Team Empowerment - Work Teams vs. Work Groups

The Quality Movement of the 1980 ushered in widespread use of employment involvement. People at all levels of the organization, especially those on the front lines, became involved in how to “think” about organizing improvement. 

One of the primary methods for maximizing this involvement was teams. It was shown repeatedly that collaboration in teams resulted in significant breakthrough in problem solving and innovation, and so the use of teams has continued to grow. Few of us were taught to use team behaviors in the workplace. Both our schools and our workplaces have emphasized individual achievement, creating a system where few people appreciate the need for collaboration. 

The traditional work structure uses a hierarchical pyramid that operates through central decision making, cascading information and direction down through the various management levels. In this system, work groups carry out the decisions and direction and seldom exercise discretionary thinking. In newer systems of work, work teams carry out tasks similar to work groups, but exercise greater discretionary authority when making decisions about how the team operates and how the work is preformed. It may seem like a play on words, but there are fundamental difference between the operation of a work group and a work team.