Team-based organizations are growing at a rapid pace. Recent research estimates that ’40 to 50 percent of the workforce could be in some kind of empowered work team environment by the turn of the century’ (Manz et al. 1997, 4). In addition, as global competition forces organizations to become more productive ‘there is growing consensus that training must be at the forefront of their attempts to do so’ (Martocchio and Baldwin 1997, 7). It has been suggested that the way forward for individuals, organizations and economies through all the changes and enormous skill gaps is through training (Bentley 1990, 7). It has been found that in successful team-based organizations, new team members or leaders spend 20 percent of their first year in the team involved in training activities (Fisher 1993; Wellins 1992).
Training is increasingly being recognized as integral to the effectiveness and performance of teams and to the satisfaction of team members. While the methods of team training vary depending on the developmental stage of the team and the reason for the training, most team training falls within the following types: in-house, off-site, simulation/role playing, peer-to-peer, and multi-team training, as well as self-directed learning.
Faced with global competition and rapid technological change, companies are forced to develop new organizational structures to meet the challenges facing them. One alternative that has gained popularity in recent years is the team-based organization. While there are varying approaches to the designing of a team environment, one common approach is the self-directed work team (SDWT). The SDWT is responsible for a relatively whole task, not just part of a job, and each of the team members possesses a variety of skills relevant to that task. As a result, the SDWT has behavioural control and decision-making autonomy at the work group level (Manz 1992). This increase in autonomy, however, does not preclude the need for leadership and direction. Two very important roles in the SDWT are the team leader and the team facilitator.
In the global environment of increasing technological change, companies are looking for alternatives to traditional hierarchical organizational structures in order to maintain the competitive advantage that is necessary for their survival. Increasingly, they are turning to self-directed work teams in pursuit of high performance. But building team-based organizations requires challenging behavioural changes and a well-designed program that provides training not only in technical but also in personal skills. Based on her study of seven work teams in five Canadian organizations, the author provides detailed advice on how to design a training program that will succeed.