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Mattel’s Workforce Strategy: Fostering of Teamwork

Teamwork is one of the most effective tools in management as it enhances collective responsibility towards the common goal of the organization. According to Duke Corporate Education (2005:4), a team may be described as a small group of people sharing a common purpose and possessing complementary skills to pursue the achievement of the purpose through mutual accountability and interdependence. An organization may be made up of various teams depending on the functional separation and level of diversity. When teams are present, decision-making becomes more effective as different opinions are brought together to pursue a certain agenda. However, the formation of these teams may tend to be a real challenge to the organization especially where there are no clear structures or where there are conflicting cultural differences. Managing these teams is even a bigger challenge considering that, each of the team members has his/her individual goals, quite distinct from the organization’s goal, that he/she aims at achieving. In addition, relationships within and outside the team, as well as lack of cohesion in the team may prove to be a daunting task to the management of these teams.

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One of the challenges the organization may face is managing the dynamics within the team. A team will be made up of various people from different cultural backgrounds. In the case of Mattel, the organizational culture was vague and therefore all individuals worked independently. Changing the perception of people from one cultural practice to another may tend to be a difficult affair. This means that, the management of the Mattel had to work extra hard in order to direct the attention of the employees towards the culture of the organization. This was also inhibited by the absence of clear channels of communication and differences in employees’ objectives. Employees in Mattel had been used to working in a certain specific manner, and although they understood the objectives of their units, they did not understand the whole organization’s objectives, and therefore making them work together as a team was a challenge.

Team development is always aimed at improving performance as soon as possible. However, some technicalities such as organizing, defining the purpose of the team and putting the required resources in place may be challenging. This is because people getting into the team come from diverse backgrounds, and trying to understand each other may take some time. Therefore, the results may not be achieved within a short time but will have to wait for some time for the team to gel. Mattel’s employees were used to working on their own without consultation and without having to make any decisions. Therefore, making them understand each other, adapt to the team norms and become productive individually as well as collectively had to take some time. Although the results were positively achieved, they were never achieved within a short time.

Team development may also be affected by the distance between the employees who are supposed to form a team. Distance within the organization may affect team cohesion due to the complexity of communication and also the time disparity. Even distance between two departments may affect the convenience of developing the team. A team develops well when the parties to it have a common agenda and are able to interact freely and conveniently especially when working, in order to share ideas and opinions. In Mattel, each unit had its own culture and language as well as norms that had to be broken down and a fresh organizational culture adopted. Forming a team with all these differences in the way they do business, was supposed to be a hectic job considering also that some of the units were some distance away from each other. The most challenging aspect of a team comprising members separated by distance comes in when there is conflict within the team. This is because it becomes very difficult to resolve the conflict as the team members may not be able to meet face to face.

Settling and operating within the team’s boundaries may also be challenging. This is because, not all members will be committed to the objectives of the team; some will have their own private interests which conflict with the teams’ interests; while others may be involved in other teams, thus creating confusion and disharmony within the team. Mattel’s staff was not used to teamwork and each of them had developed individual interests that kept him/her in the job. It was therefore likely to be a challenge trying to derive commitment from these employees.

The challenges in forming a team may be addressed variously. It is the responsibility of the manager to exercise leadership in the process of ensuring that teams deliver results, through defining their purpose and also by facilitating the necessary resources required to make the teams thrive. When well managed, teams may be very beneficial to the organization especially in the areas of decision making, innovation and bargaining.

One way of resolving these challenges is to ensure there is clarity of purpose. This means that every member of the team should clearly understand the vision and the reason why the team was formed in the first place. Having a clear understanding of the reason why the team is in existence and the direction it is heading to makes it easy for all the team members to be united.

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The team will also need to design a plan of action that should incorporate the culture to be adopted, the dos and don’ts in the group and the conflict resolution procedures. This will make sure that all the members in the group move at the same pace and in the same direction. In addition, each member of the team should understand the limit to which the matters of the team should be respected.

Allocating responsibilities to every team member and defining the expected result from each of the members may be a viable option in minimizing instances of conflict later on. This means that each member will have a role to play in the team and therefore there will be no sideshows or uncommitted members. The roles should also be distributed equitably by first understanding the strength and weaknesses of each of the members. This is because; different team members will have different capabilities and talents.

Trying to understand each team member’s strengths and weaknesses may help in smoothening the functioning of the team. This may also be achieved through of-the-site retreat where members are likely to exhibit their true personalities and share personal experiences, thus boosting team building.

Finally, developing a structure of accountability where the proceedings in a meeting are reviewed and each member assigned a task to perform to meet the targets set. The outcomes should always be reviewed to assess the level of accountability and accomplishments. Where there are challenges, the team should be able to solve them amicably.


Duke Corporate Education (2005) Building Effective Teams: Leading from the Center. NY, Kaplan Publishing.

Mattel’s Workforce Strategy (2007) Mattel’s Workforce Strategy: Case Study. ICFAI Business School.

Rothwell, William J. and Kazanas, H. C. (1999) Building in-house leadership and management development programs: their creation, management, and continuous improvement. CA, Greenwood Publishing Group.

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Wagner, K. V. (N.d) Leadership Theories – 8 Major Leadership Theories. (Online). 2009. Web.

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