an effective team, deter-mine—
- What needs to be done
- The kind of skills required
- Which people work best together
- What general guidelines to provide that will help them function together
Here are the considerations for each point above:
What needs to be done. Different tasks impose different requirements. A team with an informational job must be able to gather data, to probe and analyze, and to come up with conclusions based on the findings. An organizational job would require the ability to plan, direct, instruct, motivate, and deal with unexpected developments. Once you have clarified the general nature of the job you are ready for the next step—What kinds of skills are required. Now you must pin down the personal skills of group members. For most purposes, your group is likely to be most effective if its members possess six key prototypes: The Dynamo. He’s the pusher, the nudger, the one who’s aware of deadbeats and deadlines.
The Hardhead. He’s the man who says, “I know it’s never been done elsewhere before. Let’s try it.” He helps to keep the group’s feet on the ground. He’s apt to be called the realistic one, or a cynic—or even a stinker—but he may be the most important man in the group. The Analyst. He’s cerebral. While others may gloat over how well things are going, he’s worrying about tomorrow. He digs below the surface, always wants to know why. The Artist. His specialty is creative thinking.
Inputting together your team, remember two principles:
The rule of “likes.” Sociologists use the term homogamy to describe the fact that some husband-wife teams are formed on the basis of similar backgrounds, economic, educational, and so on. Generally, staffing your group with people who are similar in age and sense of values provides a good basis for mutual understanding and assures a minimum of friction.
The rule of “opposites.” Sociologists used the term heterogamy to cover husband-wife pairs who have selected one another on the basis of complementary traits. Teaming according to the principle of opposites works well when the individuals involved respect the differences and specialties of their teammates. While this approach may result in more friction, it often makes for a higher-powered team. To the question of how large should a group be, there are two guidelines: Use the smallest number of people possible to eliminate communication lags and other human frictions that set in as a group grows.
Use the number that will give you the highest total of skill, and that will ensure the capability to cover the scope of the job and the speed with which it is to be done. Finally, it’s usually advisable to give one of the individuals in even the smallest team, leadership responsibility. The leader not only sets the level of performance expected, but also decides on the means by which goals are to be achieved when there are differences of opinion. One way or another, the leader sets the tone and work pace
How people really feel about change
People are supposed to resist change. And often they do. But the statement “people resist change” is a generalization that muddies the issue. You need clarification because group growth is based on change. Allen B. Thomas, V.P. Personnel of the St. Paul Manufacturing Co. says, “I point out to people that change is an everyday norm. Often people want, like, and must have changed. Those who resist it are usually insecure. They want to stay put while the rest of the world moves along.” Thomas goes on to say that people resist certain actions that have been carelessly categorized as “change.” For example:
People resist surprise
Few of us like to be caught off balance. A sudden announcement or development tends to throw individuals off balance and, understandably, they resist. On the other hand, knowledge in advance can give individuals the opportunity to digest the change and work it into their expectations for the future.
People resist usurpation
No one likes to have someone else come along and make changes in areas that they have thought of as “theirs.” This is true in even the most innocent-seeming situation. For example: a group of typists have been complaining about their chairs —they jiggle, they cannot be adjusted properly, and so on. A well-meaning executive decides to eliminate the irritation and orders new chairs. The chairs arrive and the girls are indignant. A dozen complaints are lodged against the new furniture: wrong size, shape, color, and so on. Needless to say, they would have been perfectly delighted with the very same chairs if they had picked them out themselves. The solution, then, is to let people make the changes for themselves in their own areas of competence and responsibility.
Preparing your people for change
Change has been in the cards ever since our ancestors came out of their caves. On the work scene, change has been a tangible and accelerating factor. And ever since World War II, change on the business scene has been developing with jet speed. Result? Employees—and sometimes even executives—view the shifts and alterations of the business environment with uneasiness, sometimes tinged by panic. A recent study made by the Research Institute of America with a company going through the throes of computerization, turned up the basic fears—and questions—in the minds of employees facing the prospect of change. Understanding these questions can help you minimize the impact of change in your company or division.
Things were going along okay before. Why rock the boat? Some companies, particularly those that are technically oriented, move in an aura of change. Their employees learn to expect the unexpected, and thus have far fewer problems in adapting. But in more static companies, it can be extremely difficult for employees to understand why “something different” is being considered for an operation that, at least on the surface, has been proceeding smoothly.
Especially since the path of change, in the beginning, seldom does run smoothly. The reasons will vary as much as the changes themselves. For example, the need to lower costs, increase output, improve quality, change a product, may spark major shifts. And the pressures favoring alterations may originate with the company, a department, or you. It will generally be up to you to explain them to your people. And in so doing it is important to relate the purposes and goals of the change to those of the individual. For example:
- The company is modernizing and expanding to meet today’s competition.
- This means your department is going to have more work, and will be able to produce more.
- That can mean a bigger paycheck for you, Joe.
Don’t gloss over the fact that any new system will have its delays and errors. And that it may take time to work them out. If people have been given a completely rose-colored view of change—and then things start going wrong—they are apt to react with an immediate “I told you so,” and a subsequent loss of faith in your leadership and in management’s sagacity. In other words, don’t oversell. And leave the group with two thoughts:
- Problems are likely to arise in the course of changeover. Expect them. Be ready to deal with them.
- The ability of the group will help solve or minimize almost any complications that come up.
Will it mean more work for me? Harder work? Less desirable work? People have different attitudes toward their job tasks. Some want the challenge of the difficult or demanding assignment. Others balk at any hint that they may have to work harder, longer, and so on. Let’s take typist Suzie Sloan, resisting the idea of acting as part-time receptionist—”You expect me to greet callers and type too!” To employees in this situation, three points can explain:
- The fact that she didn’t do the job before is no reason for it not to be added to her overall job.
- With the new task added, her workload is still not top-heavy. (You don’t ask anyone to do nine hours work in eight hours.)
- The best way to see how a new assignment will work out is to give it a trial a fair trial. Right from the start, any shift in workloads should be spelled out in detail, with duties and responsibilities well-defined.
The idea is to have everyone in the department know who is doing what, how much, and why. To make doubly sure of perfect understanding you might have each employee make out a chart of what he thinks his new duties and responsibilities are. When his version doesn’t jibe with yours, you can work together to bring the two versions into line. What if I can’t handle the new job? In our highly competitive world, the idea that what a man knows isn’t enough, or that what he does is no longer in demand, can be frightening and confidence-destroying. So it’s only natural that employees will voice doubts about their abilities to learn new skills and methods.