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31 AUGUST 2001
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Time management for teams

Christine Yu-Ting Lee and Prof Brian H. Kleiner

Team time management has the potential to answer many organisational problems. However, a manager should have the ability to adjust management style to match new conditions. Otherwise, there may be serious time management problems.

A team is composed of people assembled for a common purpose by coordinating the activities of members who assist each other in performing the tasks needed to reach these goals. Teams and groups differ in one fundamental way. A group's performance is a function of what its members do as individuals while a team's performance includes both individual results and synergy. The concept of synergy is that when two things are put together, their value is more than the sum of both.

Team time management is somewhat different from individual time management. It emphasises the organisational rhythm which centres on groups of people working together instead of performing as individuals. This is not to diminish the importance of the individual, but rather to enlarge the individual's perception. Its aim is to use everyone's time to the best advantage. Teamwork involves gathering certain people with different abilities and skills to achieve a common goal. For effectiveness, the greater concern is not just for individual time but also for team time management.

For a team to be truly effective in time management, it needs good leaders who can communicate and coordinate actions as well as good teammates who are dependable and skillful. Poor communication will seriously influence the effectiveness of an organisation. It is also time consuming. For effective team time management, communication means the flee flow of exchange of ideas, information, instructions and reaction that result in common understanding. Providing feedback and careful listening will increase effective communications, which are necessary for team time management.

Most teams are assembled to perform specific projects. Before plainning begins, the team leaders should ensure every team member knows exactly what the projects is and why it is necessary. Every team member should be involved in the planning process. Planning involves describing the project and scheduling its timely completion. A project plan should be simple, but states clearly its purpose, intended results, deadlines, key activities, milestones and schedule. Adequate planning can reduce difficult and time-consuming problems.

Team members must meet frequantly to discuss progress toward reaching project goals. However, many people who have served on previous teams would agree that there were too many meetings, often with the wrong people and poorly run. Also, many lasted too long and few things were followed up. For good time management, making certain meetings are conducted efficiently is a necessity. To improve meeting productivity, the managers should consider these suggestions:

  • Prepare and publish an agenda;

  • Restrict agenda items to fit time available for discussion;

  • Make certain meetings follow agenda. Ask participants to prepare ahead of time;

  • Make sure the right persons are invited to the meetings.

  • Good meetings do not just happen; they need to be planned and implemented carefully.

Personality differences among team members may cause conflicts, and this will influence performance of tasks. Generally speaking, a team member does not have the option of choosing other team members, since this is done by manage merit with an eye to encompass a variety of skills and talents. Therefore, rather than evade the potential conflicts among team members, one should learn to appreciate each other's strengths and differences, and thereby work more effectively as a team. Each individual in a team must reeognise the importance of skills over the interpersonal relationships because people can almost always learn to work with others more smoothly and compatibly.

Teams that deal with unstructured problems have the greatest need for creativity. If teammates lack creativity, this may show up as a scheduling problem, the team leader should foster a climate of creativity.

Here are some suggestions:

  • Encourage free expression of ideas. A team should be permitted to express any ideas;

  • Accept and value all types of ideas. Leaders need to show that they are receptive to opposing ideas;

  • Assist in developing ideas. A member may have difficulty refining or summarising his ideas. Having a leader to help him is an encouragement to the originator of the idea;

  • Encourage shy people, Some people may feel uncomfortable openly discussing their ideas. Leaders should encourage these members to work on their ideas on their own and offer the conclusion at a later meeting; and

  • Recognise the value of worthy ideas. A work of encouragement is important to the originator of the ideas.

Team involvement is a new approach to work, a reorientation of the way firms operate. It represents not only the organisational changes, but also a fundamental change of corporate culture from the top down from boss-centred to a bottom-up employeecentred culture.

The organisation may encounter resistance from the employees fighting for the maintenance of status quo. When this happens. effectiveness of team management will be influenced.

To smooth out the resistance to change, leaders should undertake the following procedures:

  • Reinforce and legitimise the team's need to ask questions;

  • Assert the role and value of natural resistance; and

  • Recognise the positive effects of team confrontation and struggle.

It is not easy to delegate adequately. When the team leader delegates tasks, he must be careful not to assign work to people lacking the skills required. The leader must also not retain to himself tasks that can be performed by others. Any form of delegation error may adversely affect performance and scheduling.

In today's economic environment and with increased competition, the success of a company may depend heavily upon using a team approach. The teamwork concept is gradually taking shape within the corporation. Many companies realise that reaching higher-productivity can often be accomplished by turning individual work units into team work units.

Team time management therefore, plays an important role in a company's success. However, achieving effective team time management does not come easy; it comes with a lot of challenges. In order to achieve the desired performance, these barriers must be overcome. Since every company is different, the recommendations must be modified in order to fit the individual company. The key determinants of success in business marketplace depend not only on technology and capitalisation, but also are largely dependant on synergy which is created within its teamwork.

To successfully meet the challenges, sufficient time must be allocated. It follows then that good time management is essential.

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