HOL 6746

Work Groups and Teams in Organizations

There is no question that teams, when used appropriately and at their full capacity, can enhance the performance of organizations. Today’s complex environment poses challenges that require flexibility, innovation and a real-time combination of multiple skills, experiences and judgments (Bednarska-Wnuk, 2012; Martínez-Sánchez, et al., 2011; Zolin, et al., 2011). Teams can respond to these challenges with versatility and flexibility. Thus, they are essential in today’s rapidly changing environment (Edmondson, 2012).

Groups and teams exist in most organizations and in recent years, a greater understanding of the use of teams has evolved. However, just as our understanding increases, so do the challenges teams face. For example, as the boundaries of organizations are becoming less distinct, teams are required to not only act within and between organizational units, but also across cultures, organizational boundaries, and space and time. This is just one example of the many complex challenges requiring teams, and organizations, to learn at a rapid pace.

This course will explore the nature of work groups and teams in organizations, using group theory, models and practice. Fundamentals related to group structure, processes, outcomes, and development will be explored. Issues related to relationships in groups and group behavior will be examined, with emphasis on facilitative methods to enhance group effectiveness. The concerns of individuals as group members will also be considered. Opportunities will be provided for class members to self-examine their personal contributions in groups; to experience issues and concerns about groups; and to facilitate group learning. The ultimate goal of the course is to enhance the students’ ability to best thrive as a facilitator, member, coach, consultant, leader and/or manager in a group or team setting.

In this course we will apply action-learning principles. Action learning is a group process to promote (a) problem solving, (b) team building, (c) leadership development and (d) organizational cultural change. It has been used around the world by such organizations as Fortune 100 companies, the US government, the European Commission, the World Bank, and most major management-consulting firms. Action learning involves a group of people who confront an organizational problem, challenge or opportunity; struggle with “not-knowing” the answer; ask high-quality questions of each other; learn how to build a high-performing team; take risks; lead change; and get results. “Action” refers to the changes made inside the organization as a result of addressing the problem; “learning” to the changes made inside the minds, hearts and psyches of the team members as a result of asking each other high-quality questions.

Learning Objectives
After completion of this course, you will be able to:

  • Define behaviors and characteristics of groups that impact their performance
  • Describe the dynamics of how groups operate including how they solve problems, how they make decisions, etc
  • Evaluate and integrate the principles of groups and teams as applied in a variety of team settings
  • Evaluate your own role in a group/team setting and identify areas of strength and potential growth as a team member, facilitator, coach, consultant or leader
  • Critically analyze information learned on groups to synthesize one’s own view of group dynamics and the importance of teams