Management Control and Working with Teams

Effective working with teams has proved to be the key factor for success in modern high-tech entrepreneurial organizations. Working in teams enhances individual performance, individual satisfaction and results in the accomplishment of both long term and short term organizational goals and visions. Thus, effective utilization of the individual human resources for the general good of the organization is the major responsibility of efficient management. The teamwork within the organization is to be designed and effectively regulated by the management. Up to what extend the management has to control and interfere in the team project has been a major concern as its manner of handling teamwork can either affect adversely or bring about desirable revolutionary developments.

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The range of management control can vary from organization to organization depending on how much authority and responsibility is shifted to the bottom level of the organization. For example, in multinational organizations where multiple businesses are being undertaken, the management may have to rely on a number of interdependent groups for its smooth functioning. Training or knowledge of group dynamics is an essential prerequisite while working in teams in organizations of this sort, just as it is necessary even in smaller ones. In order to get a better picture of the relationship between management control and working with teams, a review of the possible literature on the issue is desirable:-

Literature Review

Motivation and Control in Organizations (1971) by Gene W. Dalton & Paul R. Lawrence is a seminal book in this regard where the authors underline the significance of control and motivation in an organization. For them, “Organization implies control, and control is an inevitable correlate of the organization” (P.1). Nevertheless, they hold the view that the autocratic management style often works as a great hurdle in the successful functioning of the teams.

James G. Hougland Jr. & James R. Wood (Control in Organizations and the Commitment of Members,1980) are of the opinion that commitment of members are likely to diminish if the organization deprives their active participation and suggestions as “depriving organization subordinates of influence in the organization’s affairs appears to decrease their sense of involvement, identification, commitment, and feeling of responsibility (p. 86)”.

Instead, there should be an accepted and convincing democratic management style that provides motivation to the teams and creates a flexible and proactive working environment. As suggested by Karl E. Weick, &Karlene H. Roberts (1993), it is under such democratic managements that there is scope for the functioning of the collective mind and where “Group action achieves the kind of result that would be understandable if all participants were acting under the direction of a single organizing centre.”

The management control should be exercised in such a way as to ensure mutual trust, mutual accountability and a sense of common purpose from the part of all the group members. For this, the management has to build a sense of belonging among the teammates by keeping them motivated in the pursuit of the set goal and thereby accomplishing their mission enthusiastically. Robert Anthony, in Planning and Control System: A Framework for Analysis(1965), makes this point clear: “The central function of a management control system is motivation: the system should be designed in such a way that it assists and guides operating management to make decisions and to act in ways that are consistent with the overall objectives of the organization.” (p.4)

For the smooth functioning of a team, each group member should cherish a common purpose, which is to be judiciously set by the management with a far-reaching vision, and everyone should contribute his complementary skills with mutual accountability for the realization of the specific goals set. The diversity of the group members can very often result in the diversity of problem-solving styles from which the group can resort to the best based on its goal setting.

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The management regulates the group projects by clearly setting immediate and demanding performance-oriented tasks and goals, and it should ensure that all the group members do have a broad sense of shared responsibility and commitment for the group outcomes and group process. It is the duty of an efficient manager to offer timely positive feedback, recognition, and rewards.

Arnold Tannenbaum, in his journal article “Control in Organizations,. Individual Adjustment and Organizational Performance (1962) reinforces these aspects of managemental control while working with groups. He holds the view that the management should coordinate and control the functioning of the group work in such a way as to accomplish the set goal by timely coordination and the provision of feedbacks: “Organizations are purposive. Hence managers need feedback to guide their acts toward the achievement of these purposes. Standards play a vital role in the planning, coordination, and problem location, which make that feedback useful.” (p. 3)

Quality Government: Designing, Developing and Implementing TQM (Total Quality Management Initiative)(1996) by Jerry W. Koehler & Joseph.M. Pandowski is another remarkable work in this regard. For them, in teamwork, all “the team members should try to identify the mission of their process……The mission is the purpose of the team, and it answers the question of “Why are we meeting?”…” p. 115) and ” People no longer work just for the manager but work for the process, and peers evaluate each other on how much they contribute to improving the process. Teams expect each other to practice the values of the organization, and they also expect that an individual team member will contribute.” (p.194).

The management has to bear in mind that clear goal setting is an essential factor in the formation of effective teams. All the members need to know the importance of the goal. They need to be told of the nature of the goal to be accomplished and what they are expected to bring forth. This idea is elaborately discussed by Richard A. Guzzo& Marcus W. Dickson(1996) in their academic journal Teams in Organizations: Recent Research on Performance and Effectiveness when they argue that “compared with the absence of goals (or the presence of ill-defined goals), specific, difficult goals for groups raise group performance on those dimensions reflecting the content of the goal”.

In the initial stages of working with a team, it is desirable to set small attainable goals as these short term goals can boost the confidence and cohesiveness among the group members, and this would enable them to set long term goals and accomplish them confidently.

Philip J. Streatfield (2001) clearly states about “formulating visions for the future of an organizational system”, and he asks the management to control the movement of the system by ” controlling its dynamics”(p.126). Patricia Shaw, in Changing Conversations in Organizations: A Complexity Approach to Change (2002), speaks of organizational stability and change where complex and plural ideas are at work. According to the author, “It is this increasing convergence on ideas of complexity, diversity, plurality and interdependence in a socially constructed world of human action that is leading many organizational practitioners to attend to and work with the self-organizing, self-referential sense-making interactions of people as the key processes of organizational stability and change (p.141)”.

Handling stress and conflicts while working with a team also deserve primary attention as they are directly linked with individual work satisfaction and performance. Improving Teamwork in Organizations: Applications of Resource Management Training (2001) advocates that “the effects of stress are costly in terms of individual performance and organizational productivity” and therefore, special care should be “devoted to developing stress training interventions to overcome these effects. (Eduardo Salas, Clint A. Bowers, and Eleana Edens, p. 58)”.

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Thus, it is evident from the literature reviews that management control is to be exercised with careful planning, keeping the mission and the vision of the organization always in mind. A good manager is one who plans, organizes, leads, and controls effectively — that is, adds real value to the organization in the execution of the whole process of the accomplishment of the project. He should be a person who works with his teammates and motivates them to carry out the project plans quite effectively. Weak leadership and vagueness regarding the purpose, goals and approach are very often identified as the major factors behind the failure of working with teams.

While working with teams, it is the duty of the management to ensure that there exists mutual trust, mutual accountability and a sense of common purpose among all the group members. There shouldn’t be any communication gap between group members. Instead, there should be ground for openness and free sharing of ideas. Similarly, there should be a strong sense of mutual accountability, both for success and failure.

It is offering Training and changing the team composition when necessary also come under management control. Necessary training is to be offered to build up skills in problem-solving, communication, conflict-resolution skills, and group processing skills. The progress made by the group in the project is to be evaluated continuously, and if necessary, it is at the discretionary power of the management to change the composition of a group.

The growing importance of project-based group work has resulted in the creation of multi-disciplinary teams that have the capacity to accomplish tasks rapidly. There is no doubt that such group works need careful consideration and design. It is the sole duty of the management to plan and monitor the time, cost and performance team against the set plans. The greatest challenge of project management is to develop an effective team and bring it up to speed quickly. It is desirable from the part of the project manager to arrange a one-to-one discussion with each team member to convince them of the nature of the group project and also to establish a personal relationship with them.

One should bear in mind the fact that management control while working with teams is not only about controlling; rather, it includes factors like common purpose, shared responsibility, mutual accountability, providing motivation, individual and group satisfaction, and the whole process of the attainment of the mission or goal.

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