Thermos & Teamwork
Today, companies at every level are stressing teamwork and encouraging group work. Teamwork is quickly becoming an essential aspect of business today. It allows individuals and companies to achieve goals that may be out of reach without teamwork. Would Michael Jordan have won six NBA Championships by himself? It is not very likely. Successful organizations provide some great lessons about managing strategic change and the benefits of employing teams to tackle that responsibility. By using teams, it allows management to go beyond the weaknesses of a single individual and create, in essence, an ultimate working machine. A successful team will have a variety of people that excel in different areas, not just in knowledge but in personality traits as well. Each team member can make up for the weakness of another thus making the team extremely effiencent. A company named Thermos put together what is called a Cross-Functional Team to try to design the perfect outside grill. With team members from the Engineering Department, Design Department, Manufacturing Department, Finance Department, and Marketing Department, Thermos was able to develop a product that became the best available. Other companies have caught on to this practice, and it is quickly becoming the traditional way of achieving goals of a corporation. By answering the following questions, perhaps we may see how and why teamwork is successful, and how teamwork was used at Thermos.
How could the growth of self-managed cross-functional teams affect marketing departments in other companies? Would this be a good change? Why? Cross-functional teams cut directly through most of the beauracracy that is usually involved within a project. It is almost necessary to utilize these types of teams in order to obtain a holistic view of the operation. Inside each cross functional team one should find individuals who are SMEs (Subject Matter Experts). Basically through each SME one can see the entire process that would be involved in serving a new customer need, creating a new product, or simply changing inter-company procedures. The main goal of marketing companies is to advertise and present their product to the customer at the best price, and backed by great service and quality. By using cross-functional teams you would be able to cut costs, improve completion time, and have a complete view of the operation from the beginning. From this aspect, developing a cross-functional team sounds like a great idea, but there are also some problems with creating these teams. For example, a manager could use requests to provide an individual for a cross-functional team as a non-confrontational method of unloading weak performers. While the team member is off working with the cross-functional team, the manager reassigns their duties to others. However, overall, developing cross-functional teams to tackle projects is a good decision, and will payoff in the end.
Can you see the advantages of having teams of people from auto repair shops researching customers the way Thermos did? Developing cross-functional teams is not only an effective practice for manufacturing institutions, but they can also be used effectively in service organizations such as an auto repair shop. One could develop a team from sales, service, post service support, and payment collection. A cross-functional team such as this could survey customers to find ways to serve them better. Once they have a list of reasonable suggestions, the team could sit down to discuss the possibilities of implenting each suggestion. By having a cross-functional team, all departments will have their say and point out any possible problems that might arise. Cross-functional teams can be an effective resource in almost any kind of business environment.
Which people in an organization do you anticipate being the most resistant to working directly with people in marketing? Why? One of the few ways teamwork becomes ineffective is through the unwillingness to cooperate by one of the team members. Just because one has created a team does not mean one will get teamwork. Personality conflicts, work ethic, and conflicts in interests can all play a negative part in how a team will perform. When considering how a person will perform in team, however, one must not only look at the individual, but also how the other individuals in the group might interact with that person. For example, If you put two individuals in a group who are both strong leaders and opinionated then most likely they will clash causing negative results in a team. There are many considerations to ponder when trying to decide who would perform best in a group environment, because it is only a group until teamwork is found.
What do you think the Thermos team would have found if it had asked customers what they thought about having customers put the grills together themselves rather then buying them assembled? If Thermos would have asked customers if they would prefer to have to put the grills together after purchase would probably get mixed results, but more towards a negative response. Some of the questions that would have to be answered would be; How much less will Thermos charge for a grill that requires assembly? Will there be a support line open for customers who have questions about the assembly procedure? If there is a part missing or broken, how long do I have to wait to get a replacement part? Another problem would be trying to sell it to someone who has a physical disability, which prevents him or her from assembling the part. In today’s market the customer demands service and as little effort on his or her part as possible to buy a product and begin using it. I believe that the response the team from Thermos would have received about non preassembled grills would have been negative.
Thermos has shown us that working in teams is a great advantage over trying to develop a new product using individualism. The cross-functional team can explore and investigate many possibilities much more effientently than single individuals. This results in better service, prices, and quality for the customer. Working in teams can make each individual’s workload lighter, efficiency and effectiveness may increase because individual skills are used in an optimal way, and people might feel a greater sense of accomplishment. In addition, everyone can learn from each other’s mistakes and gain encouragement through others. Teamwork does produce greater productivity, but only when one understands its limitations and actively tries to avoid them.
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