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54. The nature of teams is changing. It’s time to update our approach to teaming.

The study of management as a social science began just over 100 years ago. Organizations have inevitably changed - they are more complex and decentralized - but our definition of teams has not.

Typically, teams are conceptualized and studied as functional units. For example, our department (e.g., customer service) or a sub-unit of our department (e.g., enterprise-client customer service) is our stand-in for our team. This is outdated.

Organizations are systems - teams of teams - that have individuals in multiple teams, many of which are temporary. We all have our primary team, like our department, but we also have our secondary teams, tertiary teams, and sometimes many more.

Nowadays teamwork is primarily done as a one-time project team where a group of selected individuals come together for a finite amount of time to work on a specific initiative. This has several implications for employees that are currently being overlooked.

The idea of team building is no longer an organized, top-down approach. Because we’re on many teams without a designated leader, everyone is now responsible for engaging in “teaming” - behaviors that facilitate improved team interactions and team processes.

The idea that workloads can be evenly distributed across a defined team is no longer possible. Because we’re on many teams that are not coordinated at a higher level, it is now the responsibility of the individual to negotiate time and effort among all of their teams.

Organizations have become so complex that they have outpaced the traditional approach to team development. Thus, it’s becoming the individual team member’s responsibility to engage in better teaming and better team coordination.


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