Build Teams for Growth and Success

Teamwork. It's a common enough term these days, and well-known companies such as General Electric, 3M, Texas Instruments and Federal Express have been using it to their advantage for decades. Now an increasing number of businesses have taken up team building for growth, efficiency and competition.

However, building effective teams isn't a snap, particularly here in the U.S. In their book, In Search of Excellence, Tom Peters and Robert Waterman note that teamwork isn't a natural part of the American culture as it is, for example, in Japan. The U.S. is a nation that has always admired and rewarded fiercely independent and driven entrepreneurs.

So why bother building teams if it's so difficult? Because of these three potential benefits:

1. Globalization. The commercial world is opening up and companies seeking growth are boosting staff internationally to meet local customers' needs. Firms are also forming partnerships abroad and teamwork helps meld different corporate cultures.

2. Speed. Successful teams with a wide variety of skills can quickly create new products and services. That gives companies an enormous strategic advantage.

3. Flexibility. Companies need to be able to meet challenges quickly as new markets emerge. In the start-up phase, strong entrepreneurial direction is needed. But rapid growth and sustainability require people to work together and pull in the same direction.

Good teamwork doesn't just happen. It has to be nurtured and requires a supportive infrastructure. These are generally new skills that are tough to teach in a classroom.

Here are some key elements in developing teamwork:

You can try setting up a team on your own, but there are also experts who are skilled at focusing on the bottom line. They form profit teams that identify opportunities and turn bottom line ideas into results.

These activities explore patterns of behavior while nurturing camaraderie and empowering the team. They also put everyone on the same level - so that people don't feel inhibited from putting forth their ideas. In the end, the whole group feels more committed to the company's success.

Cohesion in Japan

It begins early in childhood. Japanese children are taught to complement each other's skills in school. By the time they reach the work world, they feel a deep sense of commitment to their companies and their colleagues. They also feel a shared sense of responsibility for failure.

With teamwork ingrained in the culture, the rewards that Japanese employees receive are often group-oriented.

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