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Working in groups and teams
Working in groups and teams

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1.3 Is a team or group really needed?

There may be times when group working – or simply working alone – is more appropriate and more effective. For example, decision-making in groups and teams is usually slower than individual decision-making because of the need for communication and consensus. In addition, groups and teams may produce conventional rather than innovative responses to problems, because decisions may regress towards the average, with the more innovative decision options being rejected (Makin et al., 1989).

In general, the greater the ‘task uncertainty’, that is to say the less obvious and more complex the task to be addressed, the more important it will be to work in a group or team rather than individually. This is because there will be a greater need for different skills and perspectives, especially if it is necessary to represent the different perspectives of the different stakeholders involved.

Table 2 lists some occasions when it will be appropriate to work in teams, in groups or alone.

Table 2 When to work alone, in groups or in teams
When to work alone or in groupsWhen to build teams
For simple tasks or problemsFor highly-complex tasks or problems
When cooperation is sufficientWhen decisions by consensus are essential
When minimum discretion is requiredWhen there is a high level of choice and uncertainty
When fast decisions are neededWhen high commitment is needed
When few competences are requiredWhen a broad range of competences and different skills are required
When members’ interests are different or in conflictWhen members’ objectives can be brought together towards a common purpose
When an organisation credits individuals for operational outputsWhen an organisation rewards team results for strategy and vision building
When innovative responses are soughtWhen balanced views are sought