Operations & Maintenance (O&M)
is a team effort. It cannot be completed by one person alone. But teamwork does not always happen
effectively. Why is this?
To answer this question, we need to
step back and look at the different ways in which people come together.
- A Group - is “a number of people or things
that are located close together or are considered or classed together because
they share common interests or characteristics”. The members of a group
identify with each other due to similar traits. For example: there was a group of people watching the football match
between the Blue Shirts and the White Shirts.
- A Team - is “a group of people who come
together to achieve a common goal”. A team is therefore a particular type of
group with certain characteristics. For
example, the Blue Shirts consider themselves a football team, not a football
group. One thing that defines their existence is that they have a purpose: to
beat the White Shirts.
All teams are groups of individuals,
but not all groups are teams. On the
surface this may seem to be an obvious and simple distinction. However, as we
start to learn more about how to effectively manage an organization we will
find that there are a number of things other than shared purpose that need to
Teams and groups generally differ in
five key ways and the following table provides a summary.
A team is formed for a
particular reason, which can be short-lived or long-lived.
For example, the Blue Shirts is a football
team who are playing against the White Shirts. After the match is over, the
Blue Shirts and the White Shirts continue training to get ready for their
next matches against the Red Shirts and the Black Shirts respectively.
Can exist as a matter of
fact. for example, a group can be comprised of people of the same race or
For example, the people watching the
football match will watch the match and then each go off to their respective
homes - likely never to talk to each other. They may still remain a group of
fans of the Blue Shirts or the White Shirts.
Degree of interdependence
Members of a team are
highly dependent on one another since they each bring to bear a set of
resources to produce a common outcome.
For example, the Blue Shirts have some
players who are fast runners and others who are more accurate at kicking the
Members of a group can be
entirely disconnected from one another and not rely on fellow members at all.
For example, the people watching the
football match do not need to interact with one another other than perhaps
the occasional wave.
The members must
coordinate their tasks and activities to achieve a shared aim.
For example, the Blue Shirts have some members
that play attack and some that play defense. Every member of the team must
play an active role.
The members of the group do
not need to focus on specific outcomes or a common purpose.
For example, the Blue Shirt’s fans may want
their team to win and they may share the goal of encouraging their team to
win. However, this is not a mandatory requirement. Some of the fans may
choose to sit quietly and observe rather than get actively involved.
Degree of formal structure
The team members'
individual roles and duties are specified and their ways of working together
For example, the Blue Shirts have set up
arrangements that the attack and defense positions occupy certain zones on
the field. There are rules that prevent them from leaving these zones.
The group is generally
informal; roles do not need to be assigned and norms of behavior do not need
For example, the Blue Shirt fans have no
formal structure other than they must sit in the rows of seats around the
stadium. However, if they choose to stand or stretch their legs in the aisle
the outcome of the game will not be affected (except if they were to riot on
the field as hooligans perhaps).
Familiarity with other members
Team members are aware of
the other members of the team as they collaborate with them to interact to
complete tasks and activities.
For example, all the members of the
football team with the blue shirts must actively get to know each other –
their respective strengths and weaknesses so that they can continue to grow
as a team.
Members of a group may
have personal relationships or they may have little knowledge of each other
and no interactions whatsoever.
For example, some of the fans of the Blue Shirts
may know each other and share a meal together during or after the game to
chat about the score. However, most of
the fans do not eat or socialize together.
In the preceding table, the
“Blue Shirts” are used as an example of a sports team. When teams form is a business
setting they can take various forms. Listed below are a few simple examples:
- Sole-trader – Mrs. Smith and her family make arts
and crafts in their basement that they sell at the market on the weekends.
- Company - Microsoft is a large software
company that sells Windows as an operating system to run computers.
Firm - Clark Wilson is a law firm providing
legal services to various kinds of construction companies.
- Charity – The Kidney Foundation is a charitable
organization that raises money for kidney research.
- Institution – Simon Fraser University is an
educational institution that offers a variety of degrees.
– BC Non-Profit Housing
Association is an organization that provides leadership and support to its members
in creating and supporting a high standard of affordable housing throughout
- Society – Maple Leaf Meadows is a (fictitious)
housing society that provides affordable housing to people living in and around
the town of Maple Leaf.
Ask yourself the following questions:
- What kind
of team am I part of?
- Has my team
worked together effectively in the past? Do we continue to work well together
and what is needed to ensure that this will be sustained into the future?
- Does each
member of my team understand their role on the team?
- Are we
making best use of the relative skills of each member of our team?
- Do we
have appropriate procedures in place for our team to realize its best
Teamwork requires cooperation,
coordination and various other things to ensure that everything happens as it