Why Teams Work – Part 1

by: Dr. Michael Abelson

Everywhere we look, in the media and at work, we hear “teams.” Microsoft has even developed an entire teams platform and has an intense advertising campaign telling us the importance of teams. So, why are teams the rage? Why is everyone talking about and interested in having a team? There is one primary reason and five secondary reasons why teams work.

Teams Work Through Specialization

The ability to specialize is the primary reason and the most significant achievement of teams. The prestigious Academy of Management has even chosen the book espousing specialization (“The Principles of Scientific Management” by Frederick Taylor) as the most significant management contribution of the entire 20th century. Adam Smith’s book, “The Wealth of Nations” which introduced the idea of specialization in 1776, kickstarted the entire industrial revolution.

A surprise to most is that Ransom Olds (not Henry Ford) used the idea of specialization to originate the assembly line in 1901 to build his Oldsmobile Curved Dash. Henry Ford enhanced the idea when he created the first moving or rolling assembly line and used specialization to decrease the time needed to build a car from 12 hours to 1 hour and 33 minutes. That’s the power of specialization.

Why Specialization Works

It is THE key to efficiency, time management, and success in producing things. Briefly, what we do with specialization is create smaller tasks or processes and compartmentalize people’s behavior. For example, the process of selling real estate has many steps. When these steps are done via a team, we compartmentalize the steps and have different people responsible for different steps in the process. One person “cold calls” to get people interested in working with a particular team to sell their house or buy another. A different person presents the listing presentation and yet another person “shows” people prospective homes to buy. Another person coordinates the listing or contract closing process to make sure all the necessary steps and information needed is obtained so the closing actually occurs. There can be many more steps, but you get the idea. People specialize to make a very complicated process happen as efficiently and effectively as possible. Without a team, one person has to do all these things, and aspects of the job may not get done correctly or may be missed entirely.

Secondary Reasons Teams Work

Improvement of Skills

Specialization gives people the opportunity to focus on a smaller set of skills as others do other tasks in the process. They also have the opportunity to do this small set of skills with greater frequency. Therefore, they can more quickly learn the tasks, and are motivated to do the tasks better, and since there are fewer tasks to master, they can more quickly and easily master the tasks. 

For example, all sales require some type of presentation to communicate the product or service. The more complicated or abstract the product, the more skill it takes to sell it. Specialization allows the organization to divide the selling process into smaller tasks that allow for the mastery and effective delivery of the “sale.”

If you want read “Why Teams Work – Part 2“ click here

© 2024. Michael Abelson (BA, MA, MBA, PhD) founded The Abelson Group in 1986, is Emeritus (retired) from the Management Department at Texas A&M University, and specializes in communications and over a dozen other human resource areas.

He has spoken to over 1000 business and non-business groups on four continents, been quoted by over 100 newspapers, newsletters, and magazines, and authored over 100 articles, books, monographs, and other publications.  He is frequently invited by the media to share opinions and solutions.

Contact him at [email protected] or www.theabelsongroup.com to invite him to consult, coach, speak, or for a media interview.  

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