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There’s More to Teamwork Than Meets the Eye


by Abby Welsh, SIOP Intern

Effective and competent teamwork involves a great deal of science

Although organizations work together in different ways, team members share some form of interdependence – they rely on one another, but research has found recently when members don’t collaborate results can be dangerous to an organization.

In the latest volume in the SIOP Professional Practice Series, Developing and Enhancing Teamwork in Organizations, leading-edge practitioners and academicians share knowledge, advice, and strategies for developing effective teamwork. Editors Eduardo Salas, Scott Tannenbaum, Debra Cohen, and Gary Latham include team-based performance approaches from a wide range of activities and industries.

Salas said work teams perform a variety of difficult tasks, and the consequences of errors have become more critical in recent years. This is something the editors looked at more closely to determine how to provide advice to help stop errors.

“Because of this, we wanted to bring together something practical to say about teamwork,” he added. “Practitioners may not be fully aware of the science of what works and what doesn’t when developing teamwork. The science of working together is important for organizations to understand in order to enhance performance and competence.”

When team members don’t participate and coordinate, back up one another, communicate, or problem solve effectively, the results can be harmful to an organization in more ways than one, Tannenbaum said.

“Productivity declines, soldiers and patients die, customers don’t return, and employees seek employment elsewhere,” he added. “For any organization employing teams, enhancing teamwork is extremely imperative.”

The editors’ expect the book will provide a more visual image for team leaders who want to provide a better work environment for everyone involved.

“If teamwork isn’t launched appropriately, then your business won’t be as successful as one where customers want to go back,” Salas said. “We hope this book will change team members’ outlook on working together.”

The book not only provides advice for teams who work together but also offers insight for teams who don’t work together on a daily basis. These teams might notice that they struggle with communication and have to learn strategies in order to deal with it.

“These teams may be struggling with communication because they are away from each other and learning how to cope and effective ways of working together. It can be a difficult task for many who haven’t experienced it before,” Salas said.

Understanding one another by learning how to train as a team, using conversations and debriefs to enhance team effectiveness, will only improve performance in these types of virtual teams, Tannenbaum explained.

“These kinds of teams will learn how to build trust, which is one of the most important factors, especially for teams that perform dangerous tasks,” he added. “This book can and will lead teams effectively.”

No matter the issue, the book will provide methods and tools to solve human-related organizational problems – regardless of distance, Salas added. Although the book is geared towards certain organizations, every type of business dealing with teamwork can benefit in one way or another.

The editors assembled a diverse group of authors to ensure the book would be applicable in a broad range of organizational settings, Tannenbaum explained.

“You’ll see authors from various countries who have studied and worked with an impressive mix of teams, including those in healthcare, finance, the military, aerospace, manufacturing, the energy sector, sports, and technology,” he added. “As a result, I think this book is relevant for organizations in almost any sector.”

Each illustrative example reviews the lessons learned and the principles as well as the findings that are most influential when composing and managing a particular work team, Salas said.

“Teamwork is the set of behaviors and competencies that interrelate in order to work together to achieve goals. There isn’t a single organization that doesn’t use teamwork on a daily basis,” he added. “This volume clearly shows what it takes for team-based organizations to excel in the 21st century.”

Tannenbaum said the reader will see research findings along with what those findings mean for driving team effectiveness and competent leaders.

“What makes this book different than many others is that the recommendations offered are grounded in research with an eye on practice,” he explained. “That scientist-practitioner bridge is a foundational principle of industrial and organizational psychology, and we tried to reflect that in this book.”

For those who wish to find out more about ways to enhance teamwork, you can purchase Developing and Enhancing Teamwork in Organizations at the online SIOP Store here.